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Seafood of South-East Asia: A Comprehensive Guide with Recipes [Paperback]

Alan Davidson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Jan. 23 2004
Now available in an updated second edition, SEAFOOD OF SOUTH-EAST ASIA is the third volume in Alan Davidson'¬?s award-winning seafood trilogy. Having been British ambassador to Laos, Davidson brings his extensive scientific and cultural knowledge to bear on this authoritative guide to the fish and shellfish of South-East Asia. The new edition provides detailed, illustrated descriptions of nearly 200 species, complemented by 150 traditional recipes from Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and Indonesia, among other countries. This delightfully written guide equips readers with the information and recipes they need to appreciate the rich and varied cuisines of the area. The only identification and recipe guide devoted to the seafood of South-East Asia.Over 150 authentic recipes, 250 line drawings, and extensive coverage of essential pantry ingredients.

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About the Author

ALAN DAVIDSON is one of the world'¬?s leading authorities on fish and fish cookery. In 1975, he retired from Britain's diplomatic service to pursue a fruitful career as a food historian and writer. Cofounder and editor of the prestigious food journal Petits Propos Culinares, Alan has authored many books, including the award-winning Oxford Companion to Food and NORTH ATLANTIC SEAFOOD, which was inducted into the James Beard Foundation Cookbook Hall of Fame in 2002. He lives with his wife, Jane, in London, England.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Vintage Davidson Dec 21 2003
Format:Paperback
I bought one of the original hardback copies of this book almost 20 years ago. Unfortunately I lent it to someone who had grown up in Burma, and she was fascinated to see recipes for dishes she remembered eating as a child. I never saw the book again, and serve me right! I assumed it was long out of print until I spotted it on amazon.com this evening while ordering another Davidson title, North Atlantic Seafood, as a Christmas gift for a godchild in Houston, Texas.
Sadly, Alan Davidson died in December 2003, and his career was widely reviewed in the British press. He had just won the prestigious Erasmus Prize for his pioneering contributions to the academic study of food and gastronomy. The award was made by the Queen of the Netherlands in person.
His first-ever writings on seafood were published while he was serving as a diplomat in Tunisia, a small work to help diplomatic wives identify local species, and sold to raise funds for the Red Cross. This was later expanded to become Meditterranean Seafood, widely recognized as the authoritive guide to the subject. I live in a small fishing port on the Costa Brava in Spain and use the book at least once a week. It has been invaluable in identifying the often unfamiliar species on sale in the local markets, as in all his works he gives the local names and variants, and provides accurate drawings of each, as well as authentic recipes. These are always those used by traditional cooks of the regions he writes about. No fusion cooking for him!
Seafood of South East Asia, first published in 1976, makes interesting reading even for non-cooks. Davidson had gone on to be British Ambassador in Laos, a country he came to love deeply. He usually wore string wristbands, tokens of a Laotian religious ceremony called basi.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vintage Davidson Dec 21 2003
By Mr. R. S. Cooper - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I bought one of the original hardback copies of this book almost 20 years ago. Unfortunately I lent it to someone who had grown up in Burma, and she was fascinated to see recipes for dishes she remembered eating as a child. I never saw the book again, and serve me right! I assumed it was long out of print until I spotted it on amazon.com this evening while ordering another Davidson title, North Atlantic Seafood, as a Christmas gift for a godchild in Houston, Texas.
Sadly, Alan Davidson died in December 2003, and his career was widely reviewed in the British press. He had just won the prestigious Erasmus Prize for his pioneering contributions to the academic study of food and gastronomy. The award was made by the Queen of the Netherlands in person.
His first-ever writings on seafood were published while he was serving as a diplomat in Tunisia, a small work to help diplomatic wives identify local species, and sold to raise funds for the Red Cross. This was later expanded to become Meditterranean Seafood, widely recognized as the authoritive guide to the subject. I live in a small fishing port on the Costa Brava in Spain and use the book at least once a week. It has been invaluable in identifying the often unfamiliar species on sale in the local markets, as in all his works he gives the local names and variants, and provides accurate drawings of each, as well as authentic recipes. These are always those used by traditional cooks of the regions he writes about. No fusion cooking for him!
Seafood of South East Asia, first published in 1976, makes interesting reading even for non-cooks. Davidson had gone on to be British Ambassador in Laos, a country he came to love deeply. He usually wore string wristbands, tokens of a Laotian religious ceremony called basi. These were regularly given to him by the Lao community in the UK, who considered him their patron. The clothes he wore after retiring from the Foreign Office were often inspired by the colourful and stylish garments of south-east Asia. Seafood of South-East Asia reflects his understanding and appreciation of regions whose culinarary traditions are still not widely known.
After retirement from the diplomatic service Davidson travelled widely throughout China and south-east Asia, researching the names and methods used for cooking the entire range of local seafood, including the pa beuk, a giant catfish of the Mekong, thought to be extinct, but now thriving, partly because of his writings about it.
Davidson's recipes are not always easy to follow, as he spurns phrases like 'or use x if y is not available'. He was a culinary perfectionist, although in no way a foodie, admitting as he did to a liking for such unfashionable food items as tomato ketchup, spam and ice cream soda.
His death brings to an end a great trilogy of seafood books that started with the Mediterranean and went on to cover the North Atlantic and South-East Asia. All these books and his other writings on fish are imbued with deep scholarship (he was a top classical scholar at Oxford University) and, surprisingly perhaps, a great sense of humour.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Third in a most important reference on world fishes. Buy It! March 1 2005
By B. Marold - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
`Seafood of South-East Asia' by noted culinary writer Alan Davidson, the author of `The Oxford Companion to Food' is a reference book which a serious cook must have in their library where time is spent deciding on what to eat rather than time spend actually cooking. This book belongs to a rare breed of books in English such as Elizabeth Schneider's `Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini' or `Bruce Cost's Asian Ingredients' which thoroughly cover a broad single subject. This volume is cut from exactly the same cloth and sewn with an almost identical pattern to the author's two other classics, `Mediterranean Seafood' and `North Atlantic Seafood'.

All three books are organized in the same way that gives primacy to information on the aquatic species and secondary coverage of recipes.

Biological family, genus, and species organize the first part on the catalog of species in order that the biological similarity of the fishes is clearly shown. Each article gives the most common English name, the two part Latin scientific name, the scientist who assigned this name (most commonly the great inventor of biological Taxonomy, Linnaeus), the biological family name, and the common name of the fish in virtually every language of the major fishing nationality bordering the relevant body of water. This Southeast Asian volume includes names found in the languages of United Arab Emirates, Bengal, Tamil, Singhalese, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, and Japan. I have not seen any differentiation between the different languages of, for example, China and the Philippines. I would guess that Chinese names are in Cantonese and the Philippine names are in Tagalog. These names in themselves are entertaining to the linguistically inclined, as it is interesting to see the similarities and differences from country to country.

The articles on every species also have a highly detailed black and white drawing of each animal. The great value to these is that it makes comparing the appearance of different fishes very easy, as every species is depicted in a similar style. It is too bad they could not be depicted to scale, but this would have had the sturgeon filling two pages while the anchovies would be the size of a period. Instead, the remarks on each fish give the average market length and a description of the typical color and markings.

The catalog entry also gives a paragraph or two on cuisine, which is a discussion of the culinary desirability of the species and typical ways in which the animal is prepared. For most fish, this includes methods by which the fish is butchered. The catalog entries also include a list of recipes and page numbers for these recipes in the second major section of the book.

The second major section divides recipes by country. This volume gives us eight chapters on recipes from Burma; Thailand; Cambodia; Vietnam; China and Hong Kong; The Philippines; Indonesia; and Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore.

One is tempted to expect these recipes to be very generic and not as interesting as those you may find in books of `haute cuisine' from a fish specialist such as Eric Rippert. This is partially true. Davidson is less the great cook than he is a great fish and food scholar. This means that while his recipes may come from common sources, he gives us much more information on the background of the recipes than the chef may do. A good example of this is in his coverage of Filipino dishes. I compared his `Fish Sinigang' recipe to the `Sinigang Na Bangus' recipe in `Filipino Cuisine' by Gerry Gelle and found that Davidson's recipe was as good or better than the one given by the Filipino chef. True to Davidson's scholarly approach, he describes what type of fish works well in this recipe, even though both he and Gelle specify milkfish (bangos). One odd fact is that Gelle's name for the fish is one Davidson attributes to Malaysia. May be due to linguistic duality between northern and southern Philippines. As with all cuisines, Davidson gives expert advice on cookbooks of the Filipino cuisines, especially as he says cookbook writing is a well-developed discipline in the islands. Icing on the cake is Davidson's overview of Filipino fish cures. One method even looks suspiciously like the famous Caribbean technique that developed into barbecue.

One great delight was the fact that the book includes information on Gasteropods (Snails, limpets, conches, etc), sea turtles, and seaweed. You may not be cooking turtle soup any time soon, but you will know your stuff the next time you watch `Babette's Feast'! My point here is that this book is simply great fun to read and to use as a source of ideas for unusual new recipes.

Unlike the books on the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, the bibliography shows that the author has based most of his material on sources written in English or French. While Davidson was a diplomat with serious language skills, either these skills did not extend to oriental languages OR most of the good stuff is written in English and French anyway. One of the greatest things about all these volumes is that all of this great material is available in trade paperbacks, which list for no more than $25. For you devotees of second hand bookstores, please note the author's warning that the first edition of this volume apparently had more than a usual number of errors and all known errors were corrected in the second edition.

These are must have books for devoted foodies! A quick look at the list of species in the table of contents shows that almost all of the common named fishes show up on the ice or in the tanks of your favorite local megamart or fishmonger. I am certain that your Maine lobster will not mind being dressed in a recipe tailored to an Asian spiny lobster, although Alton Brown has quipped that the Maine flesh is slightly sweeter.

Highly recommended.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For fish geeks in South-East Asia June 6 2009
By Jackal - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
If you (1) live in South-East Asia and (2) love fish and shellfish and (3) have a bit of geeky interest in details, this book is for your. Most edible seafood in this part of the world is catalogued in this book. However, this books is not as comprehensive as "Seafood of the North Atlantic" by the same author. So don't expect to find everything that is in the local market. Each entry offers latin name, picture, identification details, habitat, culinary notes and the name translated into many local languages. This translation is always into the latin alphabet. It would have been nice to have it in Chinese and Thai symbols as well. The book also contains a small recipe section (typical national dishes).
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