Feeling adventurous? Try your hand at chef and restaurateur Bruce Cost's recipe adaptations from the menus of his Asian noodle-centric Big Bowl restaurants. The book begins with a very useful guide to the special ingredients one needs to follow these recipes, including recommended brands. But take heed--there are more than a dozen pages of them. Still, Cost calls his food authentic and accessible, and, believe it or not, a trip to your local Asian grocery store for a handful of such staples as fish sauce, Shaoxing rice wine, and Chinese dark soy sauce should get you on your way. For the beginner, there are dishes with short lists of ingredients, including Steamed Mussels in Coconut Herb Broth, Glazed Sweet and Sour Eggplant with Sesame Sauce, and Red Braised Beef Short Ribs. The instructions are clear, detailed, and remarkably short.
As your pantry grows, so too can your repertoire. Once you've mastered Big Bowl's recipes for homemade red and yellow curry pastes, the book lists a host of mouthwatering recipes with which you can amaze your friends, such as Red Curry Seafood Soup, Thai Yellow Curry Beef Noodles, and Thai Red Curry Rice Noodles with Lamb and Chinese Chives. Cost recommends incorporating his dishes into your own menus, as well as using them to create entire Asian-inspired meals, and his recipes include helpful guides to how many people each dish feeds as a main course or as part of a larger meal. Classics such as Hot and Sour Soup, Indonesian Satays, and Vietnamese Summer Rolls are delectable and familiar enough to encourage kitchen novices to give this book a try, even if the list of ingredients and instructions for some of the recipes run long. For people who feel quite comfortable with a wok, there is plenty more to keep you challenged. Cost knows what his customers like best and has chosen his dishes carefully. Full-flavored, fresh, and interesting, this is a far cry from the brown-sauce-laden Chinese food available at the corner store. --Leora Y. Bloom
Bruce Cost is one of the greatest cooks I've ever known. -- Alice Waters