During the pandemic, we cooked a lot of Asian food at home, says Nick Mosley. To start with these were simple stir-fries but as the months went by, the cookbooks started to pile up and we delved into the likes of Meera Sodha’s ‘East’ and Dishoom’s wonderful ‘From Bombay with Love’.
So when I was offered the chance to review a new book called ‘The Asian Home Kitchen’, I jumped at the chance because there’s always the next exciting dish to be found or a variation or tweak on an existing favourite that will take it to the next level.
Author Leemei Tan-Boisgillot originates from Malaysia but has spent most of her life living abroad, most recently in Hong Kong. She doesn’t just cook and write passionately about food but also delves into the world of food styling and photography.
Obviously you can’t judge a cookbook by its cover so my partner and I chose three recipes from different regions to rustle up via our local Oriental food store and test on friends.
First up was Paneer and Spinach Curry, heralding from northern India. We cook dishes from the Indian subcontinent at least two or three times a week at home but to my palate this was, unfortunately, just flat heat and even some post-cooking coriander and a dollop or two of chutney didn’t save the dish.
But sit tight because our second dish – Korean Fried Chicken – was a resounding success and was wolfed down in a matter of minutes. Whilst preparing, we weren’t convinced that the recipe gave the right measures to make enough of the sticky soy, honey, ginger, garlic and sesame oil glaze but it easily coated the kilogram of chicken wings. This is definitely a good value crowd-pleasing recipe and one we’ll be using again; its perfect party food.
The pièce de résistance in our initial taste test trio of dishes was without doubt the prawn Tom-Yum soup: a spicy and sour concoction of shrimp, oyster mushroom, lime leaves, lemongrass, ginger, onion and ‘nam prik pao’ – a paste of tamarind, fish sauce and chilli that wasn’t hard to find at our local Asian food store. Some of the processes in the written recipe appear to me a little discombobulated in a practical sense. Personally, earlier on the preparation of the dish, I’d strain out the lemongrass and hefty chucks of ginger because I don’t want those ingredients completely overwhelming my mouth but – hey – different boats for different folks. But there’s no denying that this is a mighty fine and multi-layered flavoursome dish and one that will be making the table again soon, chez moi.
Will I continue to refer to the book? Yes, I found the section on making spice pastes really useful so will be adding more to our existing pre-made stock that’s tucked away in the freezer.
One notable criticism however is that whilst we’re all more conscious about our salt intake, its a bit of a cop-out that not every recipe in the book specifies an amount of salt, especially as some of the recipes have featured in a previous title by the author. Sure, you add to taste but a cookbook that positions itself in the market as this one does shouldn’t be a guessing game to readers.
That said, for an eager cook who’s not too familiar in the preparation of the cornucopia of Asian kitchens, it’s a good starting point. There’s nothing here in the preparation that’s going to break you out into a sweat at the stove… until you eat it of course.
The Asian Home Kitchen is available to buy from 14 June 2022.