Phil's Cookbook Reads of 2021

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I think the Malaysian Rendang does usually contain toasted coconut (known as kerisik) but also coconut milk or cream. The recipe I've seen of hers on Great British Chef website does indeed contain both as do most recipes that I've come across including this one from BBC Good Food : https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/beef-rendang-turmeric-rice. This is a pretty reliable tried and tested UK website.

And here is another: https://www.singaporeanmalaysianrecipes.com/beef-rendang-daging/

So - whatever she says, I don't think what she is doing is exactly ground breaking or much different from the 'standard' approach.
I have seen plenty recipes with toasted coconut. What I meant is that I have never seen a rendand with only (toasted) descicated coconut and no coconut milk
Unless, of course, if the descicated coconut is used to make coconut milk ;)
 
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How to Grill Vegetables by Steven Raichlen

Raichlen has written 31 books. I've read at least half at them, own probably 10 or so. I prefer his work on outdoor grill/barbecue to his lower calorie ethnic cuisine from the '90s.

He wrote an excellent book, How to Grill that taught me a lot. In 2011 he was a guest here at Cheftalk for 4 days, but I can't pull that forum up on the new software.

Raichlen is a bit chatty and wordy. I don't mind it so much here but I think that's informed from having watched his many PBS cooking shows where he's similarly loquacious. In this particular case, the layout of the epub and the wall-of-words content make finding things a little more work. Rather than breaking to a new "page" at the start of each recipe the next one starts right up with similar spacing and breaks and just bolded text to show the beginning. Yes, it works, but white space adds a lot to readability and friendliness of the text. Some of it has to do with my preferred ereader app, Librera. Librera is very tolerant of epub quirks and supports lots of ebook formats. It will open books my earlier preference, FBReader, will not. But its tolerance means some of this book's nuance gets simplified. When viewed on my PC in Calibre, the font and color and layout do improve. But I do most of cookbook reading on my phone so the app makes some layout tweaks for the device. I don't know how to resolve this issue as its the one of the trade-offs of reflowable text. Still a forced page break in an epub doesn't waste any paper so I would hope it becomes more standard.

In How to Grill, Raichlen gave detailed instructions and photos for setting up a grill for every recipe. It was highly repetitive, but I appreciated it for those times you are just coming back to look at a specific recipe. He never did it again that I've encountered. Instead, he's tended to start books talking about how to set up and use different kinds of grills and smokers to achieve the different temperatures and techniques he'll use in the book. A Weber Kettle type grill is probably the most versatile of these tools if you're looking for just one device. Dedicated smokers may not be able to lay on the sear or hit the higher temps of some of these recipes.

Anyway, the opening discussion is worth reading even if you're experienced with this sort of cooking. You'll know how he's using particular terms and temperature ranges for the recipes. Every recipe calls out the gear and the technique/method so you might have to look in the first chapter for an explanation of what he intends for the recipe.

The recipes tend to be a bit more complex than just oiling up the grates, seasoning the vegetables and grilling. For the Shitakes Channeling Bacon, you'll thinly slice the shitake, shallow fry in a fry pan, cool, then smoke and finally season at the end. Not that any of that is hard, but most of the recipes involve some extra steps in a similar kind of way. The starters chapter was a strong start to the book for me, with every recipe opening up new ideas. The bacon I just mentioned, Buffalo Broccoli, the grilled avocado dishes..

The Salad, Slaws, Soup chapter was probably the low point for me personally. Most of these ideas struck me as retreads. It only included one soup. I don't think he put much effort into this one. Minestrone, Hot and Sour would both lend themselves to some grill time or smoker just off hand.
George Hirsh's PBS grilling prgrams from the 90s would help you in thinking this way. He tended to have pre-grilled vegetables ready to go for building these sorts of recipes in his programming.

Similarly with the next chapter for breads, these ideas are largely well established and practiced. Good to have for completeness though if you're new to the ideas.

Things pick up again as we transition to small plate ideas, then main dish kinds of things, then various accompaniments. The great thing about this is that you can pick a few different recipes to prepare simultaneously as many grills are big enough to support the task. Just make sure they share a similar temperature and cooking method.

I particularly enjoyed his eggs and cheese chapter. Eggs take to the grill and smoke surprisingly well. His cheese tends mostly to the grill rather than smoking. I'd have liked more ideas about smoking cheese and using it.

The desserts chapter wasn't so much to my taste. Smoke is often too much for these things and the grill can be tricky to avoid burning the sugars. Probably my favorite here were the Hasselback Apples, indirect grilled on a cedar plank. View attachment 71271

He's not done though. The Appendices offer up a variety of sauces, condiments and such. And an alphabetic listing of vegetables that offers ideas on how to prepare each in a variety of live fire methods as a launching point for your own explorations.

Very much worth adding to your cookbook library if you like grilling and smoking. Or if you're thinking about getting into that kind of cooking, this will help you understand the versatility.

The original How to Grill is also a book I highly recommend.
I like Raichlen's books, esp planet barbeque and bbq bible. His sauce book is pretty good as well
I got a scote of his books, incl "how to grill"
 
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. What I meant is that I have never seen a rendand with only (toasted) descicated coconut and no coconut milk

Yeah - the thing is that her recipe contains coconut milk (well, cream) and desiccated coconut although she says she is replacing one with the other. I don't know what she means about the way her mother made it. I suppose as you say, its possible to soak the desiccated coconut to produce milk. I've made curries using toasted coconut and no coconut milk, but they weren't rendangs.
 

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Hawker Fare by James Syhabout

This turned into a skim and abandon. The cooking is diaspora Lao/Thai. There are celebrity introductions, then chapter after chapter of biography. This is what killed the book for me.

What I took away that might get me back into it later is his declaration that the more popular Thai foods are really from the Lao lands that the French didn't want and (then) Siam did. That the service worker of Thailand is Lao (or heritage Lao) from this region and they drive the street food and everyday cuisine. That there are three primary Lao cultures and thus Laos is the plural.

And to my taste preferences, Lao is more umami while Thai is sweet-sour.

But then there is just so much story in the way of the cooking. If it had been about the philosophy of the food, the culture surrounding the food, I might have made it through. The cooking ingredient lists look a little daunting. Banana blossom for example.

But I have no real idea as the cooking as I just didn't get that far beyond a glimpse. The wall of text stopped me. I admit the title drew me in thinking it was about street food. But it's the name of his restaurant in San Francisco. Burned again like Night+Market.
 
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phatch

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Mooncakes and Milkbread by Kristina Cho

A book focusing mostly on baked goods, or more accurately, that could be found in a Chinese Bakery this is a bit of an oddity, but a good one. When I hear milkbread, I think of Japan for no other reason than Mike Chen's videos on youtube. Apparently it was wider application.

There's a short discussion of a few different types of Chinese Bakery. She calls them Grab & Go, Specialty Shops--specializing in one or a small set of related items, Takeaway, and Sit Down Cafes. This variety gets you into some steamed, griddled and a few other non-baked goods that cross over with dim sum somewhat. Along the way through the book, she highlights different bakeries in different cities, I suppose like flavor text in modern card games.

As she then discusses baking ingredients you might not think you're reading an Asian cookbook at all. The evaporated and condensed milk entries begin to tip the hand though. Equipment wise, the only new things are the pineapple cake molds and the mooncake molds.

There are a few doughs that get introduced early on and used repeatedly for different applications. A technique new to me was

Tangzhong


Tangzhong is a type of roux, made with a 1:5 ratio of flour to milk. The mixture is stirred together and cooked over low heat until it reaches the texture of creamy mashed potatoes. Cooking the milk and flour together gelatinizes the starches in the flour and traps in all that moisture, which will in turn give your bread a beautiful, soft texture.
She doesn't use a lot of it in the dough but it's use is something I've not encountered. Note though that I'm not much of a baker at all.

She includes a sausage and cilantro pancake that is a variation on scallion pancakes. I think of this as a street-food item, not a bakery item, but I'm no authority. She prefers the sausage to the scallion version. No you su in her version. She has a technique for rolling them out thinly based on an oiled wooden cutting board. She claims this offers better grip on the dough. I've seem similar things for roti on oiled steel and stone counter tops. And Sarah Moulton does it for her sheetpan pizza. So I'm not convinced it's the wood that makes the difference. I've never succeeded with this technique for roti. I'll have to give it a try for scallion pancakes.

She does her Mo bread all in the skillet. Most versions I've seen combine skillet and oven. I'll have to try her all skillet method. She offers the cumin lamb filling recipe. I've only tried the pork filling version before and that's quite good.

There's an important diagram on page 48 that gets linked a few times. The diagram is for various folds for different bun styles. As an epub, there is no page 48 of course so I think the editing for the epub version was pretty quick. And the link is to the topic heading rather than the diagram. Some of the other linking I encountered was to the end of the referenced recipe.

Another strange reference was to make a particular dough through step 2. No recipe is labeled in steps. The closest I can figure is the second paragraph of the instructions where the dough goes into the first rest. I guess I'm critizing the functional editing of the book. There are some mistakes or problematic vagueness there.

I was probaly least interested in the semi-sweet buns. Most of these aren't too my taste. Sweetened red beans for example just hit my palate wrong. It hits me like it should be savory Mexican refried beans, but loaded with sugar. Pineapple buns are also not something I choose. She does include custard buns in this section and I do like those.

Some good bao options, including a chicken and chives I want to try. The Hot Dog Flower buns are the impetus that took this content from her blog to cookbook.

Next up are cakes and tarts but no steamed yellow cake. I'm still workingwith a Grace Young recipe for that and would appreciate some other perspective. A number of swiss cake roll styles that are quite common in Chinese Buffets. I do like those too. And egg tarts. Mooncakes too of course, though I've only sampled the commercial kind. Then cookies.

The last few chapters seemed out of place, but i don't frequent Chinese bakeries to be an authority. A breakfast chapter and a drinks chapter. Some steamed dumplings, some jook and Jian Bing. I've only seen these cooked by Mike Chen and Chinese Cooking Demystified. I'm sure you could find these by plenty of others, those are just where I've encountered this. Those two sources both stress the millet flour/mungbean flour as essential. She instead uses rice flour. She uses a 12" non-stick skillet instead of a large specialty griddle. She uses doubanjiang instead of tianmianjiang. I've wanted to make these for a while but now I've got some different versions to try and see what works at home.

Jianbing You Can Actually Make at Home


image


I still have dreams about the jianbing stall a few blocks from my apartment in Beijing. I didn’t go there nearly as much as I should have (there was so much new food I needed to try), but when I stopped by for breakfast, I couldn’t imagine starting my day any other way. Jianbing are Chinese-style crepes, similar to French crepes, made on a big, hot flat top. The street vendor cracks an egg over the top and marbles the golden yolk and whites around the surface like a Jackson Pollock painting, sprinkling on chopped green onions and sesame seeds. When the eggs are set, he effortlessly flips the huge crepe without losing a single green onion, smears on a salty, funky, spicy fermented bean sauce (doubanjiang), and layers on crisp lettuce, crunchy bao cui (a fried cracker), and whatever other filling options he has handy. He folds it up into a neat package and hands you breakfast. It takes about five seconds to devour.


You can’t quite achieve the exact same product at home, because who has a 30-inch crepe pan stored in a kitchen cabinet? With a few tweaks and nuanced substitutions, however, you can make jianbing that’s just as satisfying and full of textural delight. I don’t own a crepe pan and I probably never will, but a 12-inch nonstick skillet works fine. The batter is loose enough that you can spread it into a thin layer by swirling the pan or spreading the batter with the back of a spoon. But first, make sure the pan is set on low heat. If it’s any hotter, the batter will cook too quickly and won’t spread. From that point on, the process of making jianbing at home is essentially the same as at street stalls. If you want to practice your crepe-flipping theatrics in the privacy of your kitchen, go right ahead. When you add your fillings, I suggest substituting pork rinds for the fried cracker. I’ve seen other recipes use fried dumpling wrappers, but I couldn’t resist a reason to have pork rinds for breakfast.


MAKES 4


For the Crepes


345g (1 ½ cups) water


150g (1 ¼ cups) all-purpose flour


30g (¼ cup) rice flour


2 tablespoon canola or other neutral-flavored oil, for brushing


4 large eggs


3 green onions, chopped


2 teaspoons black sesame seeds


For the Filling


Spicy fermented bean sauce (doubanjiang)


Romaine lettuce, chopped


Pork rinds


Make the crepes: In a medium mixing bowl, whisk to combine the water, all-purpose flour, and rice flour until smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the batter rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour (or refrigerate up to overnight).


Brush a little bit of canola oil onto a 12-inch nonstick skillet. Heat the pan over low until warm. Pour about ⅓ cup batter into the pan and gently swirl to cover the whole pan, or use the back of a spoon to quickly spread the batter into a thin even layer to cover the interior of the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high and continue to cook just until the batter looks set, 1 to 2 minutes. Crack one egg over the crepe and use a spatula to break the yolk and spread it over the crepe. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons green onions and ½ teaspoon black sesame seeds over the surface. Continue to cook until the egg is set and the edges of the crepe are crisp and starting to curl up, 3 minutes. Flip the crepe and cook the other side until the egg is golden brown and crisp, 3 minutes. (If you want a crispier crepe, flip it one more time and cook another 1 to 2 minutes.)


Transfer the crepe to a cutting board, egg side down, and spread 1 ½ teaspoons bean sauce over the top. Layer on the lettuce and pork rinds. Fold the crepe into thirds and cut in half.


Repeat with remaining batter and other ingredients to make four crepes, allowing time for the pan to cool and brushing with more oil between each. Serve immediately.

They also do a Taco Bell fusion version for giggles, but it looks interesting.


Mike Chen's version


Her fusion pan fried bun of sausage egg and cheese looks pretty good too.

The drinks, mostly tea variations.

I like it. There's plenty of tempting ideas with pretty clear instructions and very few specialty ingredients on a topic that is only sparsely covered before. Until now.
 
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phatch

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Damn Good Chinese Food by Chris Cheung

Lots of snow overnight so I made it through another one.

Chris has worked for Jean Georges Vongerichten and a number of other restaurants. He has also run his own snack shop. He's been a judge on Chopped. He definitely has his own take on things, and goes heavy on the sauce compared to most Chinese cookbooks that aren't Chinese-American. And his Chinese-American chapter really lays on the sauce.

He uses Soy Sauce somewhat differently than most other authors, combining thin (light), dark, mushroom, and sweet. Usually it's just light and dark-though the dark is often a mushroom dark soy--and that's my preference as well.

This book too references pages in the hypertext and the linking is also a touch off. There is a strange editing fail of asterisked ingredients that are available in Asian grocers, often stacking up five or six deep at the end of a recipe. I think there's been an effort at automated conversion of a print books source file into the epub, but the bugs aren't really worked out.

Lots of good dumpling content. Once you get to the Chinese-American Chapter, I struggled a bit with some of his technique. Velveting uses the whole egg and baking soda as well. The passing through oil is a faster higher heat affair than is usually described. These seem like shortcut restaurant behavior not good home technique. Also no mention of water blanching the velveted chicken or pork. Beef does need the oil pass. He seems unaware of these more common practices of velveting and passing through oil.

The second recipe was on topic for this month's challenge:
pg024-01.jpg

HOM DON YUK BANG (SALTED EGG MINCED PORK PIE)

This dish is an extremely popular dish in Chinese home cooking and has many different variations. It can be found on the Toisan table, Cantonese table, the Shanghainese table—we all love this dish. It’s best steamed or panfried. Given its regional popularity, it can be compared to the American meat loaf, where almost every home has a different version sitting in its recipe box.

When I was kid, we would get hungry and very happy sitting at home, hearing the banging of the cleaver on the big wooden cutting board. It was a ten-minute constant rhythm of loud metal blows to wood, softened by chunks of perfect pork being chopped and prepared just to the right level of tenderness, where the texture after cooking holds in all the juiciness of the meat and yields just a touch of chewiness. Combined with water chestnuts, there is a particular snap on the first bite.

Traditionally, many love to top this dish with salted fish; others prefer mushrooms. The Toisanese, however, love their salted eggs.

1 PLATE, SERVES 6 | PREP TIME: 30 MINUTES | COOKING TIME: 30 MINUTES


INGREDIENTS

¾ pound pork belly, skin off
¼ pound pork butt
½ cup water chestnuts, peeled, washed, and small diced (fresh is preferred)
¼ cup thin soy sauce
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
½ tablespoon cornstarch
1½ egg whites, whipped to soft peaks
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 salted eggs*
1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and small diced


COOKING PROCEDURE

Hand chop the pork belly and pork butt, so it’s finely minced. Mix the two meats together in a mixing bowl.

Next, incorporate the water chestnuts, the soy sauce, the oyster sauce, and the cornstarch, then fold in the egg whites.

Rub your hands with oil and mix all of the ingredients in the bowl, squeezing them together tightly until well combined. Place the meat mixture into a rimmed plate or very shallow bowl. Meanwhile, heat your Chinese steamer on high.

Separate the white and the yolks of the salted eggs, then cut the yolks in half and chop the whites. Put yolk halves and the chopped whites on the top of the pork and push into the meat slightly, then top with ginger.

Place in steamer for 30 minutes, or until done. You can stick a thermometer into the meat to make sure it’s cooked through and 165°F.

Remove from the steamer and serve.

Variations on the steamed patty have been more common in cookbooks of late and on youtube as well. I tried one from Bon Appetit a year or so ago that was bland. That was my first attempt at this. These others have looked better. https://www.bonappetit.com/story/chinese-steamed-pork-patty

There are some interesting uses of dried fish. A fried fish addition to Mapo Tofu was a bit of a surprise. Also a Char Siu Black Cod. Things get more upscale and event oriented in the Birthday chapter with whole poultry cooking, whole fish, lobster and so on.

As to sweets, he shows a hotcake that was a waffle in Mooncakes and Milbread. It looks like it requires a specially shaped cookware, but neither shows the cookware. The description is more like a waffle iron.

I think the food looks pretty good. It's more restaurantized than I tend to cook I think. And not all of his technique is as well rounded as I think it should be.
 
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I checked out the moon cakes and milk bread cookbook, based on your review.
To my surprise I found 3 books withthe se title.
I'm now contemplating purchasing this chinese baking book
"Chinese baking at home" by Petri Kones (I tried linking to it but somehow the Amazon http link gets turned into a media link and doesnt show(

Unfortunately, no reviews and I can't see if it is using imperial or metric measurements.
 
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phatch

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That looks like an interesting baking book too.

Edited to add. The two US reviews are claiming plagiarism of Modern Asian Baking and Mooncakes and Milkbread. No publisher is listed. So it looks like self published piracy. And the pricing looks self-published too.
 
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phatch

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I'm not getting my reading time in very well with the holidays.

I'm reading New Native Kitchen by Freddie Bitsoie. Not done by any stretch.

If you're not in North America, you'll likely struggle with finding specialty ingredients. Even here in the US, I'd have to order a fair chunk of it.

Flavors are certainly modernized to contemporary tastes with plenty of the common Mediterranean herbs making appearances. I don't object to this as this is about contemporary interpretations on traditional foods.

The odd thing to me so far is a savory use of vanilla . The vanilla pod scrapings in Acorn Squash and Tepary Bean Soup and some extract in a Red Potato soup. Also while cooking amaranth for a salad and plenty of regular sweeter applications. I've not encountered this use before and it's kind of throwing my instinct for flavor in these dishes.
 
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phatch

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I've not encountered that either. But I've only cooked lobster a handful of times.
 

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New Native Cuisine by Freddie Bitsoie

As noted, a book with plenty of specialty ingredients, and suggestions on finding them. Cholla buds, prickly pear juice, fresh cactus paddles and of course beans, squash and corn in all varieties.

Freddie is the chef at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

You'll note there is no fry bread recipe. He says in the interview I linked earlier that everyone's grandma does it better and there's no point to trying to present any best version. Probably a good solution to the topic.

He seasons things differently than you'll see generally, even though this book is portrayed as contemporary takes on the ways the native cultures cook. He also uses more readily availalbe and affordable beef over bison, chicken over game birds and so on. I'd like to see a cookbook from him with more discussion on his thinking about seasoning as it's very divergent from my approaches.

CHOCOLATE BISON CHILI​


Chocolate has a long, sacred history in Indigenous recipes beginning with the Mayans, Aztecs, and other communities of the Yucatán Peninsula, where cacao beans have always grown wild. Cacao has been integral to Indigenous ceremony and cuisine—from drinks to mole sauces and spice rubs. In 2000, the Chickasaw Nation became the only Native American community to create its own brand of artisanal chocolate; I had the pleasure of visiting Bedré Fine Chocolate several years ago and witnessed firsthand how the company instills their cultural passion into every delicious morsel. This recipe draws on ancient tradition to create a spicy, savory, herbaceous chili with a hint of that bittersweet goodness. This is the kind of fabulous-tasting chili that your friends will remember—and ask you to make again and again.

Serves 6 to 8

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 pound (455 g) ground bison
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 (14-ounce/420 ml) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 (14-ounce/400 g) can kidney beans
3 cups (720 ml) bison or beef stock
1¼ cups (225 g) semisweet chocolate chips



In a heavy stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat, add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic, bell pepper, thyme, and bay leaf. Sauté until the vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add the bison, season with salt and pepper, and sear the meat while breaking it up with a wooden spoon or spatula. Cook for about 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and allow the paste to brown but not burn. Add the cumin, coriander, paprika, cayenne, and diced tomatoes. Use the juice of the diced tomatoes to deglaze the bottom of the pot. Add the beans and stock and bring to a boil. Note: Do not boil hard or for too long or the beans will tear apart. Allow to boil for about 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to low and simmer. Add the chocolate and allow the chili to reduce until it reaches a nice stew consistency. Adjust the seasoning if necessary, then stir to make sure the melted chocolate is evenly distributed. Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaf, and serve immediately. This chili can be refrigerated for three to four days or frozen for four to six months.
There's little new about chocolate in chili. Bu this is quite a bit of chocolate, and slightly sweeter choice than I usually see. Some other interesting choices are the fairly light use of hot chiles, no mild chiles, just paprika and thyme over oregano and ancho. It strikes me as quite mildly seasoned except for the chocolate itself. I thought it interesting that here he opted for a canned bean instead of cooking an localized version from dry. Nothing wrong with it inherently, it's just interesting where he opts for convenience and where he doesn't. I suspect the target audience is not scratch cooking foodies, though we're also welcome.

He uses quite a bit of sumac, a non-native spice that has made itself at home throughout the contiguous 48 states and readily available naturally. It's one I use a lot as I like the lemon flavor and color it offers in a dry form.

I enjoyed learning about new (to me at least) ingredients and how they can be used. It's an interesting take on a cuisine that's often difficult to find and intensely regional. I don't suspect I'll cook from it often or that it will strongly influence my cooking. But it's certainly educational on topics new to me.
 

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