A deliciously eclectic bookshelf

Picks for all kinds of foodies abound this month, from the chocolate-lover to the wanderlust-struck gourmand.

str2_cookbookjan17_appetite_s1_1Appetites: A Cookbook

Author: Anthony Bourdain

Publisher: HarperCollins

Price: RM139.90

This is a cookbook – but in Anthony Bourdain’s hands, accepted norms tend to corkscrew wildly beyond conventional comprehension. So expect his customary brashness, irreverent humour and some pointed profanity along with your Chopped Liver on Rye.

Appetites is a reflection of Bourdain himself – still echoing the hard-partying, rock-and-roller-type chef who spent much of his working life “living it on the margins”.

As in a fractured mirror, you catch glimpses of an atypical, adventurous life in each recipe (which is sometimes not so much a recipe as a technique); he writes about the pivotal roll of Brazilian jiu-jitsu in his household, and shares a recipe for an Acai Bowl; remembers a hard-drinking Portuguese woman named Lydia who taught him to make New England Clam Chowder; waxes lyrical about Kuching-style Laksa; and in true Bourdain fashion, admits to being an “egg slut”, loving devilled eggs any way he can get them, with caviar, anchovies, spicy mustard or Mediterranean flavours.

There are sections on amazing-looking sandwiches (I share Bourdain’s view that “a sandwich is a beautiful ting – one of the great innovations of modern history”), on cooking birds, on a Thanksgiving feast, and pasta (preceded by a rather startling picture of French chef Eric Ripert), among others.

Dessert? Stilton, says Bourdain. – Suzanne Lazaroo

str2_cookbookjan17_choc_s1_1Chocolate: Indulge Your Inner Chocoholic

Author: Dom Ramsey

Publisher: Dorling Kindersely Ltd

Price: RM86.95

Like most of the world, I fell in love with chocolate at first bite. It has been a steadfast love affair ever since, one that has endured through childhood, university and marriage (my husband understands that chocolate sometimes comes ahead of him). So of course I fell for this book hook, line and sinker. Even the title is unapologetic and fuss-free, instantly proclaiming what it’s all about. “Chocolate”, it says but what it really means is “Come devour my pages!”

The book covers every imaginable question you could have about chocolate, from bean to bar. The author runs through the ins and outs of it, from the growing of cacao beans and the processes involved in transforming it into a chocolate bar and even to regions where cacao beans are most widely grown (Ivory Coast leads the pack, in case you’re wondering).

Once you’ve covered all that, there is a section on how to make your own chocolate from scratch, although it does require quite a number of tools and is a fairly laborious process, so it may not be practical in real life. There are also a couple of chocolate recipes at the back that you can test out.

Ultimately, though, this book offers a thought-provoking exploration of just how chocolate is created, and trust me, you’ll be surprised at the sheer amount of work that goes into producing a single chocolate bar.

This one’s for chocolate lovers everywhere! – Abirami Durai

str2_cookbookjan17_japanese_s1_1Mastering The Art Of Japanese Home Cooking

Author: Masaharu Morimoto

Publisher: HarperCollins

Price: RM169.90 from Kinokuniya Bookstores

Masaharu Morimoto is most famous for being an Iron Chef (on the original Japanese TV series of that name, and its American version) and helming New York’s Nobu restaurant. The problem with most executive chef’s cookbooks is that the recipes usually involve elaborate steps and long lists of ingredients, but Morimoto’s mission in this book is to demystify Japanese cooking. His emphasis is that Japanese flavours aren’t so hard to create at home.

This reassuring tone resonates through the book; from Morimoto’s amiable and informative explanation of every dish to step-by step instructions and visuals to his “Japanese Grandmother Wisdom” tip boxes. The recipes are organised according to cooking basics such as dashi, rice and soup; and followed by cooking methods. They are generally easy recipes but interesting enough.

Apart from teaching readers traditional Japanese cooking styles, Morimoto also shares his playful takes on tradition, such as using potato chips and shrimps to make the classic rice seasoning furikake.

But the proof of a good cookbook is in how well the recipes work. I followed Morimoto’s Teriyaki Sauce recipe to the letter and am happy to report that it was delicious and went really well with pan-fried salmon. The Mackerel Simmered With Miso recipe was also a success; the detailed steps and cooking time he gave were most helpful.

Now that trust has been established, I look forward to trying other recipes in the book, such as making udon and Slow Cooked Pork Belly With Beer Teriyake Glaze. – Ivy Soon

str2_cookbookjan17_foodtrails_s1_1Lonely Planet Food: Food Trails

Publisher: Lonely Planet Global Ltd

Price: RM137.50

Have you ever wanted to travel to a place just on the strength of its food? Because I know I have. Combining travel with food is what the best holidays are made of and travel company Lonely Planet has niftily packaged this together in Food Trails, which uncovers some of the best food finds around the world.

Encompassing food hot spots in 36 countries, the book delves into the culinary depths of cities as diverse as Venice, Penang and Istanbul, with detailed information about what to order, what’s popular and the history behind individual restaurants and food havens. There are even hotel recommendations, for after you’ve stuffed yourself silly.

Although some major cities are conspicuously missing here (Singapore, for once doesn’t make an appearance, Bangkok is nowhere to be found, and the only German area listed in the book is the Black Forest), for the most part, the guide offers an intriguing glimpse into what’s on the table across the globe. If you’re one of those passionate eat freaks happy to structure your entire holiday around food, you might want to invest in this culinary travel bible. – AD

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