Cooking The Books: Getting back to their roots

Get the Sunday Star paper tomorrow, June 9, for your 25% discount coupon on these cookbooks. Look for it in StarLifestyle.

My Rendang Isn't Crispy

Author: Zaleha Kadir Olpin

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Cuisine

Price: RM99.90

Masterchef UK contestant Zaleha Olpin made headlines last year when the chicken in her chicken rendang was deemed “not crispy” by MasterChef UK judge Gregg Wallace. Zaleha received an outpouring of support from the entire South-East Asian region after the incident and has since said that the episode was really a blessing in disguise as people continue to remember her for it.

Capitalising on that initial fame, Zaleha has now released her first cookbook, the cheekily named My Rendang Isn't Crispy, which features the coveted recipe for that infamous chicken rendang, where it is obvious that the chicken is meant to be anything but crispy.

The rest of the recipes in the book are mostly heirloom ones Zaleha inherited from her mother, grandmother and sister-in-law, like rendang opor Pahang, mum's fish curry and chicken sambal. Other recipes allude to Zaleha's favourite things to eat when she's at home, including coconut crepes and mee goreng mamak.

Cooking The Books featuring recipes for uncrispy rendang and other Malaysian dishesThe recipes will look fairly familiar to Malaysians, although they have obviously been written with a more international audience in mind, as substitutes to common ingredients are provided everywhere – like desiccated coconut in lieu of grated coconut – presumably to ensure that people all over the world are able to try replicate Malaysian meals without too much hassle.

Overall, the book is likely to appeal to those looking for a sample of traditional Malaysian favourites as well as diehard fans hungry for more recipes from Makcik Rendang.

Natural Baking: Healthier Recipes For A Guilt-Free Treat

Authors: Carolin Strothe & Sebastian Keitel

Publisher: Dorling Kindersley

Price: RM75.50

Cooking The Books featuring recipes for uncrispy rendang and other Malaysian dishesWritten by German superstar food stylist, recipe developer, photographer and blogger Carolin Strothe and her designer husband Sebastian Keitel, this cookbook delves deep into the nitty-gritty details of making healthy, seasonal bakes. The book is endorsed by none other than Jamie Oliver who in his Foreword says “I often want to eat my phone when she (Carolin) posts something new on Instagram.”

The recipes in the book are incredibly diverse and very fruit-centric, derived from how much Strothe and Keitel enjoy being in the garden and harvesting the season's freshest fruits.

You'll discover recipes for cherry tart, mini chocolate cakes, berry pizza and plum cake, among a host of others. Strothe does advocate using less sugar and sugar alternatives like muscovado sugar as well as wheat flour substitutes like spelt flour, chickpea flour and wholemeal emmer flour. As luck would have it, most of these flour alternatives are now readily available in gourmet supermarkets locally, so you should have few problems recreating these recipes at home.

Ultimately, although the book is one of many new cookbooks peddling the idea of healthy bakes, it stands apart from the crowd just in terms of aesthetic appeal. Because this cookbook is so beautifully styled and photographed, that you'll be tempted to start baking the minute your eyes make contact with the first page.

The Delightful Street Food Of Malaysia

Author: Azian Hasan

Publisher: Amanie Media

Price: RM39.90

Cooking The Books featuring recipes for uncrispy rendang and other Malaysian dishesAzian Hasan is a popular local blogger and cookbook author, whose last book Everything Eggs was shortlisted under the "series" category in the World Gourmand Awards 2018. In this cookbook, Azian – a gifted home cook – waxes lyrical about her love for street food, driven by memories of eating staples like curry nasi lemak with her late parents.

What is obvious from the get-go is Azian's natural warmth, which is palpable and comes across almost immediately in the book, a facet only enhanced by the many family images peppered throughout the pages.

The recipes in the book meanwhile are made up of the usual Malaysian street food suspects, from curry laksa and nasi lemak to mee bandung, sup kambing mamak and apam balik. Many of the recipes look fuss-free and fairly easy to execute as Azian has gone through some pains to simplify the cooking processes without affecting the final outcome.

The only downside to the book lies in the editing: Grammatical errors abound everywhere so if you're a stickler for this sort of thing, it is unfortunately likely to interfere with your enjoyment of the book.

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