Shah, who returned to New York last week for the first stop on her cookbook tour. Illustration: Margalit Cutler

As the restaurant editor at Food & Wine, Khushbu Shah curated the magazine’s annual Best New Chefs list, a task that required an incredible amount of devotion, even by the usual standards of a food-media professional: “My job required me to sometimes eat two or three meals a night and really push the boundaries of appetite and fullness,” she says, explaining that since transitioning to a contributing editor role, “going to bed not overly stuffed is something I’ve been taking deep pleasure in.” She also has the chance to use up everything in her fridge before embarking on a tour for her new cookbook, Amrikan, filled with recipes that span the Indian American diaspora, be that regional classics like Gujarati comfort food khichu or a knockoff of Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza. 

Monday, May 27
I wake up in my apartment in L.A. I have no appetite — perhaps due to the deep pit of dread that has replaced my digestive system as I gear up to release my first book — but very cold, very carbonated beverages tend to help. I only like seltzer with super-aggressive bubbles. You know the kind that hurts a little and makes your eyes gently water? Today it’s a bottle of Mineragua, though my favorite brand is Agua de Piedra, which feels like a supercharged Topo Chico.

I climb back into bed and avoid looking at my emails while catching up on episodes of The Valley, the incredibly mindless spinoff of Vanderpump Rules. It’s a perfect show for when you want to not feel anything and have a couple of hours pass. It’s technically Memorial Day, but when you work for yourself and are about to embark on a book tour, there’s a shockingly large pile of things to do. Eventually. I get restless enough and start dealing with my to-do list while chewing on fennel seeds, a supposedly Ayurvedic practice that I feel helps with nausea even if it just might be a placebo effect.

I get a text from my friend that she is free to hang out later in the evening, and we make plans to go to the newly opened location of Awan that is around the corner for her apartment. Awan is some of the best ice cream in all of Los Angeles: It’s based on a style of Indonesian ice cream that is made from coconuts and happens to be vegan, even though the texture would suggest otherwise.

Before I leave, I realize that I should try to consume some actual nutrients. So I make what I like to call Aprés School food, a.k.a. slightly upgraded versions of the snacks you’d eat after coming home from middle school. On the menu tonight: English-muffin pizzas topped with the spicy tomato sauce from Monty’s, shredded mozzarella cheese, manzanilla olives I had lying around, and a pinch of the good Palestinian za’atar from Burlap & Barrel. On the side is a pile of arugula tossed with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar from Brightland (its vinegars are super-underrated).

I spot my friend at the new Awan on Melrose that looks like it’s straight out of the set of Dune with its monochromatic textured terra-cotta interior and exterior. I love it. We each order a cup with a split scoop — I like to maximize the number of flavors I can try. The Valencia orange ends up being my favorite. It tastes more orange than the fruit itself but has a kick of bitterness that comes through.

Tuesday, May 28
Today is the day of my cookbook launch party! It’s happening in the evening and the majority of my day is spent running around dealing with a mix of errands and my inbox. I wake up hungry enough, so I grab a Siggi’s 4 percent vanilla skyr and stir in a tablespoon of chia seeds and let it sit for a few minutes so the chia seeds bloom and start to gel. It gives the yogurt a pudding-like texture that I love. That gets topped with some sand pear that I picked up from California Market, my favorite grocery store in Los Angeles. It’s basically like a Korean Whole Foods, and it has the best and most affordable selection of produce.

I also make myself up a cup of coffee — I don’t always need caffeine in the morning, so I don’t have a fancy coffee set up. I tend to make instant coffee at home. Instant coffee is delicious if you know what you are doing. The key is to make it with hot milk instead of hot water and put in a pinch of sugar plus my favorite addition, a bit of freshly cracked cardamom.

I have approximately 15 minutes for lunch in between dropping off a package to UPS and a video call, so I grab one of several packets of frozen dumplings I keep on hand — I think my freezer is genuinely 50 percent dumplings at this point — and heat them up in a pan with a little bit of oil so that the bottoms crisp up before I steam them to make the rest of the dumpling skin tender. I mean to make a side of sautéed kale to go with it (for health!), but I totally forget, and I stand over my sink eating my bowl of dumplings drizzled with chile oil, hoping to not burn my mouth.

Dinner is chugging a Fairlife chocolate protein shake (I am obsessed with these, the rare protein shake that actually tastes great) before I layer my face with makeup and slide on my dress for the launch party, which is taking place at Lasita, one of my all-time favorite restaurants in L.A. The menu tonight is a bunch of snacks inspired by my book but with a Lasita twist: crispy samosa but as lumpia, endive-and-paneer salad served as hand salad, fry-yums (essentially Indian shrimp chips, but vegetarian) coated in the restaurant’s wonderfully sour tamarind powder. For dessert, Nico, the chef at Lasita, combines two dishes from my book, the gulab jamun and the tangy shrikhand, into an ice-cream sandwich. I tell him that I am borrowing that idea for my next book. The crowd is amazing, the DJ is incredible, and my friend ends the night getting everyone who is left very drunk on Hennessy shots.

Wednesday, May 29
I wake up feeling a strange, intense mix of anxiety and gratitude. I grab a banana and a spoon of peanut butter and alternate bites of both before chugging a couple of glasses of water, hoping the hydration will help combat the nerves.

I have to make a number of promotional reels. Promoting a book in 2024 is very different than what I imagined it might be, and I am really developing a newfound respect for the content creators of the internet who crank reels out daily or weekly — it takes so much time to film, edit, and deal with all the dishes. Today I am filming myself making the Maggi omelet from my book. Maggi, for the uninitiated, is India’s entry into the Instant ramen arena, and it also happens to be my favorite. This recipe is almost a frittata, with noodles gently suspended in eggs that are seasoned with the flavor packet, lots of feta, and red onion. I eat about three wedges for lunch and a bowl of arugula dressed with olive oil and vinegar again.

I pop out to meet up with a new friend who was in town from NYC at Melody, one of my favorite wine bars, not only because it’s so chilled out, but also because there is parking. I order what is essentially a vermouth spritz: Muz, with sparkling water, on the rocks with a twist and an olive. We also get the Brussels sprouts elote to snack on, and I am very surprised by how much I like the combo. Unfortunately it’s not quite enough dinner for me, so I grab another vanilla Siggi’s out of the fridge when I get home and mix it with instant-pudding powder (cheesecake flavor), give it a stir, and top with a few chunks of granola. This is an insane hack I saw on TikTok, but it does really taste like cheesecake.

Thursday, May 30
I’m leaving for book tour on Saturday, so this is a day of running around and getting last-minute items from Sephora and doing things out of vanity but also for confidence, like getting my eyebrows threaded.

I have to drop off something to a friend who works near Saffy’s, which is a wonderful restaurant by night and has a great coffee shop by day. I pick up an iced vanilla latte with whole milk — my milk preferences always surprise baristas in Los Angeles — and a spinach-and-cheese bourekia that I make the mistake of eating in the car. The bits of shattered phyllo get everywhere.

Lunch is another Fairlife protein shake, some decent blueberries, and a remaining wedge of my Maggi omelet from earlier in the week. I am trying to eat through whatever I have in my fridge before I leave because I hate wasting groceries!

I run over to Now Serving, an incredible cookbook store in Los Angeles for my first in-person talk for my book! It’s a packed house and a very charming crowd that asks the best questions. I am very lucky to have some friends show up to talk, and I meet them at Hop Woo, a legendary spot in Chinatown that is just a few blocks over. By the time I am able to make it there my friends have finished the majority of their meal, but there is a giant pile of veggie fried rice and lots of garlicky green beans left. This is honestly one of my favorite types of meals: rice plus a veg. The server brings out fortune cookies with the bill — they are a little stale, but I will always be a sucker for the tiny fortune inside. Mine says something about setting off on a great new adventure, which feels accurate.

Friday, May 31
Packing day. I make myself a cup of my instant coffee and spend some extra time frothing it with one of those battery-operated milk frothers — it gives the coffee a luxurious texture. A friend brought some farmers’ market nectarines to my party as a present, and I eat one of those over the sink so the juices don’t dribble all over me.

I spend the day packing several dresses, outfits, shoes, earrings — you name it. I am doing a pretty ambitious book tour with several stops, and the packing needs to be incredibly organized. I do have a massage scheduled for myself, however. I ditch the packing for that.

It’s nearly 4 p.m. once the massage is done, and I realize I haven’t eaten since morning. Down the street is Suá Superette, a chic little market founded by Jing Gao, who owns Fly By Jing. I grab a cold soba-noodle salad, the Jing Palmer (its riff on an Arnold Palmer), and a life-changing chocolate-chip cookie that also has chunks of Pocky in it? I eat it at one of my best friend’s houses while hanging out with her 2-and-a-half-year-old, one of my favorite humans on this planet. I want to get quality time with them before I leave for six weeks.

I get home and finish up my last bits of packing and make a final fridge-clean-out dinner: a quesadilla with all the odds and ends of leftover cheese in between two tortillas from Burritos Las Palma. I throw in some pickled jalapeños and eat that with a half of a browning avocado and plenty of mild sauce from Taco Bell, which I like to buy from Target in bottles and always keep in my fridge. I have a theory that hot sauce tastes best cold.

Saturday, June 1
This is one of those sad travel days where the airport selections are incredibly boring, but you make do and feed yourself as best you can. The goal is ease and some nutrients.

I have a two-hour layover in Detroit. I love the Detroit airport, especially because there is a Coney Island inside of it — essentially Detroit’s answer to diner culture. I have enough time to eat a grilled cheese, a Greek salad, and a side of fries. My favorite travel meal is always a salad and fries because even mediocre versions are still pretty decent. On my flight from Detroit to NYC I also eat two packets of the the vegan gummy bears Delta serves in first class. I am obsessed with these bears, but I refuse to buy them and will only eat them if my upgrades happen to go through and they are offered to me on an airplane.

Sunday, June 2
I wake up in Brooklyn. I used to live here for over a decade, and in many ways NYC still feels like home. I have a book event at the Kolkata Chai that just opened within the Inday on Driggs. We are doing an Indian High Tea (Indian high chai?) that has snacks from my book (like the chile cheese toast and the candied fennel and jaggery Rice Krispies treats) and chai from the Kolkata team plus some savory dishes from the Inday team. I am too busy talking to actually eat. Turns out book tour is kind of like your wedding, where everyone eats but you do not. I have a cup of the hot masala chai, but I am ravenous afterward and meet up with my friend who surprised me by coming in from Boston! We meet at Cozy Royale for a drink and a snack (a glass of Chenin Blanc and a pile of fries for me) before I head over to dinner at Bonnie’s with a few of my favorite friends.

I always have a giant list of spots I want to check out whenever I’m back in NYC, but the things I miss most about New York are specific people and very specific tastes. See: the cacio e pepe at Bonnie’s, which the chef Calvin Eng brilliantly makes with fermented tofu, a dish I find myself thinking about randomly at least once every four months. It is amazing to be able to eat it again. We also get basically everything else on the menu, and the sleeper hit is the BLT fried rice, which arrives crowned with shredduce and very much tastes like the sandwich. It might be my new favorite dish at Bonnie’s, the next one I will keep thinking about every four months from here on out until my next trip back to the city.

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