Phil's Cookbook Reads of 2021

phatch

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I'm starting to see the shipping problems crop up in the Asian sections of mainstream grocers and some of the smaller ethnic grocers. Bare shelves, selection and quantity limits. Produces seems pretty good still. I suppose a lot of that comes from US and Central American farms that aren't so cargo container constrained. Vietnamese things seems less impacted so far.
 
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That is worrying!
Hope I will still be able to get fish sauce.
Most of the other stuff I can sub or make
 

phatch

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Vegetarian Chinese Soul Food by Hsiao-Ching Chou

Leading contender for my favorite cookbook of the year by a good margin.

Excellent instructions on cooking, preparation and equipment. I learned a few new things. There were some helpful photos with a tape measure next to dried ingredients so that you can learn to properly scale what is available to you locally to what the recipes call for. Helpful labeled photos so you know what differentiates various similar vegetables.

A pretty good explanation of various tofu products available, and also more rice cake info than I've encountered before.

Good dumpling wrapping instructions, bao instructions, even a vegetarian soup dumpling.

A section dedicated to steaming, such a rare topic. A dish of steamed cucumber and mushroom reminded me of the ubiquitous smashed cucumbers and garlic, just now a steamed variation. Also a section on making some simple pickles and using them. I had naively wondered why she was talking about canning jars and lids in the equipment section. I appreciated her discusions of mixing vegetables and seasoning them free-style. Any theoretical approach to cooking is something I appreciate. She also gave a section on adding meat to the various stir fries if you so choose.

I was surprised that soup dishes extended into the Rice and Noodles section and not the Soups section. I can see the reasoning. I think a note listing (or linking in an ebook) the extra recipes and their location would have been a good step for completeness.

Seasonings seems a bit heavy on black bean garlic sauce and prepared sauce at that. I think it's better made for each dish, plus you get more control over the seasonings as you may prefer. The Hot and Sour Soup reached for white vinegar, a disappointment to me.

But a major win for sharing cooking knowledge and technique for all fans of Chinese cooking, whether omnivorous or herbivorous.
 
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I had a look at it on amazon. To me, her other book looks more interesting. Very interesting actually!
Unfortunately, you can't "see inside" the book. Just some pics but they are really small.
What measurements is she using?
I really dislike cups/spoons and ounces/pints etc.
I am seriously imperially challenged!
 
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Thanks
I'll have a look see
At the moment I'm going through my Indonesian cookbooks again.
Trying out recipes that I haven't tried before....
 

phatch

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I just started Coconut & Sambal on that cuisine. She's doing fritters and crackers that are entirely new to me.
 
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I've been eying that book for a while ;)
Some other good ones (a bit older)
Cradle of flavor by James Oselund and Indonesian regional food and cookery by Sri Owen

Fire island by Eleanor Ford looks interesting as well
 

phatch

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I encountered Cradle of Flavor once and wrote it in my list. But I've not found it at a library or bookstore for a better deeper look to decide about. I suppose that your recommendation will suffice to put it in the acquire category.
 
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:)

My main (go to) Indonesian cookbooks are in Dutch, and I get a lot of my recipes from the internet as well. There are a couple of sites I trust. Again, the main ones are in Dutch, but a couple in English as well.
I don't want to hijack your thread (as it is about cookbooks, not websites), so just let me know if you want the links
 

phatch

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I'll need to see how my interest develops to before its worth pursuing that I think. Thanks for the offer.
 

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A press piece on Mooncakes and Milkbread. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2021/10/17/books/book-reviews/mooncakes-milk-bread/ Not a review by any means.

I'm finding I'm not really clicking with Coconut and Sambal at the recipe level. I'm thinking the writing and content is fine, I'm just lacking context for the flavors. Heavier ground spice content than I was anticipating and coriander at that. I like ground coriander seed, but it's heavy proportion is surprising me. Lighter on the fermented flavors I'm more familiar with.
 
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I haven't got the book, so can't say if the amounts are disproportional.
Indonesian food is quite varied as they have loads of islands, all with their own regional food/habits etc
Generally, Indonesian food uses soy sauce, not fish sauce. Quite a bit of trassi (shrimp paste), not much coriander leaves. I've not noticed it being high on coriander seeds (some dishes are, but mostly not)
 

phatch

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I've been doing better with the meatier sections of Coconut & Sambal. But there are what seem to me to be some odd westernizations. In the description, she talks about the tradition.

SPICED BALINESE ROAST CHICKEN


AYAM BETUTU


For this dish, traditionally a whole bird is rubbed with a Balinese spice paste, then wrapped in leaves before being buried in the earth or a claypot and covered with hot charcoals and burning coconut husks. When ready, the charred green parcel is opened to reveal steaming, tender chicken that is succulent and smoky with Balinese spices.


My version uses these traditional flavours but an easier technique, just like my grandmother Popo used to do. The rendered chicken fat with the kale and the spiced crispy skin makes it one of my favourite dishes. Serve with Red rice and sambal matah.


28_1.jpg


Origin Bali


Chilli heat Moderate


Sambal suggestion Fresh Balinese sambal matah


Serves 4


28_1.jpg


4 skin-on, bone-in chicken legs


400g kale, woody stems removed and leaves sliced


Sea salt and black pepper, to taste


Coconut oil or sunflower oil


For the spice paste


8cm piece of ginger (about 40g), peeled and sliced


6 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced


2 small banana shallots or 4 Thai shallots, peeled and sliced


3 long red chillies, sliced


¼ tsp ground turmeric


¼ tsp ground black pepper


¼ tsp ground white pepper


¼ tsp ground nutmeg


1 tsp ground coriander


¼ tsp sea salt


½ tbsp coconut oil or sunflower oil


Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/gas 7. Rub oil, salt and pepper onto the chicken legs. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and lay the chicken legs skin-side down in the pan (you may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your pan). When the skin is crispy and golden, which will take about 12–15 minutes, turn the chicken over and cook it for a further 4 minutes on the other side. Reserve any of the rendered chicken fat for the kale.


Meanwhile, place the spice paste ingredients in a small food processor and blend to a semi-coarse paste. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and fry the paste until fragrant, about 10–15 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool.


Blanch the kale in a pan of boiling salted water for 3 minutes, then run it under cold water to cool. Squeeze out any excess water and press it between paper towels. Mix a quarter of the spice paste with the kale, along with the chicken fat and a sprinkling of salt, then spread onto a baking tray.


Brush the remaining spice paste on the chicken; it should spread nicely over the skin. Place the chicken legs on a wire rack above the kale (if you don’t have a wire rack the chicken can sit directly on the kale).


Bake on the top shelf for 30–35 minutes. If the spice paste starts to burn on the chicken skin, cover any blackened bits with foil and continue cooking. To check if the chicken is cooked, the legs should reach 82°C. (If you do not have a probe thermometer you can also check by making a small slice into the thickest part of the chicken. The chicken is cooked when the juices run clear and the meat is fibrous inside, with no opaque pink flesh.)


Once cooked, arrange the chicken legs and kale on individual plates and serve immediately.

It would seem to me that a covered dutch oven would be the more reasonable westernization, Or wrapping in greens and then foil or such. And I'm not sure what part the kale is supposed to play as it doesn't seem you normally eat the leaf wrapping?

She does this often, discussing a traditional approach in passing then talking about her version that simplifies and departs.

There was an early Peanuts comic where Linus asks Charlie Brown what he's reading. It's a more famous book that's been "adapted for children". He then compares it to drinking adulterated root beer and tosses the book. I'm kind of feeling that.
 
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In this case, the kale is supposed to be eaten ;)
The more standard version is with duck, but i've found plenty chicken variations.
Not with kale though, but with young cassave leaves. I understand the substitution. Some recipes don't use any leaves.
What I don't understand is why she wants to go for chicken legs, instead of a whole chicken. In that case, the leaf-spice paste is the stuffing!
The leaves she talks about initially have to be banana leaves as thats the traditional way of cooking, the chicken/duck is wrapped in banana leaves and cooked either in a hole in the ground or on a small charcoal fire.
I fully understand your confusion ;)
 
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I agree with you both. The only saving grace here is her remark that this is the way her grandfather used to make it. Nevertheless it seems like an odd reinterpretation.

It sounds to me as though the original of this dish is not actually unapproachable, as compared with, say, Yucatecan pibil, where you have to dig a pit in the ground. I think if I were writing this cookbook, I might add a long paragraph just before the big about the grandfather, and explain in precise detail how to do the original dish. Then I'd say, "This is quite a production; fortunately for those who'd like to try the dish in a simpler, more approachable manner, my grandfather came up with...." Something like that.

How old is this cookbook? Seems like the kind of thing I expect in the mid-90s and back to the 80s, though I suppose it also depends a lot on the publisher.
 

phatch

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This is published this year--got pretty good press, Coconut and Sambal.
 
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