Pick up your copy of Sunday Star today (April 15 ) for a 25% discount on these cookbooks. Look for the coupon in Star2.
Author: Sebby Holmes
Publisher: Kyle Books
It’s interesting how people view authenticity. In Malaysia, people expect to see someone Chinese making a plate of char kuey teow or a Malay person making satay. When anyone foreign peddles the same wares, it is automatically dismissed as being inauthentic. So it is a curious paradox that a chef like Sebby Holmes has become so popular – and successful – on the back of Thai cuisine.
Holmes is one of a handful of young English chefs who has been responsible for revitalising the Thai dining scene in Britain. He worked at the famed Begging Bowl in Peckham and was head chef at the hugely popular TOT (trending on Twitter) eatery The Smoking Goat that specialised in barbecued Thai fare. He left to start a pop-up Thai restaurant called Farang (aptly it means Caucasian in Thai), which also became a huge hit.
This cookbook offers a collection of Holmes’ “most loved meals to cook at home” and you’ll instantly see the appeal in these beautifully photographed dishes. You’ll find recipes for smoked chicken green curry, sticky pork belly with salted roast pumpkin, green nahm jim-cured salmon with apple and dill, and black rice, summer berries and coconut pudding, all of which look incredibly enticing.
The recipes all come with interesting introductory stories and some even have useful tips. While Holmes is a bit of a purist in that he advocates things like making your own coconut cream and curry powder (and provides the recipes for both), he also stresses that it is not always feasible to make regularly.
In the end, you’ll find a treasure trove of Thai recipes that may not be wholly authentic in terms of being exact replicas of what you would find in Thailand (a fact Holmes alludes to in his introduction), but that are, nevertheless, packed full of flavour. And isn’t that essentially what good food is all about? – Abirami Durai
Lonely Planet’s The World’s Best Bowl Food
Publisher: Lonely Planet Food
Bowl food isn’t just limited to the poke bowls and breakfast bowls that are storming Instagram right now. Across the world and through the centuries, people have been eating foods from bowls – whether it’s Latvian fish soup, Peruvian ceviche, Japanese ramen or Sarawak laksa.
This charming little book profiles the rich, manifold bowl foods around the globe, like American macaroni and cheese, Indonesian bakso, Scottish cock-a-leekie soup (yes, such a thing exists!), Indian dal takda and Thai tom yang gung.
Each dish includes information about its origins (written in teeny, tiny print that’s hard to decipher if your eyesight isn’t in fine form) as well as a recipe and tasting notes. The tasting notes are particularly engaging as they give you a sense of what to expect when eating these meals, as, realistically, it would be near impossible to know every single dish in the book.
If you’d like to enhance your international database of bowl foods (and make a couple of them at home), I would highly recommend this entertaining read. – AD
Nasi Campur: A Simple Guide
Author: Deety Lenton
Publisher: Mafaz Creative
Author Deety Lenton was born in Medan, Indonesia, and has authored a couple of cookbooks. In her latest, Lenton profiles nasi campur, a traditional Indonesian dish of rice with various meats and vegetable accompaniments (nasi campur is Indonesian and Malay for mixed rice). The book includes recipes for meals like nasi kuning, ayam goreng, anyang (toasted coconut salad), sate lilit and sambal.
Although the recipes look intriguing, the photography doesn’t always hit the mark, with some images – like the one for sambal goreng sapi and nasi hitam especially – appearing blur and out of focus. It would also be nice if there was an introduction to preface each recipe, or even a chapter opener offering brief information about the subject, as there is no context to the recipes, which hinders its international appeal.
If you live outside of South-East Asia, I doubt you’ll understand much about these dishes, and there is little in the cookbook to help enhance your knowledge of the cuisine. While there is room for improvement here (even Lenton’s profile picture at the back of the book is a little grim), don’t let that stop you from trying out the many recipes in this cookbook, as they form the highlight of this little book and deserve a try. – AD
The Legendary Cuisine Of Persia
Author: Margaret Shaida
Publisher: Grub Street
The first thing I looked for in the contents list of this book was rice. I was not disappointed to find a 35-page chapter fittingly subtitled “Sumptuous dishes”.
There are a lot of recipes, including the well-known tahcheen (baked rice), morasa’ polow (jewelled rice) and rice cooked with noodles and broad beans.
Englishwoman Margaret Shaida is not a native Iranian but married one and lived in Iran for 25 years, learning Persian cooking from her mother-in-law and friends in their own kitchens.
This book was first published in 1992 and has been redesigned with new photography. The pictures are beautiful but not every recipe comes with one. However, what is included is a fascinating history of Iran and the surrounding region’s cooking. Shaida has also done much research on the Persian influence in many other cuisines.
As the late magisterial food writer Alan Davidson said in the foreword, “the title ‘legendary’ strikes the right note for this book”.
Malaysians will recognise many similarities in the flavours that feature prominently in Iranian cuisine, such as lemon and dried fruit, that are also present in many local Malay dishes. These Persian recipes will certainly make a delicious addition to the celebration table during Hari Raya. – Jane F. Ragavan