The Complete Asian Cookbook

By: Charmaine Solomon

Published By: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1992 (New Revised Edition)
ISBN: 0-8048-1791-X

From the inside of the jacket:

THIS BOOK could well have been sub-titled '800 Authentic Asian Recipes Made Simple', for that's what it is all about -- real Asian food, created with a minimum of fuss in a Western kitchen from readily available ingredients.

Charmaine Solomon has tried and tested every recipe. 'Just because Asian food is different,' she says, 'it doesn't have to be difficult to prepare.' And she proves it; clearly presented recipes list every ingredient and every preparation step in easy-to-follow terms. Although she takes the mystery out of the cooking of the 'mysterous East', the author has successfully preserved the unique flavors and textures that put Asian food among the world's greates and most exciting cuisines.

Thirteen chapters present more than 800 recipes from sixteen countries.* There are exciting finds for cooks already familiar with Asian food, and simple (but nonetheless authentic) recipes for those exploring it for the first time.

Even a glimpse at these pages shows that there's much more to Japanese food than sukiyaki and raw fish; to Chinese food than 'chop suey' and fried rice; to Indian food than scorching curries; to Indonesian food than satays and peanut sauce. And while Ms Solomon in her inimitable was, covers some familiar territory, she ventures into culinary areas that ought to be better known; the sour-hot dishes of Thailand, the Nonya cooking of Singapore and Malaysia, the Arabian Nights flavors of Indian sweetmeats, the soul-warming hot-pots of Korea; and she brings back excitingly different dishes from the largely uncharted (in cooking terms) lands of Burma, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.

The introduction to each chapter gives valuable information about how local dishes are prepared and served. There is a special section on 'equivalents and substitutes.' The comprehensive glossary explains unfamiliar ingredients, and the detailed index lists local and Western names for every dish. And you can almost taste the superb photographs that illustrate every chapter.

The Complete Asian Cookbook is both for reading and for cooking with -- it's essential kitchen equipment for anyone interested in the culinary delights of Asia.

* Bangladesh - Burma - Cambodia - China - India - Indonesia - Japan - Korea - Laos - Malaysia - Pakistan - The Phillipines - Singapore - Sri Lanka - Thailand - Vietnam

I received this cookbook over the holidays, after noticing it in a bookstore and making it expressly clear I really wanted it. It's sheer size got my attention when sitting on the shelf, and simply looking at the table of contents, and the huge list of types of cuisine covered in the book, made me realize this was definitely something that I would love to have, as it would be a wonderful chance to try new types of food, and expand my cooking horizons.

Each country is divided into a separate section, with the exception of Indian and Pakistani cuisine being grouped together, as she states they are too similar to really be able to separate. The beginning of each section takes a little time to describe the country, and to show the author's connection to the cuisine from that area - she's spent time working with people from every area, watching and talking to them, to learn their ingredients and cooking methods. And it shows, as after the description, she gets into information on those methods of cooking, how the food is presented, and how it is eaten. She'll also give a list of ingredients very common to the cuisines from that area, things you'll want to keep on hand if you make that type of cuisine often.

Each recipe is presented in both it's native name (or English transliteration), along with the English equivalent underneath. The instructions are also nice and clear, making it less likely that there will be confusion during cooking.

As Ms Solomon lives in Australia, and the book originates there, there are a number of minor differences in names of ingredients, utensils, and other items. There is a handly little chart in the back of the book to give a "translation" between American and Australian names. Usually this can be figured out quickly, as most of them are not that different.

She also states substitutions for certain ingredients. The book tries to balance out the ingredients used in the dishes, sticking as much as possible to authentic ingredients, but listing others for some hard to find items. Those are listed in the book, so if you are able to find them, you can use them instead - and if you're in an area where some of the other ingredients are not available, you'll also see other choices to approximate the flavor and texture of the missing ingredients.

I have yet to make a recipe from this book, having just received it yesterday. However, it's very impressive looking, and the reviews at Amazon.Com are also extremely positive. According to the reviews, there are plenty of people that live or lived in one of these countries, and they use this book for the recipes of their native lands, which goes a long way in supporting the claims of authenticity. I already plan to make high use of this book, and I suspect the use will increase the more I make from it.