Veteran cookbook author Owen (The Rice Book, Indonesian Regional Food and Cookery, Healthy Thai Cooking, etc.) has crafted her most personal book yet in this culinary memoir-cum-cookbook. Detailing her engagement, herfirst crash courses in cooking, opening her own London shop and publishing her first cookbooks, among other life events, Owen accounts for her evolving relationship with food. Though interesting, Owen has a tendency to wander and a prose style that isn't nearly as enticing as her recipes. Classics like Gado Gado, flavorful mixed vegetables tossed with peanut sauce; deliciously complex crab cakes with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, coriander and chili flakes; and Pan-Fried Tuna with Red Chili Sauce are surefire hits that are easy enough to source and assemble. Those living far from the tropics may have more trouble with ingredients (fresh coconut water, the notoriously foul-smelling durian fruit), though Owen does offer an admirable range of substitutions. Those with access to the accoutrements that make these dishes unique-galangal, kaffir limes and the omnipresent tamarind-will get the most out of the book, but even spectator chefs will appreciate the crisp photography and flavorful combinations.
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Sri Owen is the foremost authority on Indonesian food. Born in Sumatra, Indonesia, she moved to Britain in 1964 and is an internationally celebrated author, lecturer and cook. Her books include The Rice Book (winner of the Andre Simon award) and Indonesian Regional Food and Cookery.