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Cooking The Books: A little bit of everything, from food trucks to haute French cuisine

Cooking The Books: A little bit of everything, from food trucks to haute French cuisine

Get the Sunday Star paper tomorrow, May 12, for your 25% discount coupon on three of these cookbooks. Look for it in StarLifestyle.

Around The World In 80 Food Trucks

Publisher: Lonely Planet Global Ltd
Price: RM99.90

It’s probably a little misleading to include the word “world” in this book, seeing as Asia is very poorly represented here. There are no food trucks from South-East Asia at all and just a smattering from other Asian countries (only one from India, a prolific street food hub).

However, if you are interested in testing out food trucks primarily in Europe, South America and North America, you’ll find all sorts of interesting food from vegan offerings at Bristol’s The Spotless Leopard in Britain to seabass ceviche from Lacayejera in Seville, Spain.

Curiously, Asia is represented in other countries, and you’ll find meals like Indian-style poutine from Chai Wallahs in Berlin and chicken, chilli and miso gyoza from Rainbo in London.

Recipes for everything from street food to French haute cuisine in this month's Cooking The Books columnThe American food trucks are probably the most diverse ones in the book, with innovative offerings like the kimchi quesadillas peddled by Kogi in Los Angeles, and the freshly-baked red velvet cookies made by Captain Cookie And The Milk Man in Washington DC.

The best part about the book is the recipes that accompany each food truck entry – here’s where you could learn how to make everything from tuna tacos to Uruguyuan flan and buttermilk fried chicken biscuit sandwiches exactly like the food truck pros who make it every day.

Edible Satire: French Cuisine With A Twist

Author: Isadora Chai
Publisher: Images Publishing
Price: RM206.21

One thing that immediately stands out about local culinary icon Isadora Chai is how intrepid she is. This boldness and ability to speak her mind isn’t just limited to her personality – it’s reflected in her food too.

Recipes for everything from street food to French haute cuisine in this month's Cooking The Books columnIn her cookbook, which is essentially a compilation of the many monthly degustation dinners she has curated at her fine dining haunt, Bistro á Table in Petaling Jaya, Chai’s creative spark is in evidence everywhere. So you’ll find dinners that run the gamut from a manga-inspired one to a riff on Charlie & The Chocolate Factory.

And then there are the images presented in this book, which are probably some of the most gorgeous food pictures you will ever find – each image capably showcasing every breathtaking fibre and molecule of every single perfectly-plated dish.

Having said all that, the recipes in the book – as Chai attests – aren’t for the faint-hearted. Some of the ingredients are downright premium (read: unattainable) fare like fresh duck foie gras, Kobe tendon and Hokkaido scallops. And the sheer effort required to assemble each meal? Well, let’s just say you’d have to have the willpower of an Olympian to pull off some of these dishes.

Alternatively, you could just follow Chai’s advice and make some of the yummy individual components instead, like pea mash or parsnip soup.

Overall, though, you’ll find that despite the practical obstacles littering your path, you’ll still want this cookbook lining your bookshelves because, if nothing else, it reminds you that all food has the potential to be sculpted into the sort of intrinsically complex, unfailingly beautiful meals that Chai’s fertile mind regularly produces.

Recipes for everything from street food to French haute cuisine in this month's Cooking The Books columnKorean BBQ & Japanese Grills

Author: Jonas Cramby
Publisher: Pavilion
Price: RM137 (pre-order only)

Written by journalist and restaurant critic Jonas Cramby, Korean BBQ & Japanese Grills is an incredibly well-researched book on the myriad hows and whys behind this popular East Asian method of cooking. The book is backed up by an incredible amount of documentation and cataloguing, so you’ll discover how meat was banned in Japan until 1872 and how kimchi is so popular in South Korea, that the government spent millions trying to develop a space-proof version!

These interesting nuggets of information are interspersed with plenty of recipes, ranging from grilled beef to ginger pork, bulgogi and all the side dishes that typically accompany these meals – from cabbage salad to kimchi.

Cramby has also put a lot of thought into execution, so many of the recipes include useful tips as well as pictorial guides on things like butchering chicken and insightful information on grills, knives and other tools.

If you’re a fan of Asian barbecue, rest assured this handy little book will make for both an interesting read as well as a practical beginner’s guide to doing it yourself.

Recipes for everything from street food to French haute cuisine in this month's Cooking The Books columnThe Curry Guy Veggie

Author: Dan Toombs
Publisher: Hardie Grant
Price: RM89.90

It is admittedly a little strange to find a Caucasian man with no discernible Asian roots or culinary pedigree writing a book on Indian cuisine, but Dan Toombs is proof that with globalisation, anyone can cook anything. Toombs has made a modest success of his Curry Guy blog, where he cooks all manner of curries, an effort that has in turn spurred the birth of multiple cookbooks.

At the outset, it is important to note that Toombs’ Indian food isn’t really the sort of authentic fare you’re likely to find in India. Instead, you’ll find recipes gleaned from “British curry houses” as he puts it, which essentially means the recipes are adapted based on local predilections and palates.

This is his third cookbook and it is dedicated to Indian vegetarian offerings, like vada pav (deep-fried potato burger), spicy masala popcorn, vegetable korma, chickpea curry and rava dosas. While some recipes are redolent of more home-cooked fare – think rice and lentil curry and butter paneer – others like the paneer, onion, chilli and garlic naan pizza, obviously allude to Toombs’ keenness for experimenting.

Ultimately, the book is clearly designed for people looking for a fuss-free introduction to Indian vegetarian food, so if you’re looking for really home-spun Indian food gleaned from someone born and brought up on the subcontinent, this book is likely to rub you the wrong way. On the other hand, if you’re after modified Indian fare or food with a hint of Indian flavours, this will do nicely.

Cooking the Books: Everything you ought to be eating and cooking

Cooking the Books: Everything you ought to be eating and cooking

Pick up your copy of The Sunday Star paper tomorrow (Sept 9) for a 25% discount on these cookbooks. Look for the coupon in Star2.

Disaster Chef: Simple Recipes For Cooks Who Can’t

Authors: Nadia Sawalha & Kaye Adams
Publisher: DK
Price: RM116

There is an interesting dynamic at play between Nadia Sawalha and her best friend, Kaye Adams. Sawalha is a Celebrity MasterChef UK winner while Adams has confessed that even her boiled eggs don’t necessarily turn out the same every time. Sawalha’s frustration with Adams’ culinary efforts resulted in a hit YouTube series called Disaster Chef. This, in turn, has translated to a cookbook.

As cookbooks go, this one is pretty hilarious. Each recipe includes useful hacks as well as speech bubbles from Sawalha (who provides tried-and-tested information) and Adams (who provides the humour with questions like “How on earth do you pick up a hot chicken?”).

Recipes For Heart, Health In September's Cooking The BooksThe recipes in the book are designed with beginners, or disaster chefs, in mind – basically people who need to cook to survive but simply don’t know how or where to begin. As a result, many of the recipes are incredibly simple, like boiled eggs, mashed potatoes, cheesy bread and butter pudding, and buttery carrots with parsley.

What’s enticing about the recipes is how few ingredients are required to assemble each dish, and how the step-by-step instructions document everything down to the last detail. If you’re after fuss-free recipes that show you how to make meals from scratch without boggling your mind with foreign ingredients or elaborate techniques, you’ll adore this entertaining cookbook. – Abirami Durai

Recipes For Heart, Health In September's Cooking The Books

 Eat Better, Live Longer

Authors: Dr Sarah Brewer & Juliette Kellow
Publisher: DK
Price: RM98.95

EVER wondered what’s going on in your body as you age, asks the blurb on this book’s back cover.

It’s a question we probably should consider as we get older, though thinking about it isn’t always all that fun. Nor is observing good practices to combat the adverse effects of senescence.

But trusted reference book publisher DK (formerly Dorling Kindersley) has made the subject interesting with its signature colourful graphics and illustrations.

You may already know what is good and bad for you – adopt a healthy diet, get active, deal with stress, etc – but this book helps build on that knowledge with up-to-date research based on science.

The authors look at the world’s longest-lived communities (Japan, Switzerland and Singapore are the top three), identify the common eating habits among them, and recommend a longevity eating plan.

Interspersed throughout the book are recipes as well as information on the anti-ageing benefits of 20 “wonderfoods” and “supergroups” of food, including yoghurt, pulses and root vegetables.

Having proven health benefits, plant-based dishes form most of the recipes in the book. For those of us who lean towards a rice-based diet, the four-week eating plan may take some getting used to. But the recipes are easy to make and look delicious.

Even if the plan doesn’t appeal to us, the book contains a lot of information about food and eating habits that will aid in future-proofing. – Jane F. Ragavan

Greens 24/7: Delicious Recipes For Green Veg At Every Meal Recipes For Heart, Health In September's Cooking The Books

Author: Jessica Nadel
Publisher: Quantum Publishing Limited
Price: RM130

THE plant-based diet has gained momentum in the past few years, as research has increasingly shown that embracing the diet can lead to lower rates of heart disease and diabetes.

Although theoretically it would be better to eat as much plant-based foods as you can, when you’re staring down recipes like spinach brownies (an actual recipe in this cookbook), you can’t help but wonder, “Is this really worth it?” Well, as with most things in life – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

Greens 24/7 was written by Jessica Nadel, a Canadian vegan blogger who also has her own vegan bakery and is thus uniquely qualified to write this book. In terms of recipes, you’ll quickly discover that while the ones that mimic meat-based originals are laudable – think courgette noodle Bolognese and sweet potato and greens burger – it is original recipes like puff pastry with fennel and turnip greens, and kale and herb cornbread muffins that prove far more compelling and might just give you the push you need to test them out.

Ultimately, though, the book offers lots of new ideas for people looking to infuse more plant-based options into their everyday meals (even if it means embracing vegetable-dessert hybrids like chocolate-dipped kale crisps!). – AD

Recipes For Heart, Health In September's Cooking The BooksLonely Planet Food’s Ultimate Eatlist

Publisher: Lonely Planet Global Limited
Price: RM129.90

The follow-up to Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist, Ultimate Eatlist features 500 must-eat meals trawled from all over the globe. Compiled based on the experiences of Lonely Planet staff as well as top chefs and food writers like Andrew Zimmern, Jose Andres, and Curtis Stone, aided by a panel comprised of TV presenter Adam Liaw and food blogger Leyla Kazim, the list is an exhaustive collection of unique food experiences dotted across the world.

The compilation has been talked-about ever since it was released – in Malaysia, there has been jubilation that our food status has been celebrated with 11 entries in the book, with curry laksa coming in at No.2 (in the world!), and other iconic local food like ikan bakar, assam laksa, roti canai, wantan mee, beef rendang, kaya toast, Hokkien mee, char kway teow, durian and bak kut teh also making it onto the list.

Beyond Malaysia, plenty of other eating experiences abound – from more well-known culinary pursuits, like the full English breakfast in London, sushi in Tokyo and chai in India to lesser-known epicurean delights like pepperpot stew in Guyana, wallaby tail soup in Melbourne, salo in Ukraine and lahoh from Yemen.

Ultimately, this wonderful book offers an incredible homage to food in both familiar and unfamiliar parts of the world and will prove to be a trusty bible for gastro-tourists looking to heighten their travel experiences with local food experiences. – AD

Cooking the Books: International eats from Italy and Japan and a little something for the kids

Cooking the Books: International eats from Italy and Japan and a little something for the kids

Pick up your copy of The Sunday Star paper today (July 8) for a 25% discount on these cookbooks. Look for the coupon in Star2.

Basics To Brilliance – Kids

Author: Donna Hay
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Price: RM112.90

In Australia, Donna Hay is a household name whose cookbooks line bookshelves across the country. Hay’s mastery lies in the fine art of creating simple, effective recipes that are also beautifully photographed. She also has the added allure of being on television and having her own exceedingly popular homeware range, selling everything from aprons to spatulas.

With her latest cookbook, Hay has set her sights on a much younger demographic: kids! Released in tandem with a cooking show, the book is a magical, happy foray into cooking, designed to incite joy in both children and adults alike. Hay (who is a mum herself) says that one of the key things she discovered about getting kids to be involved in the kitchen is to create fun events out of every meal, building dishes out of slumber parties, movie nights and the like.

International foodAs a result, you’ll discover a wonderful array of peppy, child-friendly recipes such as fluffy pancakes, maple butter popcorn, spinach and pumpkin risotto, cheat’s pizza, and chocolate pudding cups. Although the recipes are designed for children to recreate, adults will find themselves salivating over the dishes too.

What’s even more impressive is Hay’s safety tips for kids, including advocating the use of oven gloves and getting parents to help out with certain appliances, certainly useful information for tiny tots with little kitchen experience.

The font is also satisfyingly huge, which makes it easy for children to read and digest.

Ultimately, there’s plenty to love in this wonderful cookbook, which will help get kids interested in exploring their inner kitchen gods/goddesses and will no doubt make them lifelong fans of Hay in the process. – Abirami Durai

Kintsugi Wellness: The Japanese Art Of Nourishing Mind, Body And Spirit

Author: Candice Kumai
Publisher: Harper Wave
Price: RM119.90

international foodAt first I couldn’t remember where I’d come across Candice Kumai before. And then recognition took root and I realised that she was one of my favourite contestants from the very first season of Top Chef, where her bubbly personality shone. Kumai has since gone on to greater heights, publishing multiple bestselling cookbooks and becoming a regular judge on Food Network’s Iron Chef America.

With Kintsugi Wellness, Kumai returns to her Japanese roots, espousing the virtues of kintsugi or repairing broken vessels by sealing them back in place so that they are stronger and better than before. Kumai see this practice as a metaphor for self-healing.

Much of the book is autobiographical, and Kumai writes with so much honesty, it’s as though the book served as a cathartic exercise. And it is these narratives – her trips to Japan, and her formative years with her family – that buoy the book and engender both likability and an endearing quality.

The flip side of this is that because so much of the book is taken up with stories, there aren’t quite as many recipes as you might like – although you will find delicious-looking recipes for yakisoba noodles, Japanese rice porridge and miso chocolate chip cookies.

But perhaps the biggest downside of the book (for me, at least) is the sheer number of pages Kumai dedicates to tips on cultivating sincerity, practising gratitude for the past, meditation, being one with nature, and other nuggets of wisdom that would seem far more suited to a self-help book. Although it is fair to assume that Kumai intended the book to take a holistic approach to kintsugi, incorporating both food and a guide to better living, the latter element offers little appeal to those after a pure cookbook without all the floofy bits and bobs. – AD

Pasta, Pane, Vino

Author: Matt Goulding
Publisher: Harper Wave/Anthony Bourdain
Price: RM136.90

international foodBefore he wrote this book, food and nutrition writer Matt Goulding asked the late Anthony Bourdain, “Does the world need another book about Italian food?”

Bourdain said no, but their correspondence led to the publication of Goulding’s third book under the award-winning food and travel portal he cofounded, Roads & Kingdoms.

Their correspondence introduces this book, and is a tribute to Bourdain’s contribution to food journalism.

Published by Bourdain, Pasta, Pane, Vino is a food travelogue, an exploration of Italy’s cuisine that celebrates the ordinary people who cook with their hearts using skills honed over many generations.

It’s soulful food writing from someone deeply curious about food and eating, how people make food, and how it’s linked to people’s lives and passions.

Goulding takes his readers along to the different provinces in Italy and delves into the local cuisine, culture and influences.

He features people he met, such as the three brothers who became the mozzarella kings of Puglia, the Barolo Boys who turned the hilly Piedmont into one of the world’s great wine regions, and Nonna Anna who has travelled twice to Japan to teach the Japanese how to make ragu.

Be mesmerised as Goulding describes his food adventures, from sitting down to a delicious seafood dinner in a local restaurant in Sardinia to learning how to make pizza in Naples and, of course, pasta. He also gives in-depth information about the history and evolution of Italian cuisine, which add to the fascinating book.

This is not a cookbook but it whets your appetite for authentic Italian food – and it’s definitely the best guide to pore over before your next trip to Italy (you’ll want to book your tickets after you’ve read the book). – Ivy Soon

Good food and good coffee: all you need in life is in these books

Good food and good coffee: all you need in life is in these books

Pick up your copy of Sunday Star tomorrow (June 17) for a 25% discount on some of these cookbooks. Look for the coupon in Star2.

Bosh!: Simple Recipes, Amazing Food, All Plants

Authors: Henry Firth & Ian Theasby
Publisher: William Morrow
Price: RM109.90

Henry Firth and Ian Theasby are lifelong friends who were once avowed carnivores, eating meat at least once a week. Then Theasby cut meat out of his diet and Firth soon followed suit. Both quickly discovered there weren’t many restaurants catering to their new diet.

So they started documenting their own recipes on an online channel they called Bosh. It has since become the biggest plant-based online channel in the world, with popular recipe videos being viewed at least 50 million times!

Cooking Books recipesFor this cookbook, the boys devised 140 new recipes (80% of the recipes are new and cannot be found on their social media channels and online). Whether you’re a fan of the sweeping plant-based movement or not, you’ll find something to whet your appetite here, including the world’s best pesto lasagna, creamy seaside pie, cauliflower buffalo wings, popcorn falafel, gooey PBJ brownies and sticky toffee pudding.

While some of the recipes are really long – the pesto lasagna being a classic example – everything is generally do-able and you won’t find too many ingredients that are foreign to this part of the world. So if you’re looking for meatless Monday meals or ways to embrace either a vegan, vegetarian or reducetarian diet, this book will be the plant-centric culinary saviour you’re looking for. – Abirami Durai

Cooking Books recipes

Magnolia Table

Author: Joanna Gaines
Publisher: William Morrow
Price: RM119.90

Although  Magnolia Table has been trending a storm and is now a New York Times bestseller, I wasn’t expecting to like this book quite as much as I did.

I suppose I was a little prejudiced because the cookbook is the work of Joanna Gaines, one half of the husband-and-wife duo on popular home design show Fixer-Upper. Gaines and husband Chip have parlayed the success of the show into other equally successful businesses, including a cupcake bakery, a restaurant (named Magnolia Table) and a real estate business, among others.

All that’s on top of the fact that Gaines is now expecting her fifth child! Which basically means it’s hard to believe she’s done all that and can cook too! But as it turns out, she can. And more than that, she has an indefinable quality, one that stems from being both photogenic and having plenty of personal charm. This charm emanates from every page, with tales of her children, husband and friends forming the foundation upon which all her recipes are built.

You’ll find delightfully simple (and beautifully photographed) recipes for cinnamon squares, white cheddar bisque, fried chicken with sticky poppy seed jam, brownie pie and lemon bars in here, but perhaps more engrossing are the stories woven into each of the recipes – of breakfast table favourites, discoveries as a newly-wed, and heritage meals.

In the end, I came away from this cookbook with lots of fresh new ideas and the certainty that like the rest of the world, I too had fallen in love just a little bit with Joanna Gaines. – AD

Cooking Books recipesLonely Planet’s Global Coffee Tour

Publisher: Lonely Planet
Price: RM109.90

This fascinating trek through some of the world’s best coffee destinations is as entertaining as it is educational. The book takes you through some coffee basics, including a very useful guide to roasting your own green beans at home (with a minute-by-minute elaboration of what to expect).

Countries included in the guide encompass Ethiopia (the birthplace of coffee), Wellington (long regarded as the source of the flat white) in New Zealand, and Melbourne (thought of as a pioneer of third wave coffee), Australia. Even our very own Ipoh is included here as one of the top three coffee cities in Asia, for the ubiquitous Ipoh white coffee.

With the help of this book, you’ll also learn how to order coffee in different languages and discover the best coffee haunts in each city, with tourist attractions nearby also highlighted. If you’re serious about coffee and love travelling to boot, you’ll want to invest in this handy little global coffee guide. – AD

Cooking Books recipesSpice Journey: An Adventure In Middle Eastern Flavours

Author: Shane Delia
Publisher: Murdoch Books
Price: Unavailable

AWARD-winning Maltese-Australian chef Shane Delia’s book on his journeys through six countries – Andalucia, Iran, Lebanon, Malta, Morocco, and Turkey – is a beautifully photographed tribute to his heritage and Middle-Eastern cooking.

He offers readers 80 recipes, interpreted and distilled by a chef for home cooks. The recipes are not the usual traditional Middle Eastern fare, though; they are Delia’s modern takes on traditional recipes. There are even recipes for pork and duck, not usually seen in cookbooks on this region.

It’s a great book for browsing through the photos and reading Delia’s anecdotes, but it’s not quite the book for the average amateur cook.

As in most chef’s cookbooks, the list of ingredients are long. It’ll also require a trip to a speciality shop for ingredients such as sumac, Aleppo pepper, argan oil, kataifi, carob molasses and more. Delia has also included a short pantry guide with information and substitutes for lesser known ingredients.

But if you are a more adventurous and accomplished cook, you get to experiment with inventive flavours and try out new techniques.

There are many recipes here for impressing your guests with intriguing dishes such as Quail Egg Kefta Tabriz, Black Squid Ink Rice, Chorizo Filled Baby Calamari And Fried Seaweed, and Tortillas de Cameron’s and Pork Belly on Brioche Buns. There are also tempting desserts such as Argan Oil Chocolate Mud Brownie with Orange Cinnamon Ice Cream and Frozen Peanut Butter Parfait, Salted Tahini Caramel And Broken Baklava.

It’s definitely a book for chefs aspiring to expand their repertoire. For the rest of us, it’s an armchair culinary tour. – Ivy Soon

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