In his introduction to the First Edition Sir Alan Davidson - Ex-Ambassador for Great Britain to Laos - wrote that this book is intended to help English-speaking readers to enjoy the seafood of the South-East Asian region. As there is no greater difficulty to identify meat and poultry - a pig is a pig, a chicken a chicken all over the world - with fish it is an entirely different matter!
So these are the explanations to the catalogues which are intended to include the most common and the most interesting of the pecies of fish and other seafood in tiìhis region of S.E.-Asia which are likely to be found in the markets and restaurants... In the catalogues the name of each species is given first in Latin - this is the scientific name. Usually there are two words, first the genus, second the species in the family. After that enters the most usual name in English or in the region of its habitat. Then - in each catalogue entry the reader will find - under the heading Cuisine - a summary indication how the fish or other sea creature can best be prepared for the table. The first catalogue is about fish - 110 pages of information and nicely design, all about that family... The are following the crustaceans - 20 pages of the same: information, design, and use in the Cuisine - a thing to make Your mouth water! The next catalogue is about Molluscs and Other Edible Sea Cratures - 50 pages of informations about the last family of sea creatures.
At page 200 we enter the Cookery Section... First an introduction about weights and measures used in the different countries. Then follws the chapter about the ingedients and extensive coverage of essential pantry equipment...Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
The only issue here was the delivery date, as it was not delivered on time or rather within the timetable as indicated per e-mail, but the seller communicated with me promptly and correctly, so no complaints after all, the book is in excellent condition and I purchased it for its contents...
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Vintage Davidson22 Dec. 2003
Mr. R. S. Cooper
- Published on Amazon.com
I bought one of the original hardback copies of this book almost 20 years ago. Unfortunately I lent it to someone who had grown up in Burma, and she was fascinated to see recipes for dishes she remembered eating as a child. I never saw the book again, and serve me right! I assumed it was long out of print until I spotted it on amazon.com this evening while ordering another Davidson title, North Atlantic Seafood, as a Christmas gift for a godchild in Houston, Texas. Sadly, Alan Davidson died in December 2003, and his career was widely reviewed in the British press. He had just won the prestigious Erasmus Prize for his pioneering contributions to the academic study of food and gastronomy. The award was made by the Queen of the Netherlands in person. His first-ever writings on seafood were published while he was serving as a diplomat in Tunisia, a small work to help diplomatic wives identify local species, and sold to raise funds for the Red Cross. This was later expanded to become Meditterranean Seafood, widely recognized as the authoritive guide to the subject. I live in a small fishing port on the Costa Brava in Spain and use the book at least once a week. It has been invaluable in identifying the often unfamiliar species on sale in the local markets, as in all his works he gives the local names and variants, and provides accurate drawings of each, as well as authentic recipes. These are always those used by traditional cooks of the regions he writes about. No fusion cooking for him! Seafood of South East Asia, first published in 1976, makes interesting reading even for non-cooks. Davidson had gone on to be British Ambassador in Laos, a country he came to love deeply. He usually wore string wristbands, tokens of a Laotian religious ceremony called basi. These were regularly given to him by the Lao community in the UK, who considered him their patron. The clothes he wore after retiring from the Foreign Office were often inspired by the colourful and stylish garments of south-east Asia. Seafood of South-East Asia reflects his understanding and appreciation of regions whose culinarary traditions are still not widely known. After retirement from the diplomatic service Davidson travelled widely throughout China and south-east Asia, researching the names and methods used for cooking the entire range of local seafood, including the pa beuk, a giant catfish of the Mekong, thought to be extinct, but now thriving, partly because of his writings about it. Davidson's recipes are not always easy to follow, as he spurns phrases like 'or use x if y is not available'. He was a culinary perfectionist, although in no way a foodie, admitting as he did to a liking for such unfashionable food items as tomato ketchup, spam and ice cream soda. His death brings to an end a great trilogy of seafood books that started with the Mediterranean and went on to cover the North Atlantic and South-East Asia. All these books and his other writings on fish are imbued with deep scholarship (he was a top classical scholar at Oxford University) and, surprisingly perhaps, a great sense of humour.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Third in a most important reference on world fishes. Buy It!1 Mar. 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
`Seafood of South-East Asia' by noted culinary writer Alan Davidson, the author of `The Oxford Companion to Food' is a reference book which a serious cook must have in their library where time is spent deciding on what to eat rather than time spend actually cooking. This book belongs to a rare breed of books in English such as Elizabeth Schneider's `Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini' or `Bruce Cost's Asian Ingredients' which thoroughly cover a broad single subject. This volume is cut from exactly the same cloth and sewn with an almost identical pattern to the author's two other classics, `Mediterranean Seafood' and `North Atlantic Seafood'.
All three books are organized in the same way that gives primacy to information on the aquatic species and secondary coverage of recipes.
Biological family, genus, and species organize the first part on the catalog of species in order that the biological similarity of the fishes is clearly shown. Each article gives the most common English name, the two part Latin scientific name, the scientist who assigned this name (most commonly the great inventor of biological Taxonomy, Linnaeus), the biological family name, and the common name of the fish in virtually every language of the major fishing nationality bordering the relevant body of water. This Southeast Asian volume includes names found in the languages of United Arab Emirates, Bengal, Tamil, Singhalese, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, and Japan. I have not seen any differentiation between the different languages of, for example, China and the Philippines. I would guess that Chinese names are in Cantonese and the Philippine names are in Tagalog. These names in themselves are entertaining to the linguistically inclined, as it is interesting to see the similarities and differences from country to country.
The articles on every species also have a highly detailed black and white drawing of each animal. The great value to these is that it makes comparing the appearance of different fishes very easy, as every species is depicted in a similar style. It is too bad they could not be depicted to scale, but this would have had the sturgeon filling two pages while the anchovies would be the size of a period. Instead, the remarks on each fish give the average market length and a description of the typical color and markings.
The catalog entry also gives a paragraph or two on cuisine, which is a discussion of the culinary desirability of the species and typical ways in which the animal is prepared. For most fish, this includes methods by which the fish is butchered. The catalog entries also include a list of recipes and page numbers for these recipes in the second major section of the book.
The second major section divides recipes by country. This volume gives us eight chapters on recipes from Burma; Thailand; Cambodia; Vietnam; China and Hong Kong; The Philippines; Indonesia; and Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore.
One is tempted to expect these recipes to be very generic and not as interesting as those you may find in books of `haute cuisine' from a fish specialist such as Eric Rippert. This is partially true. Davidson is less the great cook than he is a great fish and food scholar. This means that while his recipes may come from common sources, he gives us much more information on the background of the recipes than the chef may do. A good example of this is in his coverage of Filipino dishes. I compared his `Fish Sinigang' recipe to the `Sinigang Na Bangus' recipe in `Filipino Cuisine' by Gerry Gelle and found that Davidson's recipe was as good or better than the one given by the Filipino chef. True to Davidson's scholarly approach, he describes what type of fish works well in this recipe, even though both he and Gelle specify milkfish (bangos). One odd fact is that Gelle's name for the fish is one Davidson attributes to Malaysia. May be due to linguistic duality between northern and southern Philippines. As with all cuisines, Davidson gives expert advice on cookbooks of the Filipino cuisines, especially as he says cookbook writing is a well-developed discipline in the islands. Icing on the cake is Davidson's overview of Filipino fish cures. One method even looks suspiciously like the famous Caribbean technique that developed into barbecue.
One great delight was the fact that the book includes information on Gasteropods (Snails, limpets, conches, etc), sea turtles, and seaweed. You may not be cooking turtle soup any time soon, but you will know your stuff the next time you watch `Babette's Feast'! My point here is that this book is simply great fun to read and to use as a source of ideas for unusual new recipes.
Unlike the books on the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, the bibliography shows that the author has based most of his material on sources written in English or French. While Davidson was a diplomat with serious language skills, either these skills did not extend to oriental languages OR most of the good stuff is written in English and French anyway. One of the greatest things about all these volumes is that all of this great material is available in trade paperbacks, which list for no more than $25. For you devotees of second hand bookstores, please note the author's warning that the first edition of this volume apparently had more than a usual number of errors and all known errors were corrected in the second edition.
These are must have books for devoted foodies! A quick look at the list of species in the table of contents shows that almost all of the common named fishes show up on the ice or in the tanks of your favorite local megamart or fishmonger. I am certain that your Maine lobster will not mind being dressed in a recipe tailored to an Asian spiny lobster, although Alton Brown has quipped that the Maine flesh is slightly sweeter.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
For fish geeks in South-East Asia6 Jun. 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
If you (1) live in South-East Asia and (2) love fish and shellfish and (3) have a bit of geeky interest in details, this book is for your. Most edible seafood in this part of the world is catalogued in this book. However, this books is not as comprehensive as "Seafood of the North Atlantic" by the same author. So don't expect to find everything that is in the local market. Each entry offers latin name, picture, identification details, habitat, culinary notes and the name translated into many local languages. This translation is always into the latin alphabet. It would have been nice to have it in Chinese and Thai symbols as well. The book also contains a small recipe section (typical national dishes).