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The Elephant Walk Cookbook: The Exciting World of Cambodian Cuisine from the Nationally Acclaimed Restaurant Hardcover – November 1, 1998


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Elephant Walk Cookbook, the first volume of traditional Cambodian cooking published in the U.S., is a cultural as well as a culinary adventure. It's also the story of author Longteine De Monteiro and how she and her husband were forced into exile in 1975 by the Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia and eventually came to own three restaurants and a market in and around Boston. An important reason she wrote this book--with Katherine Neustadt--was to preserve traditional dishes that now may no longer be served in Cambodia because everyone who knew how to make them was exterminated by the Khmer Rouge, or fled elsewhere.

Cambodian cooking blends influences from Asia and the West, including China, Vietnam, Thailand, India, Spain, and France. It is a balancing act of colors, textures, and most of all, salty, sour, sweet, hot, and bitter flavors. Rice and fish are important, particularly freshwater-lake fish and a fermented fish paste, prahok. So are coconut milk, lemongrass, and a list of other ingredients that are becoming more readily available outside of Southwest Asia. Still, ordering by mail from sources provided in the book--or a special shopping trip--will be necessary to make most of the dishes in The Elephant Walk Cookbook.

The most accessible dishes are the salads (many of which contain chicken or pork), including Tomato Salad and Pineapple Salad, and the pickles, such as Mixed Vegetable Pickles. Loc Lac--beef marinated in mushroom soy sauce, sautéed, and served on crisp lettuce with lime juice--is another easy choice. Loving, lively descriptions and alluring photos will keep you reading about all of the 150 dishes, which are aromatic with basil and cilantro, galangal, kaffir lime and curry leaves, tamarind, fiery chiles, garlic, pungent fish sauce, and the like. --Dana Jacobi

From Publishers Weekly

Boston restaurateur De Monteiro, who fled her native Cambodia in the mid-1970s, aims to both introduce and preserve traditional Cambodian cuisine in this appealingly unusual cookbook. Less sweet than Thai and not as salty as Vietnamese fare, Cambodian dishes make frequent use of lemongrass, fish sauce, shrimp paste, coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves and other local specialties. Classic Noodle Soup achieves part of its unique taste with preserved cabbage and dried shrimp. Dishes are as simple as Grilled Marinated Pork Ribs, made savory with mushroom soy sauce and garlic, and as complexly flavored as Caramelized White Fish with Fried Garlic. De Monteiro also tells how to make Crispy Rice, the deep-fried appetizer popular at her restaurant. Although many ingredients can be found in ethnic groceriesAgalangal, dried lily buds and the preserved fish paste, prahokAothers, such as banana blossoms for Banana Blossom Salad, will be difficult for Americans to locate. Less exotic, a dessert such as Sweet Sliced Corn puts a twist on a familiar U.S. food by slicing steamed corn off the cob, drizzling it with honey and garnishing with coconut, while New Year's Rice Treats with glutinous rice, coconut and bananas steamed inside banana leaves is an annually popular Cambodian sweet. Cooks wishing to explore new territory will be drawn to this attractive introduction.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 362 pages
  • Publisher: Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (November 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395892538
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395892534
  • Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 7.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #438,192 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This is a wonderful cookbook, further enhanced by the author's fascinating story.
K. Heffernan
Even for a back woods person like myself, getting some of the exotic ingredients required only a few stops on the web, and I was ready to cook anything from this book.
N. Jacobs
I recently bought it, and although I have tried out only one recipe, I highly recommend this book.
Vuthy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Roel Leus on September 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
As my girlfriend is from Cambodia, I have looked for a source to learn to prepare some of the dishes her mother also makes, and I've managed to surprise her a couple of times with the mostly very authentic recipes that are in this book (not ALL dishes are perhaps uniquely or typically Khmer, but that does not change the merits of the book! (cfr. the other reader reviews)). The book is very complete, and a pleasure not only to use for cooking but also simply to browse and admire the pictures. For those who wish some extra sources of "authentic" khmer cuisine, I can recommend that they look for the book by Nusara Thaitawat (The Cuisine of Cambodia - I don't think it's on Amazon, but can be found on the internet) - they will find a great second book that also lists a large number of marvellous recipes, with equally exquisite pictures, but does presuppose some more familiarity with the ingredients and measures - which can be acquired by reading and using "The Elephant Walk" first.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By N. Jacobs on December 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you love exotic cuisine and preparing it at home, then I would suggest that this book should be on the top of your list.

Just for starters, Cambodian cuisine is probably the tastiest of the SE Asian cuisines that I have tried. And what's more, the recipies are usually quite simple to prepare. I was surprised that some barely required anything beyond my neighborhood grocery store. Even for a back woods person like myself, getting some of the exotic ingredients required only a few stops on the web, and I was ready to cook anything from this book.

The cookbook is expertly laid out. It begins with a lengthy introduction, including everything from information on the history of Cambodia to the art of shopping in an Asian grocery store. The recipies are arranged in a pretty logical fashion: appetizers, meat type, noodles, and deserts. The last section covers the basic ingredients of Cambodian cooking which may be new to the western eyes. For someone coming from a small town, I had never used a lot of these ingredients. Even more handy about this book is the fact that there are many coloured pictures of the dishes and the exotic ingredients. If you've never shopped at an Asian grocery store, it's very useful to know what the product looks like, and Longteine de Monteiro also tells what exactly to look for when purchasing said items. Of course, the pictures really help so you know what type of result you want.

I'm really impressed by the amount of work that Longteine put into this book. Not only are the recipies great and it's loaded with information, it looks good too! The research was a bit exhaustive and the commentaries on each dish gave me some background or at least, entertainment.

Weaknesses of the book?
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Chanthy S. Carey on July 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I was very excited to recieve this book in the mail. I tried a few recipes and love them! I, like others have never been able to mimick my mothers Khmer dishes and my mother wasn't able to teach me well enough. I go by measurements and my mother goes by taste and experience. So this book made it easier for me to learn how to prepare Khmer meals for my growing family. I wanted to be able to serve my children meals that I grew up loving and this book helps me in every way. True it is a bit "Americanized" but it is better than what I haven't seen published out there. This is a must have for anyone who wants to learn how to cook these delicious dishes. I plan on purchasing a copy for my two sisters, who as well have been struggling to learn how to prepare our mothers meals.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Vuthy on August 14, 2002
Format: Hardcover
My family hails from Cambodia, and although I grew up near Boston and now live in Los Angeles, I have had a lot of experience with Cambodian cusine from my parents' cooking. I regret that I never took the time as I child to learn from my mother all the dishes I loved and gobbled up, but this book has many of my favorites and I few I didn't know about. I recently bought it, and although I have tried out only one recipe, I highly recommend this book. The meals are not EXACTLY the same as my mother's, but each family has there own ways of making things and their own little secret ingredients. I wish there were more pictures of the dishes, and more recipes for that matter, but for the price and this rarely covered subject, this book is a treasure. If you love food, especially the tasty kind, get this book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Bill on December 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Even a white guy can cook like a Cambodian with this.

The books very well laid out, easy to follow and could even be a coffee table book. It has a good cross reference to explanations of ingredients that even allow a Texan like myself to impress my Cambodian wife by cooking some dishes as well as her mother. It's a lot of fun trying anyway.

The people who wrote it are real nice. I couldn't find Prahok here in Miami, so I emailed them and they sold me a couple of jars from their store and took the time to ship it to me (at cost).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By K. Heffernan on June 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful cookbook, further enhanced by the author's fascinating story. Although this cookbook is great on its own merits (the recipes are scrumptious, the directions easy, and resources provided), I felt compelled to contribute my own review in response to some of the negative reviews which unfortunately appear to have wrong impressions and/or seem to be on the offensive. I'm not saying everyone has to like the recipes, or agree with the author's viewpoint, but I think it is arrogant to think that there is only one Cambodia. Yes, every family IS different. The author clearly says that this is "her" Cambodia, and I applaud her desire to make a record of her recipes for our benefit. I also did not get the impression that she looked down on all Cambodians. Unfortunately there was a difference in classes, but the author didn't create them. I also think that Elephant Walk shouldn't be chastised for adapting some recipes for the American palate. That's just business; I don't think it could survive catering to one community. And no, I don't think she's selling out. One problem is the availability of ingredients; it's nearly impossible to find kaffir limes, (although the leaves are available). I also don't think the American palate is quite up to prahok (a paste made of decomposed fish) for instance. Cooking is an art, and I don't think anyone truly goes to a restaurant wanting merely a documentary meal. So, for those who criticize the authenticity of the dishes and advise us to buy another Cambodian cookbook - I ask -- where ?! Please write one! I might buy it. I love Cambodian food, and this is the ONLY Cambodian cookbook I've found.
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