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Author: Bryan Koh
I eat two breakfasts, and almost nonstop, whenever I am in Kota Baru, so I was intrigued when I came across postings about Bekwoh in a Peranakan food group on Facebook.
There hasn’t been much documentation of the food of the east coast, and Singaporean author Bryan Koh gives a compelling tour of eating in Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang.
Koh’s fascination with the food of the east coast comes through in his food essays. They are written with an outsider’s curiosity about the local cuisine and ingredients, but told with a sure grasp of food research and knowledge, all of it sprinkled with his gentle humour.
Through the essays that introduce each chapter, Koh relates the characteristics and influences in east coast food. He has named each chapter using local food descriptions, so the chapter on breakfast is called “Berlauk”, on Peranakan food “Kampung Cina” and on kuih muih (cakes) “Two Princesses In A Room”.
The narrations of his eating adventures are evocative but he has also paid attention to details such as giving the local names of ingredients and food, and also included the generic terms that are more familiar to readers generally.
The most important documentation in this book are the recipes. He has included home food such as lempeng niyor (coconut pancakes) and familiar dishes like laksam, but there are also many recipes that are not so well-known, such as genang bawang, or deep-fried stuffed onions.
There is also an extensive collection of kuih-muih recipes, some with Koh’s tweaks. Some of the recipes call for ingredients that are hard to get outside the east coast, or are simply unknown to me, such as fingerroots (krachai) and sare (seaweed).
But even if you never attempt the recipes, this is a book that’s a pleasure to read and a cultural exploration via food. It might just inspire you to go on an eating trip along the east coast. – Ivy Soon
Cravings: Hungry For More
Author: Chrissy Teigen
Publisher: Michael Joseph
You either despise American cookbook author-model-TV host-Mrs John Legend-Trump-hating Chrissy Teigen or you love all of her. There seriously is no in-between.
I for one enjoy her snarky, sharp sense of humour, and it’s certainly on show throughout her second cookbook. And then there are the mouth-watering recipes that encourage me to enter the kitchen.
Even if you are a newbie, Teigen’s recipes are easy to follow, with nary a complicated list of ingredients anywhere or tedious prep or cooking methods to get in the way.
Some of the recipes are familiar, especially the ones in the “Thai Mom” category dedicated to dishes prepared by her Instagram sensation mum, Vilailuck Teigen, but you just know that Teigen has injected her own style into them.
There are recipes for the common pork larb, tom yum noodles, and crab fried rice, all of which I am sure you can easily find on the Internet – but I am excited to try the Teigens’ take on these popular Thai dishes. How does Legend like his tom yum, I wonder?
There are many fun “Western” recipes to make as well, such as Steak Diane – Teigen says she is trying to make “Diane” into something cool that does not remind one of one’s frumpy aunt – Spicy Jammy Drummies (chicken drumsticks) and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies.
The book is a fun read, as Teigen walks readers through her thought process behind each dish. Every recipe has a story to tell, and they are mostly heartwarming with a good dose of that Teigen humour.
With Cravings: Hungry For More, Teigen proves that she is no one-hit-wonder cookbook author – her first, Cravings, was published in 2016 and was a hit too.
And if you have any feedback just head to her Instagram account (@chrissyteigen) to air your grievances. Just be prepared for Teigen’s comeback – fans will know, she doesn’t always play nice! – Sharmila Nair
Pulutan! Filipino Bar Bites, Appetizers And Street Eats
Author: Marvin Gapultos
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
Although South-East Asian cuisine has been growing in prominence and popularity all over the world, Filipino cuisine hasn’t really been given a seat at this table.
Well-travelled palates can appreciates the subtleties of Thai tom yum, Malaysian laksa and Vietnamese pho, but few are even aware of the existence of Filipino staples like pork sisig or adobo.
With Pulutan!, author Marvin Gapultos aims to change this and elevate awareness about Filipino finger foods, otherwise known as pulutan. This is Gapultos’ sophomore book, following the success of his first effort, The Adobo Road Cookbook (2013).
Gapultos is also a seasoned food blogger who started Los Angeles’s first Filipino food truck, The Manila Machine, so he’s very well-versed in the cuisine.
In this cookbook, he offers recipes for finger foods like chicken- fried eggplant, pineapple pigs in a blanket, grilled chicken livers, and vinegar-poached sardines. The recipes look incredibly interesting and because Gapultos prefaces each one with entertaining stories and anecdotes, there is added context to dishes that many people will no doubt be unfamiliar with.
There is also the fact that Gapultos – a Certified Cicerone (someone who has professional beer experience and expertise) – has peppered the book with beer pairing suggestions, a win for people looking to match food and drinks.
On the downside, the photography (which Gapultos did himself) is a bit hit-and-miss – some pictures are appealing, some are decidedly less so. Ultimately, though, this book will find fans in those looking for an easy-to-read, introductory guide to Filipino food. – Abirami Durai
Author: Yotam Ottolenghi with Tara Wigley & Esme Howarth
Publisher: Ebury Press
The recipes I tried from Yotam Ottolenghi’s other books have not only turned out well, but they have also been interesting and delicious.
The Israeli-British chef, restaurant/cafe owner and writer has garnered a cult following in recent years with his interpretation of Middle Eastern flavours and vegetable-centred food. But it’s not always easy to cook from his books because his recipes require long lists of ingredients, some of which are uncommon.
Ottolenghi acknowledges this difficulty, and thus Simple was devised to help readers make meals with “minimum hassle and maximum joy”, while still being distinctly “Ottolenghi”.
“Simple” is, however, relative, and the recipes have been placed into these categories: “Short On Time”, “10 Ingredients Or Less”, “Make Ahead”, “Pantry”, “Lazy”, and “Easier Than You Think” (yes, the categories make up the word “simple”).
The recipes are certainly more accessible in Simple, with shorter ingredient lists and easier techniques, as well as beautiful photos to inspire you. Compared to his other books, this one is geared for home cooking and dinner parties.
There are, of course, a lot of Middle Eastern influences in the recipes, but also quite a number of Asian flavours. Desserts are also do-able, with recipes such as mint and pistachio chocolate fridge cake that requires no baking.
Some of the recipes I have earmarked are cauliflower tabouleh; baked rice with confit tomatoes and garlic; and chicken with miso, ginger and lime.
You might still need to make a trip to a Middle Eastern grocery or specialist section of a supermarket to stock up on Ottolenghi’s pantry staples such as sumac and harissa, but it’s worth making the effort to try out the recipes in Simple. – IS
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