You may, erm, already know that I’m a fan of Bill Granger. But you may not know, unless like me you are a bit of an addict, that he has a new book out. I have been desperate to get my hands on it since I read an article about it in the Telegraph a couple of weeks ago and, today, my copy arrived so I savoured it in the sunshine with a cup of coffee. To me a book about Asian food written by BG is a match made in culinary heaven. Why? Because most cookery books about Asian food (more on that description in a minute) have such endless lists of ingredients, equipment and techniques that my heart sinks before you can say ‘glossary’. But if there was ever someone to cut out the unnecessary faffing without losing the flavours it’s him.
This is a really practical and accessible guide to all things Asian, particularly the basics. Recipes for pad thai, green curry and hoisin chicken are happily tucked together like tourists in a tuktuk with less well known, yet equally approachable dishes such as beef rendang, duck soup and bibimbap. And, just as his summer salads can bring life into the dullest of English Augusts, so the photography in this book, full of garish and brightly coloured backdrops, pale green woodwork and blue seas, will rejuvenate the greyest of winters. Well, I’m hoping they will. At £20 and 250 pages of glossy pictures and recipes it’s both a treat and a bargain.
I do have a tiny issue with the notion of there being such a thing as ‘Asian’ cuisine, since it seems a tad reductive to suggest that the food culture of the world’s biggest continent can be summed up by one word. After all I’m not totally sure the Sicilians would like to be lumped together with the Scots under the term ‘European’. Aside from that semantic PC grumble I can’t wait to start trying stuff. If you’re a real whizz with the wok, and well-versed in the art of Thai curry pastes and noodle dishes it might not be for you. However, if you love pad thai, fried rice and pho but your versions never have quite the same zing as your local restaurant’s, then cancel your next order of 22, 46 and two portions of steamed rice and spend the £20 on this instead.