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Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia Hardcover – October 2, 2000

67 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Mekong region, which extends south from China through Laos and Thailand to Cambodia and Vietnam, offers extraordinary food. Hot Sour Salty Sweet, which takes its name from the principal taste sensations of the region's cooking, provides an unparalleled culinary journey through this fertile land. Though the book contains a wealth of anecdotal material, its great strength lies in its 175 recipes, explicit formulas for the likes of Shrimp in Hot Lime Leaf Broth, Lao Yellow Rice and Duck, and Hui Beef Stew with Chick Peas and Anise. The breadth and substance of this authentic yet approachable collection is truly exciting; readers who cook from the book (not difficult to do once ingredients are assembled and techniques understood), as well as those searching for the best kind of armchair travel, will be delighted.

Beginning with a discussion of the Mekong region, its people (a complicated mix, among them the Kai, Akha, and Cham), and their characteristic foods, the book then provides recipes organized by ingredients, dish types, and topics such as "Everyday Dependable," "One-Dish Meals," "Kids Like It," and "Vegetarian Options." This latter style of division helps define and "domesticate" a vast array of cooking, often enjoyed at times and places foreign to Westerners. Chapters devoted to such sweets as Tapioca and Corn Pudding with Coconut Cream, grilled specialties, and fare for adventurous cooks, such as Aromatic Steamed Fish Curry (more painstaking technically, though not truly difficult) further widen the book's scope. Illustrated throughout with 150 color photos and containing a comprehensive ingredient glossary, the book is a definitive point of entry to a mostly unexplored culinary port of call. --Arthur Boehm

From Publishers Weekly

With their usual ?lan, Alford and Duguid (Flatbreads and Flavors; Seductions of Rice) follow the Mekong River through southeast Asia (Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Burma and the Chinese Yunnan region) to bring home a trove of delicious, unusual recipes. Fans of their earlier books may be disappointed to see that their latest volume often revisits earlier themes. Still, there are enough uncommon recipes here to keep even the most inveterate cookbook reader discovering new flavor combinations. (Consider Vietnamese Baked Cinnamon P?t? and Smoked Fish and Green Mango.) As in their other books, the authors display a specificity and a knowledge of this part of the world that is staggering, as well as a heartfelt reverence for the foods that "real" people eat. Vietnamese Beef Ball Soup, for example, is commonly sold by street vendors, and Shan Salad with Cellophane Noodles was picked up from an acquaintance who lives on the Shan State-Thai border. The provenance of each recipe is provided so that readers may clearly distinguish between multifaceted Thai cuisine and French-influenced Vietnamese foods such as Saigon Subs on baguettes. One-page mini-essays on the pair's travel experiences are truly a treat; they cover topics such as fermented fish and the city of Vientiane. With this third book, Alford and Duguid prove that they are fast producing a body of work that commands serious admiration. The hypnotic black-and-white cover photo of a teapot in soft focus will have book buyers lingering in the aisles.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 346 pages
  • Publisher: Artisan; First Edition edition (October 2, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1579651143
  • ISBN-13: 978-1579651145
  • Product Dimensions: 10.1 x 1.1 x 11.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #133,228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

136 of 138 people found the following review helpful By "aidanog" on November 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I am, admittedly, a coockbook hoarder. I have them everywhere -- even in the drawers of my nightstand and tucked under the bed. I read them cover-to-cover like other people read novels.
Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet is, without a doubt, the best cookbook I have ever read. It is part travel novel, part anthropology lesson, and -- in large part -- a primer for westerners in Southeast Asian cuisine.
Easy to read, straightforward in instruction, its' only flaw is that -- in rare instances -- recipes may include items not available in even a metropolitan Asian market. (I have been to all of the Asian markets in Little Chinatown in Chicago and have yet to find coriander root!) But the ingredients are largely available at most Asian markets and even some larger supermarkets, and substitutions are often recommended.
The grilled chicken with hot and sweet dipping sauce has become a family favorite. The dipping sauce was so flavorful, so simple yet so complex in flavor -- I was surprised that I had made something so delicious.
Buy the book -- you won't be sorry!
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46 of 46 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
You won't be able to decide whether to run to your kitchen or to the airport. This book has stunning photos, engaging essays and scrumptious recipes. At this price it's a bargain!!
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54 of 58 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
If you love flavour, you have to have this book. Thai food introduced many of us to that culinary balance of hot, sour, salty and sweet, which gives this book its name. Alford and Duguid reveal the similarities and differences in the cuisines of neighbouring worlds along the Mekong.
I've been fortunate to help test for the authors, and this collection is my favourite so far. Many of the recipes are now in my daily repetoire, to the delight of family and guests. Choose a spice paste or sauce to transport a simple meal into another realm. That's not to say it's all complex; recipes such as Yunnan greens, or Dali Cauliflower satisfy with a few well chosen ingredients, simply prepared. I had to resist the urge to jazz it up, and was glad to have followed the recipe and learned something new.
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58 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Judith S. Liebman on May 29, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the most compelling cookbook I have ever had in the more than 50 years I've been cooking (and eating). Usually I skim cookbooks, just picking out the best sounding recipes. But, in this book, I read (and salivated over) every word. Upon finishing, I immediately ordered another copy to be sent to one of my brothers and his wife who also love to travel and cook. All of the recipes I've tried so far have been fabulous.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By I. Seligman on May 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you have curiosity and interest in Asian foods, (and have gotten this far with your curiosity and interests!) you will be very pleased by your reading of "Hot Sour Salty Sweet". It starts out with geography...the flow of the Mekong River from China, as it touches on Burma and Thailand, and goes right through Laos, Cambodia and South Vietnam.

As the river meanders, then builds up force, the authors' tale grows stronger and richer as well. As you learn about the complex network of varied peoples, (yet quite different in culture and tastes) who are spread across this riverbed, be it the Han, Hmong, Bai, Karen, or Khmer and Cham, you are introduced by the nuances of geography, recipes and tribal descriptions to the people, and to the unique foods and diets enjoyed with each region's local spices and traditions. One group may never use pork, another uses fish sauce instead of salt, water buffalo is the preferred meat in some regions, coconuts do not grow in the North and stronger spices tend ot be used there, with coconut milk and seafood more commonly used as the river heads south towards the Mekong delta.

Ever wonder why some Chinese or Thai restaurants taste "different" from each other, even in the USA or whatever country you may be sampling such cuisine? Well, this book may at times educate you (just a little bit) to the ethnic origin of the person as they cook the food with their own special touches added. Ask the cook at your restaurant about their culinary background, to learn more!

The recipes can be transformed from printed page into tasty food with a visit to a local Asian grocery store, if available, visiting "Whole Foods" or "Fresh Market" type specialty grocery stores in larger cities, or via internet shopping to find a mail order source.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Becca on August 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I bought this cookbook after reading many wonderful reviews. I was not disappointed. This book is beautiful from start to finish. It took me while to pick out a recipe to cook because everything looks and sounds so incredible. I have now cooked several dishes and everything has been great and fairly simple to make. One of my favorites so far is the dish, "Our Favorite Noodles with Greens and Gravy." Find a good oriental grocery store, buy the book and impress your family and friends.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By ALN on November 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I usually pick my cookbooks by number of recipes and quality of instruction. It is seldom I buy a cookbook that has lots of pictures and non-recipe discourse. However, this is probably one of the best cookbooks I have purchased in the last 2 years. It has clear, concise recipes from my favorite region for food - practically fool-proof (my husband even made the bok choi successfully!).
And adding to the food quality is the need to curl up with this cookbook as if it were a novel - wonderful descriptions of a facinating part of the world, and expressive and intriguing pictures to fire the imagination. I only regret that I have to get it dirty - I'll have to buy a 2nd copy for my coffee table!
A must have for anyone who loves to have fun with food!
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Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia
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