The Spice Merchant's Daughter: Recipes and Simple Spice Blends for the American Kitchen
Christina Arokiasamy, . . Clarkson Potter, $29.95 (231pp) ISBN 978-0-307-39628-0
The perfumes of Malaysia practically float off the pages of this beautifully composed cookbook. With a Proustian nostalgia, cooking instructor Arokiasamy follows her nose back to Kuala Lumpur, where her mother ran a spice stall (and her great-great-grandfather transported spices for the English East India Company), mangoes were delivered to their home by bicycle and baths were enhanced with ginger-scented water. Her aim is to introduce turmeric, star anise and saffron to readers in a country where the term “spice blend” usually refers to Colonel Sanders's secret recipe. Here, spices are the very foundation of cooking; Arokiasamy demonstrates how concentrated sambal made from shrimp paste or a garam masala can be prepared in advance to simplify dishes in a time-strapped kitchen. Recipes circle her native Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Though Braised Pork in Caramelized Soy Sauce and Rice Noodles with Seafood and Basil, for example, are densely flavorful, they are also relatively easy to make. Arokiasamy is a natural teacher, offering useful cook's tips with how-tos for makingrice powder and peeling shallots. Suggested spice pairings, a list of shopping resources and a chapter defining the components of a spice pantry give cooks the tools for improvising on their own. Illuminating her techniques with vivid personal anecdotes, Arokiasamy offers a tantalizing glimpse of a rich, vibrant culture and all its scents and flavors.
Reviewed on: 06/16/2008