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Customer Review

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still a classic, 30 April 2012
This review is from: Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet (Hardcover)
This is a beast of a book. A very hefty coffee table book that is a mix between a travelogue and a recipe/cookery book, billed as a culinary journey through Southeast Asia.

By rights it should be laminated as it might protect the lovely full-colour photographs from being drooled upon as one develops pangs of hunger whilst reading, such is the realistic, lifelike and wonderful images that pepper this book.

Anyway.. the Mekong river is used as a thread within this book as it travails through south-east Asia, explaining and exploring the different yet related cultures and communities and helping to identify what makes their respective culinary cultures tick.

This is not a recipe book with a bit of background thrown in for good measure but a real cultural immersion into south-east Asian countries and their respective tables. You do not, or more precisely should not, use this book as a quick "in and out" reference but instead immerse yourself in its wonder and gain inspiration through educational osmosis. Recipes are not so much picked after searching for something familiar. They seem to be suggested through inspiration and intuition.

The recipes are not split into specific countries but presented by categories and uses, allowing a regional fusion to occur through sections such as Everyday Dependables, Indispensable Condiments, Kids Like It, Breakfast Specials, Vegetarian Options, In the MIddle of Winter and Feast Foods.

Each recipe is presented clearly with both an English language and local language name, a great introduction or overview and very detailed preparation instructions (albeit with only imperial measurements). One gets the impression that the book is designed for leisurely cookery, experimentation and enjoyment. The book does not stress the reader about the nutritional levels of a dish (why does it seem that the most tasty dishes always have big warnings about calories, salt, etc.?) or the preparation and cooking times. Instead, you just get the information, hopefully some inspiration and left to get on with it. Why rush a good thing? Of course, if you really need this information you can probably estimate it but that might be spoiling things.

The back of the book features an extensive glossary of flavourings and ingredients as well as a bibliography to direct the curious reader to even more sources of enlightenment. A very detailed index rounds the book off to perfection, to play on a culinary theme. This really is not book for the kitchen table - it would be a crime to cover it with ingredients by accident - yet one can sit in a favoured chair and consider it in more relaxed surroundings.

Despite this being a comparatively old book, it remains popular today and is still in print. One can see why and one would confidently expect this to remain in print for some time to come. A modern-day reprint might be beneficial just to "freshen it up" but no real changes need to be made to what will be an established reference classic of its age.
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