Vegans and vegetarians are becoming mainstream. While Asian restaurants have always been more accommodating than, say, barbecue or hamburger joints, good cookbooks with manageable Asian recipes are just now putting in an appearance. Patricia Tanumihardj’s Farm to Table Asian Secrets blends flavors, pays deference to our healthy lifestyle aspirations, and comes with valuable sidebar tips.
Before reaching the seasonally organized recipes, Tanumihardja gives a practical list of basic pantry items, listing exotic herbs and spices and differentiating between the various noodles, often a tricky choice for the novice to figure out.
By providing traditional and innovative guidelines for the sauces, soups, and side dishes, Tanumihardja begins to dissolve the mystique of Asian cooking. She suggests cooking always with fresh produce, if available in nearby oriental or specialty stores, or else frozen or even canned. “But,” she adds, “please don’t fret if you can’t find it at all.”
Tanumihardja exceeds her three goals, which are to show meatless meals can be tasty and satisfying, to de-mystify exotic ingredients, and to teach a few Asian techniques and tricks. Her “secrets” are closer to revelations. The ubiquitous Thai fish sauce can be imitated with kelp flakes, and General Tso, famous for his restaurant menu chicken, suggests eggplant as an alternative.
It’s best not to open the book if hungry because the temptation to experiment would be hard to resist.
Reviewed By: Jane Manaster