Rarely is a book's subtitle so apt - vibrant Asian recipes - sums up Leemei Tan's first book Lemongrass & Ginger perfectly.
Lemongrass and Ginger is another excellent book from Duncan Baird Publishing, obtaining a well earnt place on my shelf next to both French Brasserie and Mighty Spice. Knowing what other titles are in the DBP pipeline I am eagerly anticipating a culinary world tour - all with the same characteristic modern twist. It may not be intended to be a series, but there is a strong cohesion with food styling and photography and layouts.
But back to Leemei's Lemongrass & Ginger. I loved it from the first flick through, and having read more and cooked from it, I still love it. Distilling Asian cooking into just over 100 recipes is an impressive feat. I am not an expert on the region, but to me there seem to be no obvious gaps, all dishes are exciting appealing and enticing, adapted for modern kitchens and a new generation of cooks who want to experience traditional Asian cooking at home.
One of the highlights of the book is Leemei's evocative and warming introduction, full of passion, colour and personal history. Onward to the recipes, arranged by country Japan & Korea, China, Philippines & Indonesia, Malaysia & Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia & Vietnam and lastly India & Sri Lanka. Each chapter is prefaced with an introduction, explaining the main characters of each country's style cuisine - now I feel I actually know and understand the difference between each.
At the end of the book there is a "basics" section containing a glossary & techniques section, with recipes for 20 spice pastes & stocks, and explanations of techniques from rehydrating dried mushrooms to preparing squid.
Most recipes have a short introduction giving more background and insight into its origins, and how it could be adapted, for those who are also armchair cooks around 3/4 of the recipes have a mouth-watering photo. On my to-cook list are the delicious and exotic sounding Phunket-style Pad Thai (served on an omelette), Malaysian coconut & lemongrass scented rice with squid sambal, Sri Lanken hoppers, sizzling beef with ginger & spring onions. You should be able to cook the majority of recipes in this book using ingredients available in a large supermarket.
Perfect for a present, those who want to know more about and to understand Asian cuisine, and for those who already are competent cooks and want to refresh their Asian cooking.