That intimate knowledge—along with the authors' casual, unpretentious way of expressing it—suffuses the book, beginning with a swift but meaningful introduction to the many different cultures and subcultures that exist in an area less than half the size of the continental United States but with five times as many people (about 1.4 billion). Their expertise continues to be evident in the recipes Alford and Duguid have selected, mainly from homes and neighborhood restaurants, which hint at the staggering variety of food in the region. Take your pick: a lightly cooked, saladlike mallum, of finely shredded green beans, shallots, and flakes of dried tuna? An egg specialty from the Parsis of Mumbai, flavored with cashews, chiles, and golden raisins? The Pakistani dish called haleem, made with wheat berries, lamb, and mint? Or perhaps a South Indian shallot sambhar, a soupy, spicy legume dish with whole shallots simmered till tender and sweet? This is definitely a book for adventurous cooks, but it also offers dishes familiar to anyone who's ever been to an Indian restaurant—classics like chicken curry and lamb kebabs—and many of the recipes are easy to follow.