After having been a fan of "The Food I Love" for several years, I came across "Balance & Harmony: Asian Food" while browsing for yet another Asian cook book. As always Neil Perry does what I think every great writer/chef should do, focus on the technique and ingredients that will help you succeed. And by that measure this book is a stunning success! So much so, I must admit its recipes and ideas are now part of my staple diet.
One of the things I was looking to achieve, before buying this book, was to recreate some of the great soups I experienced while living Thailand for an extended period. And I don't mean your typical Tom Yam Kung or Tom Ka Gai, but rather the excellent poultry and/or meat noodle soups found at the hawker stands. This book delivers the knowledge and tools to build the necessary stocks for this purpose. I'm having another bowl for brunch after finishing this review..
It is hard to figure why it takes an Australian to write such a defining book on Chinese / Asian food, though David Thompson has done the same for Thai cooking. It isn't that they know more about the subject, but they know exactly what we want to eat and this is a book that you can't read without wanting to try almost everything on the page. It is all achievable, and the recipes are just as good as they look. The emphasis, rightly, is on China, both classic and modern.
I have a lot of books in my kitchen but this one is genuinely changing the way I cook. Brilliant.
So far have bought a copy for each of my children as we all find it a wonderfully practical cookery book. Haven't found a bad recipe yet and it adapts Asian recipes to use ingredients one can buy - not like some beautiful books that have an unobtainable ingredient in every recipe! Recipes are straightforward and taste delicious.
This is pretty much the bible for thai cooking. I have made a few things out of here, but have had to tinker quite a bit to get things right. A sweet chilli sauce, came out like glue with the specified quantities of sugar, but just a little adjusting was required to make it better. I had to throw the first batch out completely. But, other recipes were fine. You definitely need to know how to cook already with this book and have a basic foundation of thai ingredients. In all though, a beautiful book. I like the soft puffy cover. I will use as a reference for all of my thai cooking.
Before purchasing this book the most Asian cooking I have done is "throw everything in a wok and hope for the best", although I have also started making steamed dumplings. I bought this book to learn lots of new skills and techniques to create fresh new flavours. I haven't had a chance to cook from this book yet, however all of the recipes look achievable for the home cook. The book is separated into chapters of techniques that get progressively harder as you work your way through, building on skills learnt in previous chapters. The book is very well presented - it is a gorgeous design with nice paper, fonts and photos. I also love the menu features, there are a few pages of menu suggestions for 5 or so dishes to prepare for a banquet style dinner.