The Mekong region, which extends south from China through Laos and Thailand to Cambodia and Vietnam, offers extraordinary food. Hot Sour Salty Sweet
, which takes its name from the principal taste sensations of the region's cooking, provides an unparalleled culinary journey through this fertile land. Though the book contains a wealth of anecdotal material, its great strength lies in its 175 recipes, explicit formulas for the likes of Shrimp in Hot Lime Leaf Broth, Lao Yellow Rice and Duck, and Hui Beef Stew with Chick Peas and Anise. The breadth and substance of this authentic yet approachable collection is truly exciting; readers who cook from the book (not difficult to do once ingredients are assembled and techniques understood), as well as those searching for the best kind of armchair travel, will be delighted.
Beginning with a discussion of the Mekong region, its people (a complicated mix, among them the Kai, Akha, and Cham), and their characteristic foods, the book then provides recipes organized by ingredients, dish types, and topics such as "Everyday Dependable," "One-Dish Meals," "Kids Like It," and "Vegetarian Options." This latter style of division helps define and "domesticate" a vast array of cooking, often enjoyed at times and places foreign to Westerners. Chapters devoted to such sweets as Tapioca and Corn Pudding with Coconut Cream, grilled specialties, and fare for adventurous cooks, such as Aromatic Steamed Fish Curry (more painstaking technically, though not truly difficult) further widen the book's scope. Illustrated throughout with 150 color photos and containing a comprehensive ingredient glossary, the book is a definitive point of entry to a mostly unexplored culinary port of call. --Arthur Boehm
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From Publishers Weekly
With their usual ?lan, Alford and Duguid (Flatbreads and Flavors; Seductions of Rice) follow the Mekong River through southeast Asia (Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Burma and the Chinese Yunnan region) to bring home a trove of delicious, unusual recipes. Fans of their earlier books may be disappointed to see that their latest volume often revisits earlier themes. Still, there are enough uncommon recipes here to keep even the most inveterate cookbook reader discovering new flavor combinations. (Consider Vietnamese Baked Cinnamon P?t? and Smoked Fish and Green Mango.) As in their other books, the authors display a specificity and a knowledge of this part of the world that is staggering, as well as a heartfelt reverence for the foods that "real" people eat. Vietnamese Beef Ball Soup, for example, is commonly sold by street vendors, and Shan Salad with Cellophane Noodles was picked up from an acquaintance who lives on the Shan State-Thai border. The provenance of each recipe is provided so that readers may clearly distinguish between multifaceted Thai cuisine and French-influenced Vietnamese foods such as Saigon Subs on baguettes. One-page mini-essays on the pair's travel experiences are truly a treat; they cover topics such as fermented fish and the city of Vientiane. With this third book, Alford and Duguid prove that they are fast producing a body of work that commands serious admiration. The hypnotic black-and-white cover photo of a teapot in soft focus will have book buyers lingering in the aisles.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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