It is a book about Nepalese / Gurkha cookery, written by a man called Pemba Lama, who served in the British Army as a Gurkha chef, and who has subsequently gone on to teach Nepalese and Oriental cookery in the Defence Food Services School, based in Aldershot (about 4 miles from where I live in Fleet).
My memories of Gurkha cookery revolve mainly around the "Dhal Bhat" - a term that means literally "Lentil Rice", but one generally used to mean a complete meal that would normally include not just rice and lentils but also curried meat and vegetables, plus a whole host of side dishes, breads, poppadoms and assorted condiments. It is a term used in a similar way to that in which British people would say "a Curry". Nepalese food is somewhat similar to Indian food, but usually less spicy, since that sort of heat is often delivered by chilli-based side-dishes. Gurkha soldiers are very energetic people and despite their diminutive size can eat vast amounts of food, so portions are large!
In view of the above, I was somewhat surprised to see so many obviously non-Nepalese dishes in Pemba's book. However, he explains that these days Nepalese cuisine is heavily influenced by Chinese, Malaysian, Indian and other oriental styles, simply because Gurkha soldiers have travelled around the world a lot more than was formerly the case, and now want a more varied diet. For example, fish is not widely available in the hills of Nepal, but retired soldiers returning to their homeland are apparently now demanding Sweet-and-Sour Prawns, Battered Cod, and steamed Sea-bream!
However, I'm pleased to say that the book does still include some of the old classics. This is the sort of thing I used to encounter quite frequently - Sherpa Lamb Curry:
The lamb curry would probably have been accompanied by some of this - Curried Dahl Masuri.
[Note: The word for cooked lentils or similar pulses is written in this book as "dahl", but we always used to call it "dhal" - not that it matters, since it sounds the same when you say it aloud! In similar fashion, we always used to call this particular type of dhal "Masoor".]
Now this one is one of our all-time favourites - Alu Dam: Potatoes in a spicy tomatoey sauce. It is a very simple dish, but very tasty too. It was always included as one of the elements of a Gurkha "Tipan Tapan" (a selection of finger-foods served during any special event, such as a Dashera party.)
The book itself is rather amateurishly produced. For instance there are a couple of places in which a recipe is illustrated with the wrong photo; and there are a few errors in some of the ingredients lists. Sometimes the recipe instructions themselves are incomplete, or leave something to your imagination, so you would have to be careful when making the dishes, or else rely on prior knowledge to fill in the gaps. In a funny sort of way, I find this reassuringly authentic, because this is so typical of the way Gurkhas work. Attention to detail was never their strong point! Also, you should note that there is limited narrative content in this book - it is mostly just the recipes, so you will not learn a huge amount about Nepalese cuisine or culture from it. However, as you can see from my photos above, the book is very extensively illustrated with some smashing photos taken by Tony Jones.
Anyone who likes Indian food, and to a lesser extent anyone who likes Chinese food, will definitely find recipes of interest in this book. The book retails at £14.99, which sounds a bit pricey for a 160-page softbound book, but (and this comment is aimed mainly at the British audience), some of the proceeds from sales of this book (£2 per copy, I believe) go to the Gurkha Welfare Trust, a well-established charity supporting serving and retired British Army Gurkha soldiers and their families, an eminently worthy cause.
If you are interested in acquiring this book, or even just looking at more photos and recipes from it, visit this website:- Griersonpublications.com