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Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia Hardcover – October 2, 2000
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"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
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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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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. The ingredients are not really expensive, and a regular person can make some common sense substitutions, to have a quite tasty meal.
I freeze the white bases of lemongrass stalks cut to size, and separately freeze some herbs in thier individual ice cube trays, and they are quite tasty when melted down. Do not use dried lemongrass, as it lacks the right taste! So, having uncommon ingredients handy isn't such a problem, especially when you may not cook more than one or two Asian meals within a few month period.
The recipe instructions are simple and thorough; these are not complex and delicate French sauces to be carefully created over hours... however, the complexity of tastes and textures of some Asian dishes can be no less complex than French, Indian or other cuisines.
Having a wok and gas stove/range is helpful for some recipes, however I've done quite well with a skillet on an electric/ceramic top stove. If you really want to "cook with gas", get the "Big Kahuna Burner"...it's exactly the firepower used throughout Asia, and the price is right on Amazon! (I've reviewed it on Amazon, and have no bias or connection to it other than it's "the real thing"!)
The special bonus in the book is the inclusion of beautiful colorful photos of the varied peoples in the area served by the Mekong, as they harvest food, prepare and eat it, or go about their business.
This makes me want to go back and see, taste and savor more of Asia!
I've cooking and eating Asian food, then I cannot recommend this book enough.
Unless you live in one of the 3 or 4 biggest cities, this food is going to look like it is from Mars (nay, even most the people in Los Angeles, arguably the best city in the world for sheer depth and breadth of ethnic food, would probably find that this book is completely outside their realm of experience). And amazingly, it doesn't really fit into one neat little bucket; following the Mekong River, this book hits on 5 distinct cuisines:
4. Northern Thai (Esaan)
5. Islamic Chinese
Even in Los Angeles, it is almost impossible to find Esaan food, which is quite different from the Royal Thai cuisine that the country has fallen in love with. Vietnamese is an amazing cuisine that seems to be spreading significantly (if with more emphasis on rice noodle bowls than tendon soup).
If you are interested in the history of food, this is also a fascinating tract. In the West, the history has two phases: before and after ready access to salt, the prior phase being dominated by what are called 'masking spices' (some of which came from the east) and then the whole history of integral sauce making afterward. One of the big points made in this book is that in the East, the focus is on the balance of flavors (see title), and, most importantly, the final targeting is done by the consumer (whereas in the West, spicing a dish from a gourmet restaurant is an act of sedition). Not to indict either one: take a lesson from the book: celebrate the differences.
Most recent customer reviews
I've tried two recipes in the book so far (Vietnamese Must-Have Table Sauce pg 28 and...Read more