cover image ESSENTIALS OF ASIAN CUISINE: Fundamentals and Favorite Recipes

ESSENTIALS OF ASIAN CUISINE: Fundamentals and Favorite Recipes

Corinne Trang, . . Simon & Schuster, $40 (608pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-0312-8

There are some books you never knew you needed until they appear, and then you can't imagine how you did without them. Trang's newest (after Authentic Vietnamese Cooking) is an encyclopedic summation of the history, techniques, ingredients and recipes of the major Asian nations (China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia and the Philippines). It's an ambitious undertaking, but Trang delivers and shows an astonishing mastery of the often subtle differences among the cuisines. (For example, she clearly differentiates between three kinds of hot pots—Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese.) In this vast catalogue, some recipes are relatively familiar, like Bibimbap, Tempura, Hot and Sour Soup, Chicken Adobo; Curried Conch Shells, Fish and Coconut Custard and Oxtail braised in Peanut Sauce are more exotic. While some staples have not been included (such as Kungpao Chicken), the book can hardly be accused of brevity. A true instructor, Trang spends 60 pages on fundamentals before offering any cooking instruction. She fills out each chapter of recipes with an extensive essay on the different permutations taken by shared ingredients—there are 140 pages on "Rice, Noodles, Dumplings, and Breads" alone. The protein chapters are somewhat less impressive; still, this volume should be a first port of call for home cooks eager to undertake a serious study of Asian cooking. (Feb.)