The Southeast Asian Kitchen

The Southeast Asian Kitchen

By
Antony Suvalko, Leanne Kitchen
Contains
0 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742709161
Photographer
Leanne Kitchen

Whenever we close our eyes, we imagine ourselves east. The word ‘east’ conjures languid memories for us. It’s watching the sun slink into the Mekong and smelling the incense that wafts from every temple. It’s the aroma of char drifting through city streets as restaurants stoke their embers for another night of barbecuing. It’s the rhythmic thud of cooks pounding the freshest ingredients into fragrant curry pastes or a tangy serve of green papaya salad. It’s the swish of saffron-hued monks’ robes and the adventure that awaits in every row of street-food stalls. ‘East’ represents colour and clamour, chaos and calm; a place where traditions run deep – a vivid, stimulating, energetic and thrilling place, whose cultures and cuisines are never, ever dull.

Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia and Vietnam – all incredibly distinct from each other culturally, ethnically and culinarily but, for us, together they are ‘east’. In general terms, this book is our ode to all that we think of when we’re not east and wish that we were.

We know we’re not alone in being completely seduced by Southeast Asian flavours, and this book was born from our need to ‘cook’ ourselves back there, when the holiday was over and withdrawal symptoms set in. We might not always be able to perch on plastic stools and eat banh mi with Hanoi locals, or slurp bowls of rice porridge at shared tables in Java, but we’ve found that, through cooking, we can come at least close to reliving some of these treasured experiences. We’ve assembled a selection of the dishes that instantly transport us back to steamy, exotic, wonderful Southeast Asia – dishes zingy with fresh herbs and chilli, redolent with kaffir lime and lemongrass and pungent with shrimp paste and fish sauce; recipes punctuated with the crunch of peanuts, the soothing presence of rice noodles and the sweet richness of coconut milk; recipes where the cooking techniques are no more complicated than barbecuing, steaming, simmering, roasting and frying. All that’s missing in these pages are the whiffs of a wet food market, the frantic blur of street life and the blare of Thai bubblegum pop tunes. Of course, feel free to adjust the balance of salty, sweet, sour and hot flavours in the recipes to suit your own palate, as well as seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

This book is hardly exhaustive. It’s a modest representation of the Southeast Asian culinary repertoire – entire tomes could be dedicated to the curries, noodle dishes or salads alone! Rather, we’ve compiled a selection of our favourites; recipes we find ourselves craving again and again. Some of these may be familiar, such as beef rendang, pad Thai or chicken laab. However, others are more esoteric – a sour curry of prawns and acacia leaf omelette could fit that bill, as might stuffed betel leaves with sticky tamarind dipping sauce. But cooking and eating should sometimes be an adventure, too. A trip to a local Asian greengrocer or supermarket to buy a few specific ingredients leads to all sorts of rewarding encounters, both edible and personal. If you come across any unfamiliar ingredients in the recipes, check the glossary where you will find helpful notes about the items and how and where you might find them.

For those who love Southeast Asia like we do, and constantly feel its unmistakable lure, we hope that, in some small way, this collection recreates its culinary enticements, without the need to buy yourself a plane ticket.

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