Top positive review
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An exciting and inspirational cookbook, full of images and advice. Would highly recommend
on 30 January 2014
We pre ordered this book as my wife is a big fan of the Hairy Bikers and we already own two of their other books (from the Hairy Dieters series).
We are keen cooks and like to cook a lot of meals from scratch but it has to be said that when it comes to Asian food, our knowledge and experience is lacking, despite loving this type of cuisine, with only a couple of recipes that we tend to do frequently at home.
I have posted a more in-depth review for those that are interested after this initial summary, as well as a full recipe list at the end, but to try and briefly summarise the main things I like about the book:
- Every single recipe has an image; the majority have a large colour image or multiple images, and a few will have the image on the page before or after that recipe.
- As with their other books we own, the Hairy Bikers’ methods are in-depth and really explain the recipe well, leaving you in no doubt as to what to do, and which ingredients you can or can’t substitute (I have uploaded a couple of images on this page to help try and show what a typical recipe page looks like).
- My wife loves the fact Si and Dave have made an effort to keep the recipes healthy even though this isn’t formally a part of their dieting series (note no calorie info though)
- The recipes, as with many books, seem to vary in their apparent difficulty. As we are relatively new to cooking Asian cuisine there are some recipes we can’t wait to try, and others that look a little complicated for now or require ingredients we don’t think we’ll be able to get in our local supermarket, and may be more something to try and a weekend when we have the time (the time for things to potentially go wrong!).
Looking for criticisms… I sincerely have none. I think the key is knowing that this book is aimed at those that like Asian food, and like to cook from scratch. If you are looking for a recipe book that won’t require you to buy and prepare fresh chilli, ginger and garlic etc, then perhaps this won’t be the book for you.
My only word of caution when recommending the book, is that some of the recipes will call for specialist ingredients, that you are unlikely to have to hand (e.g. Black rice vinegar). But my view is that there are plenty of tasty looking recipes in the book that do not require specialist ingredients; we have started to cook our way through these with two great successes so far.
I have posted a recipe list at the end of my review, which hopefully will help you in your decision of whether or not to buy, but my personal opinion is this is an excellent book, and one I hope I will be reaching for again and again as my confidence with Asian cuisine improves. I will of course update this review later.
Ok so now for those of you wanting a more in depth review…
The first thing I look for with any new recipe book is images, and this is one of the few books I own where every single recipe has an accompanying image, which is nothing short of fantastic. Added to this, there are lots of images from Dave and Si’s travels that accompany the recipe sections, which for me really makes the recipes all the more inspiring and something I can’t wait to cook.
The book is split into ten main sections:
Our Asian Adventure
Bangkok and Central Thailand
North and South Thailand
Kyoto and Rural Japan
Puddings and Cakes
The introduction section ‘Our Asian Adventure’ nicely sets up the book and alleviates any fears you may have with regards to the recipes being too difficult. It’s certainly worth a read, it also introduces how to ‘rock your wok’ (i.e. season it), however we do not yet own a wok since our hob is induction, so thankfully they also state that a frying pan will be fine.
Each regional recipe section again has an introduction with text and some wonderful pictures of the region and the food in that region. So if like us you have yet to see their accompanying TV series, you still get a nice sense of context for the recipes in that section.
As with the other two books Hairy Bikers books we own, Dave and Si introduce the recipes well and give plenty of advice and hints throughout. I also like how they immediately recognise that not everyone will be familiar with Asian food and so they explain certain elements e.g. the recipe for pork and mushroom gyozas, my first thought “what are gyozas”, and the first line of the introduction ‘Gyozas are Japanese dumplings that are shaped like little Cornish pasties”.
The explanations they give, combined with the wonderful full colour images, really do help put aside any issues of ‘what is this’ or ‘how should it look’ before setting about a recipe.
The recipes seem to vary in difficulty; we today did two of the most straightforward looking ones, but some, especially the sushi recipes look a lot more involved and complicated, but great for when we have the confidence and the time.
The recipes we have tried were the Chow Mein and my wife made the Five Spice Poached Plums.
When looking at the Chow Mein recipe, there’s no timing summary given anywhere, so I read the method from start to finish before thinking about attempting this and I’m glad I did.
Reading through made me realise how much prep is involved (which wasn’t actually as bad as I’d thought) and how quick the actual cooking process is once all ingredients prep is done. The end result was fantastic (my wife agreed!), using the dry noodles we had in the cupboard they were unbelievably tasty. So we are very pleased and can’t wait to do the next (which I think will be the Chicken Katsu Curry).
My wife initially commented that the pudding section does not seem especially authentic, and much more Asian inspired, then in reading the introduction, Dave and Si state that the puddings they experienced on their travels did not seem to translate well here in the UK. Still we love the look of the puddings and the thought that has gone into them. So this slight lack of authenticity is not a criticism just something to note if you are considering buying the book. It’s a plus for us that you can see so much thought and time and effort has clearly gone into this.
One small word of caution is that upon first glance, it can seem that some recipes have a rather long ingredients list. However upon closer inspection this seems to be down to the fact that the majority of them are herbs and spices, therefore yes there’s a lot that goes into them and quite a lot of time may be spent putting the ingredients together before quickly cooking them, but for us it was worth it.
I was worried you would need to buy a lot of specialist ingredients, but the majority of ingredients for the recipes I’ve looked at doing are now available in supermarkets. Having said that there are certainly some recipes (looks like the more complex ones) where I would need to go to a specialist supplier, but the suppliers section at the end is great since it starts by listing online nationwide suppliers, then goes to listing by region (with one supplier near me in York).
Having only cooked two recipes, I am hopeful that this is a book we shall continually reach for (as we do with Dave and Si’s other two books), and as our confidence improves we will progress to the more complex and specialist recipes. But I will certainly post updates in a couple of weeks to add a little more depth and experience to my initial thoughts. Feel free to post any questions about the book and I’ll do my best to help.
Chinese Beef Curry
Classy Crispy Beef and Black Beans
Five Spice Belly Pork
King Prawn and Scallop Stir Fry
Pork and Prawn Dim Sum
Prawn and Crab Dim Sum
Pork with Wide Noodles
Egg Fried Rice
Lotus Leaf Wraps
Sweet and Sour Fish
Wonton Noodle Soup
Clay pot Duck with Ginger
Stir Fried Tomatoes and Eggs
Sweet and Sour Pork
BANGKOK AND CENTRAL THAILAND
Crispy Noodles with Prawn and Crab
Green Papaya Salad
Spiced Chicken and Pandan Leaves
Thai Sea Bass Fishcakes with Honey and Cucumber Dip
Thai Beef Stir Fry
Thai Fish Ball Noodle Soup
Tom Yum Soup
Auntie Daeng’s Green Curry
Auntie Daeng’s Stir Fried Crab with Yellow Chillies
Thai Vegetable Curry
Thai Curry Puffs
NORTH AND SOUTH THAILAND
Stir Fried Chicken and Basil
Hot and Spicy Squid Salad
Spiced Minced Chicken
Thai Massaman Chicken Curry
Panang Beef Curry
Thai Prawn Noodle Salad
Thai Jungle Curry
Thai Fish Wrapped in Banana Leaves
Asian Greens with Sesame Sauce
Miso Baked Black Cod
Japanese Rice Balls
Chicken Sichimi Katsu Curry
Pork and Mushroom Gyozas
Sweet Potato Gyozas
Prawn Katsu Burgers
Japanese Octopus Balls
Tempura Scallops and Asparagus with Ponzu Dressing
Toridashi (pork and chicken stock)
KYOTO AND RURAL JAPAN
Menchi Katsu Burger
Moyashi Bean Sprout Salad
Panko Fishcakes with Yuzu and Wasabi mayonnaise
Chashu Pork Raman
Marinated Soft Boiled Eggs
Tofu Mushroom Ramen
Tofu, Aubergine and Lotus Root Stew
Dried Seaweed Salad
Korean Mixed Rice
Belly Pork with Sesame Seed Dip
Korean Chicken Stew
Stir Fried Courgettes
Quick Kimchi Salad
Ribbon Beef Tartare
Spicy Soba Noodle and Seaweed Salad
White Radish Salad
Spicy Barbecue Pork Steaks
Korean Rice Cake Stew
Korean Fried Chicken
PUDDINGS AND CAKES
Fried Ice Cream and Butterscotch Sauce
Five Spice Poached Plums
Double Ginger Ice Cream with Chocolate Sauce
Coconut Crème Caramel
Golden Spiced Jelly with Sweet Coconut and Coconut Milk
Coconut and Pandan Bavrois
Coconut Crepes with Bananas and Palm Sugar
Saffron and Lime Custard Tarts
Iced Coffee Puddings
Japanese Pear Dumplings with Sweet Soy Dipping Sauce
Passion Fruit Jelly with Tropical Fruit
Green Tea Meringues with Tropical Fruit
Ginger Moon Cookies
Chilled Watermelon with Chilli Syrup
Lime Parfait with Shattered Chilli Toffee
Pandan Chiffon Cake
Lychee and Ginger Pavlova
Coconut Sticky Rice Pudding with Lime and Papaya Salad
Red Bean Cheesecake
Sake and Mint Granita