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on 13 September 2012
Leemei Tan's first cookbook 'Lemongrass and Ginger' is a pleasure to read and most importantly a joy to cook (and eat of course!) her wide range of Asian recipes. Aesthetically the book ticks all the boxes. It looks good with its bright lime green cover and pretty Japanese flowers on a navy background; it's the type of book that I rather like having laying around the kitchen to dip into whenever I have a few quite moments. Importantly it also has substance and recipes that you actually want to cook. Within its pages are a good selection of beautifully composed photographs, taken by Leemei herself - clearly her talent is not only in cooking but also in the artistic composition of styling and photographing food; no easy feet I can tell you from experience.
I like the fact that she has given a good overview of temptingly delicious recipes from across Asia and has split her chapters according to regions - for example 'Japan and Korea', 'China' 'Philippines and Indonesia' etc. I find it rare to come across a cookbook where I actually want to cook more than 10 recipes within the book, but in the case of Leemei's I seriously want to try them all. If you like Asian food and want to explore dishes across many of the Asian regions then this is the book for you. It's easy to follow and one that will be part of my cookbook library indefinitely. I'm already looking forward to her next book to come out.....whenever that will be!
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The term "Asian Food" is very often abused when used by the unknowledgeable to lump all Asiatic-style food together as if it was a homogenous single entity. This is nearly akin to heresy as the range and style of foods from this very large, diverse region is tremendous. Even if the same ingredients are used, the end result from different cooks in each country can be rather different.

Asian or asiatic-style cooking is a popular pursuit and it shows no sign of diminishing in popularity. Different people have different reasons or goals for their love of making asian food, such as taste, healthiness, diversity and the use of uncommon ingredients. Whatever your reasons, this new book takes many of the best bits from around the region to present over 100 vibrant recipes that you can make at home.

This is no "make what you know and love from your favourite Chinese/Thai/etc restaurant"-type book but a more enlightened, open look at typical cuisine with the aim of informing, educating and inspiring you to make your own dishes. Once you master them and gain more confidence you will invariably try more and more dishes as well as maybe unknowingly tinkering here and there and maybe doing a bit of fusion-cooking to boot.

After an introduction to the author, the styles of food, cultures and her cooking hut (a wonderful term that, for some reason, really made an impact to this reviewer) it is onto the recipes, divided by "host" country rather than by ingredient. So first up is Japan and Korea followed by China, Philippines & Indonesia, Malaysia & Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia & Vietnam and finally India and Sri Lanka. Some generic across-the-board recipes then round the book off with a succinct glossary and customary index.

Each chapter begins with a brief country-specific overview that highlights the key differences and plus-points to the sub-genre and one is cast straight into the recipes. Each recipe is standalone, accompanied by a glossy picture of the finished item, and apart from a brief recipe overview and advice you are left to your own devices. This is not as daunting as it sounds as the recipe gives very detailed, yet friendly, instructions and there is a separate breakout section for the ingredients. An estimated preparation and cooking time is provided which is, as regular YUM readers may note, something we strongly believe should appear in every cookbook.

The colour photography in this book is particular of interest, primarily because of its relative uniqueness. Of course, this is not the first book to photograph dishes in a sort of culturally-aware background, but the photographer has managed to make the dishes stand out without them actually trying to stand out. A difficult thing to explain unless you have the book in front of you, but the dishes and pictures look so natural, not posed, not trying to be culturally-aware, not trying to be arty. It is with this in mind that it was a little disappointing to note that this hardback book was already starting to come apart after very light use - hopefully our review copy had a specific binding problem rather than it being a wider issue, but check your bindings carefully when you buy this book. Note the "when you BUY" bit...

This is a very impressive book that manages to provide a good taste (groan!) of dishes from many Asian lands. Yet it is all presented in a very matter-of-fact way as if this is the most normal thing in the world (to the author, born in Malaysia, it probably is). This relaxed, common sense approach can also help relax the nervy beginner as you are not filled full of foreboding or expectation that what you are about to make is difficult to do. It isn't. Follow the recipe carefully, use the specified ingredients, enjoy yourself and things will turn out well.

It would be nice to see in the future a range of books in this self-same style, perhaps focussing on one Asian country and its food at a time. There more detail can be provided along with more recipes and this would allow the reader who has identified a particular country's dishes as being of a "greater favourite" to further pursue that aim.

As it stands this is a great book that just feels right on so many levels. By treating the food and the cooking experience as "nothing special" the author has managed to produce something rather special as a result.
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on 20 March 2012
I own lots of Asian and Indian cookbooks and "Lemongrass and Ginger" has quickly become one of my favorites. I say this because lots of cookbooks have recipes and photos that look great, but when you make the dishes, they are mediocre. Not so with Leemei's cookbook. She's really done her homework and has tested her recipes thoroughly for the home cook. Her focus is on authentic dishes, and this is admirable since authentic recipes have stood the test of time and deserve respect. Take, for example, her sour fish curry, a Sri Lankan dish. She uses the ingredients found in that region and the result is tremendous. The dish is balanced and has just the right level of heat and sweet-sour flavor. I used a little cinnamon in my version. The sauce over rice will blow you away.
Yes, this book is not another version of fast meals with three ingredients, thank God. On the contrary, here we have real respect for cuisines and the traditions and people who created the recipes over time. Who would want anything less?
One other recipe I love is Leemei's version of Cha Ca La Vong. I don't see this recipe in many Vietnamese cookbooks, so it's great Leemei includes it. You make a spice paste for the fish and the result is delicious -- not overpowering but just right. And the combination of noodles, spicy fish, basil, dill, chives, chopped peanuts, all with a sweet-sour-spicy sauce of nuoc cham makes for a great combination of textures and flavors.
So the book really delivers. Great job, Leemei!
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on 14 April 2012
This is the first cookbook review I've done, and I hope it will not be the last.

I love Asian food. Ginger is one of those things that I just love, but yet I rarely cook with it. My family, you see, is Exhibit A in the case for picky eaters. But I've learned that I can get some food by them if I'm not quite honest about its ingredients.

Let's begin by talking about the recipes. Leemei Tan presents food from Japan & Korea, China, Philippines & Indonesia, Malaysia & Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia & Vietnam, and India & Sri Lanka. As I looked through her offerings, I thought I would start with something I knew my family would eat: chicken teriyaki. If you've like me and think teriyaki is something you buy bottled, then you must try Tan's recipe. It's homemade! From scratch! And it's easy! Even better, it tastes really, really good. Not only can you find the ingredients in most supermarkets - if they've got it in my one horse town, they'll have it in yours - but Tan extends the meal from just chicken to chicken with rice and spinach. Yummalicious.

Next, I tried Bibimbap, only because it features a fried egg on it. I can sell anything to my husband and three screaming kids if it has a fried egg on it. This is a bowl with beef, rice, mushroom, carrot sticks, spinach and bean sprouts, with that egg on top. And it tastes really good. The prep work takes a bit - you will be chopping for more than a few minutes - but it's worth it. The soy sauce taste doesn't take away from the beef and veggies.

I figured I should go for a dessert, and the Sri Lankan Crispy Pancakes looked interesting. I struggled with this one, only because the pancake is similar to a crepe in terms of how much of the stuff you put in the pan. But the batter has yeast in it and it not as runny as crepe batter is. You put some coconut and sugar on the pancakes to make them sweet, or you can use an fried egg. I haven't tried the fried egg version yet, but I will. I might also try some semisweet chocolate chips on the pancakes, just because I'm curious if I can add chocolate to the mix.

The photos are clean and clear, and the recipes are approachable. If you need a sauce, Tan provides the recipe. There are not hundreds of recipes, either, which I liked, because it made it easier to determine which ones I wanted to try first.

If you think that Asian cooking is intimidating, you need to re-think that notion. Leemei Tan's Lemongrass and Ginger delivers recipes that you can prepare and, even better, taste good.

The only reason this gets 4 stars instead of 5 is that most of the recipes will not go over well with my picky eating family. Everything I tried, though, earns 5 stars.
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on 20 November 2012
I follow @mycookinghut (Leemei Tan) on Instagram and have seen many wonder dishes that she has posted, read her blog and because of a fellow Instagrammer cooking up her dishes from the book really made me by the book.
The book arrived promptly. Its such a beautiful book.
The recipes are simple without using too many ingredients - a lot of the recipes refer to pastes, sauces or marinades which can be found at the back pages of the book, which I thought was great - as a lot of recipes lists all the ingredients for pastes etc for that specific recipe, which can be daunting when you look at it. This way you can use her recipes for different meats as you wish.
Each Asian region are categorised and each feature a few classic dishes as well as newer less known ones which are delicious and not usually found on restaurant menus.
Amazing debut cookbook - anymore in the pipeline?
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on 7 January 2013
Being Asian myself, I tend to be pretty weary of other Asian recipes - especially those written by non-Asian people. On the same token, I tend to be weary of any Asian cookbook that takes many recipes from various Asian cultures and puts them together in a cookbook but this one really respects each culture and country and the recipes in it taste as authentic as they could with the ingredients you are able to access fairly easily at your local grocer. It's a thrill to be able to cook authentic dishes with recipes that were tasty, delicious and very easy to make! This is a great cookbook for anyone that likes Asian take-out but wants to make your favorite dishes at home and dishes that you haven't tried but bound to fall in love with once you try them!
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on 1 October 2012
The warmth of Leemei's writing, personality and demeanour that is so typical of her style of food writing come through right from the start. The honesty of her recipes, the simplicity of the photos and the elegance of the cover makes its a joy to own.

Being a food writer myself, I am very critical of cookbooks - but her recipes work and especially her section of Indian recipes, includes a few Pakistani ones (which is what I write about) - these are simple and beautifully explained, leaving them as authentic as possible. I can't wait to try more recipes from this and hope she writes another book soon! Best of luck Leemei, and a great first book!
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on 1 March 2015
Love this book. Originally I borrowed it from my local library but it is such a good cook book, I had to buy it. If you have ever thought about cooking Asian food, then I think this is a must have. For the beginner as well as the more accomplished, Lemongrass and Ginger, has recipes to suit. The first recipe I tried was, twice fried Korean chicken, I used drumsticks instead of wings. Quite simply, amazing! I really hope that this lady does another book, if she does I will be first in line.
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on 12 April 2012
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.
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on 23 May 2016
This has to be one of the best asian cook books I've got. Every recipe we have tried has been delicious and come out very well.
Many of the recipes are a little involved, often requiring making a spice paste before starting the main meal, however they are absolutely worth the effort. Would thoroughly recommend.
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