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


  • Food News
  • Saturday, 11 May 2019

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.


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