• Bundtlust

Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes

I’m fairly new to the “Lucky Peach” magazine (I recently used the LP article “The Meaning of Mangoes” with my advanced ESL students) and just spent six months working (and cooking / eating my way across) Taiwan, so I was thrilled to see that Lucky Peach had a cookbook coming out. “Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes” is true to its title; beginning with a genius illustrated guide to the Asian pantry (presented in basic, intermediate, and champion levels), this book will help you take baby steps to becoming proficient with Asian tools, ingredients and cooking methods. Do note that if you are even passingly familiar with basic cooking techniques and Asian cooking in general, this book is likely a little simpler than you are looking for, but it would be great for college students and those new to the kitchen. The book is based on two main rules: no frying, and no subrecipes. Beginning with cold dishes, appetizers and “pickly bits,” you’ll find classics like garlic-smashed cucumbers, seaweed salad, soy sauce eggs, green papaya salad, and dumplings. I was a little surprised not to see the ubiquitous Taiwanese tea eggs make an appearance. I was also hoping for a chapter of standalone egg dishes like chawanmushi (steamed egg custard also found in Taiwan) as I am a firm believer in breakfast for dinner, but there are several substantial egg dishes throughout the book (omurice, dashiaki tamago, egg foo young). Pancakes include Japanese okonomiyaki, Taiwan / China contributes scallion pancakes (my favorite Taiwanese snack hands-down!), and there are several Korean pancakes in addition to moo shu pancakes and vegetables. Soups and stews offer some rather surprising combinations like miso clam chowder and rotisserie chicken ramen; you’ll also find a slow-cooker pho, vegetarian hot pot and Massaman curry. Noodles include soba, jap chae, pad see ew, pesto ramen, and spicy mushroom ragu. Having lived in Japan and Taiwan and having sampled numerous excellent noodle dishes in both, I was honestly expecting more from the noodle chapter. Where is udon? Cold sesame noodles? Many types of noodles are covered in the discussion in ingredients, but not used in later chapters. I was more enthused about the rice dishes; ume and kabocha rice, onigiri, omurice and sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves are all dishes I can see myself making frequently. I was surprised that there weren’t more Taiwanese / Thai-style fried rice recipes, although there is a basic "build your own" guide to adding sauce and extras. Vegetarians will delight in the simple yet tasty veggie options, including miso-glazed eggplant (one of my favorite ways to prepare it), stir-fried asparagus, bok choy with oyster sauce (you can find vegetarian oyster sauce in larger Asian supermarkets), dry-fried green beans, roasted squash with red glaze, and roasted sweet potatoes. The book really shines in its treatment of poultry and meat dishes; I felt it was much more successful than the noodle dishes. You’ll find twelve chicken recipes ranging from Japanese (oyakodon), Filipino (chicken adobo), Korean, and Chinese (five-spice, lacquered, Hainan Chicken rice, Chinese chicken salad). The dressings and sauces chapter was very handy; I love the carrot-ginger dressing, two ginger scallion sauces, tofu dressing, and the odd flavor sauce. Curiously, the desserts chapter only offered two recipes: oranges, and egg custard tarts. Yes, I get that in traditional Chinese culture, “dessert” may consist of fruit (in Taiwan, if you are visiting someone’s home, fruit is always brought as a gift). However, seeing the heavy Thai / Vietnamese / Japanese influence in other chapters, I’m surprised that more Asian sweets weren’t included (mangoes with sticky rice, green tea infused desserts, etc.). Several chapters suffered from similar brevity; the breakfast chapter only includes four recipes (again, I was surprised not to see congee here as it can be made in a rice cooker). It also took some getting used to that the notes came after the recipes. Overall, this is a good first cookbook if you are new to Asian cuisine; the illustrated pantry guide is immensely helpful if you are new to these ingredients and trying to locate them in an Asian supermarket. It’s also very handy for quick pickles, basic dumplings (using premade wrappers), etc. Illustrations for slightly trickier dishes like dashimaki tamago and dumplings are very helpful. However, I felt like it could have had so much more potential given the huge range of variety and influences in Asian cuisine. (I received this book through Blogging for Books)

#Asian #Chinese #Taiwanese #LuckyPeach