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Cradle of Flavor: Home Cooking from the Spice Islands of Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia Hardcover – August 17, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (August 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393054772
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393054774
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 0.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #100,777 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Oseland, who has lived in Singapore for 20 years, hopes to help people who haven't had the benefit of a trip to West Sumatra or Kuala Lumpur to discover those places' scents and tastes. Oseland devotes close to half the book to explaining ingredients, techniques and eating traditions as well as relating anecdotes from 20 years of roaming the islands and picking up the natives' cooking wisdom. Many ingredients will require special trips to ethnic markets, though Oseland allows for some substitution or omission of difficult-to-find items like fresh galangal or daun salam leaves. The first chapter covers sambals, every meal's essential spicy accompaniment, as well as other small dishes like the fiery Sweet-Sour Cucumber and Carrot Pickle with Turmeric; he follows with slightly more familiar street foods and snacks such as satays and gado-gado, then rice and noodles in all their guises, from simple, heavenly steamed rice to the zingy Malaysian Penang-Style Stir-Fried Kuey Teow Noodles. Oseland's instructions are detailed, and he makes a convincing case that with a little time and care, the best of these complex, interrelated cuisines can be enjoyed thousands of miles from their origin. Maps and color photos not seen by PW. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

James Oseland’s writing has appeared in Gourmet, Saveur, and Vogue. He has been traveling to Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia for twenty years. He lives in New York City.

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Customer Reviews

That was until I tried recipes from this book.
Still, I've had good luck with all the recipes and always enjoy dipping into this book to try something new and unexpected.
C. Garness
James Oseland captures the essence of Malaysian and Indonesian food very well in this book.
Grows Asian Veggies

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

76 of 81 people found the following review helpful By David Plotnikoff on November 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
IT'S not entirely clear to me if it's because of the San Francisco Bay Area's great cultural diversity - or in spite of it - but there's no denying that more than a few of us (and not just self-professed foodies) suffer from Jaded Palate Syndrome. The most obvious symptom: A pronounced grumpiness and malaise around lunchtime. We've become so accustomed to finding everything from East Indian to Ethiopian cuisines, all as close as the nearest suburban mini-mall, that the region's signature pairing of whine and food should be: "OK, amuse me. Show me something really new."

And into the breach steps the intrepid James Oseland, with a masterful introduction to a rich, intensely vibrant cuisine that has yet to find more than a token presence in the United States. With "Cradle of Flavor: Home Cooking From the Spice Islands of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore," Oseland, the editor-in-chief of Saveur magazine, lays out a vast map of hitherto uncharted culinary territory. The book is not an addition to an existing canon of literature. Rather, for any non-Indonesian chef it will more than suffice as both the first and last word on the subject.

How could an area as vast and populous as the Malay Archipelago escape notice for so long? As one Indonesian acquaintance told Oseland on his first trip to the region more than two decades ago, "We're the best-kept secret in Asia. Too few of us are living abroad to share our cuisine." If you've tasted any food from the region at all, it was most likely cosmopolitan, Chinese-influenced fare from the city-state of Singapore and not the home-style cooking typically found in the far provinces of Indonesia.

"Cradle of Flavor" is more than the sum of its parts.
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By DinFL on September 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I was originally quite skeptical about this book. I mean this is an American guy who's writing recipes from Indonesia, what could he possibly know? After borrowing the book from a local library, reading it, trying a couple of recipes, and then deciding to buy it from Amazon, Well.. I guess A LOT!

I was born and raised in West Sumatera, Padang to be exact (this city is mentioned a lot in the book). I got shipped out of Indonesia to the U.S. in my early teenage years. I wasn't interested in food or want to learn to cook then. I took it for granted that I wouldn't miss anything and get used to the American food. It was not until I arrived in the U.S., got homesick, and craved for sambal and rice on a regular basis, that I realized how hard it was to create or get a taste of home. Most Indonesian restaurants here were either Javanese (which is different from spicy West Sumatra's food) or "Americanized". When my mom died, all hopes of learning to cook food I grew up with was gone. Whenever I felt homesick, I'd cook Indonesian food based on recipes found on the web, blogs, and little bits of knowledge that I picked up on my annual visit home. But nothing seemed to taste the way I remembered. That was until I tried recipes from this book. Everything smells and tastes almost exactly as they are supposed to be. The book goes into a lot of details explaining how to handle the ingredients and the step-by-step cooking process, which definitely makes the difference in my cooking. I use this book all the time now, and follow the instructions to the T. The only thing I don't do is adding sugar when cooking main courses. I see a couple of reviews complaining that there aren't many pictures in the book. While that's true, it's not exactly a deal breaker. To get an idea of what the dishes look like, google for images, that should help.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Manerly Flodeilla on April 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I am an Indonesian who moved to the US 2 1/2 years ago. This book has fulfilled my craving for Indonesian food. It has easy to follow recipes, descriptions of ingredients, where to find them and how to store them. I totally recommend it.
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35 of 42 people found the following review helpful By B. Marold HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on December 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
`Cradle of Flavor' by culinary journalist and `Saveur' executive editor, James Oseland is easily the best presentation I have yet seen of a minor Far Eastern cuisine (excluding India, China, Thailand, and Japan). It is certainly superior to the two I have recently seen on Filipino and Viet cuisines (even though these were very good indeed) and it is better than the broad brushed effort of writer Naomi Duguid and photographer Jeffrey Alford, the culinary travelogue, `Hot Sour Salty Sweet' covering nearby mainland Southeast Asia. This effort is easily comparable to the very best works on Italian, French, and other Mediterranean regions such as `Saveur' colleague Coleman Andrews' `Catalan Cuisine' and Lynne Rossetto Kaspar's `The Splendid Table' on the cuisine of Emilia-Romagna.

One of the most illuminating aspects of the book is that it sparks a moment of clarity in my thinking about the region, when I realize that so many of the world's essential spices come from this part of the world and the outstanding geographical feature of this region is its islands. This is exactly the kind of landscape which modern evolutionary theory says will foster great variations in species. Thus, we get a great diversity of foodstuffs in a relatively small area (compared, for example, to the expanse of north central Asia (the Russian steppes).

Another thought illuminated by this book is a comparison with Mediterranean cuisine, where the cornerstones are olives, grapes, wheat, milk, pork, and salt. In this land governed by Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, the cornerstones are coconut, rice, soybeans, chilis, spices, tropical fruits and shellfish.
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