Saturday, 26 March 2011

Two Asian Kitchens by Adam Liaw

I haven't actually cooked any of the dishes in Two Asian Kitchens (I'm the type of chef who prefers the taste of food that's been prepared by someone else), so I'm reviewing it purely as a book.  

Adam Liaw's Two Asian Kitchens is due for release in April. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Adam, he's the winner of the 2010 season of MasterChef - making him Australia's current MasterChef. Two Asian Kitchens is a wonderful cookbook that caters for every culinary skill set. The recipes vary from the simple to the complicated and from the traditional to the new. In fact, the 'two Asian kitchens' of the title refer to the dividing line in this book between traditional recipes and new recipes that blend these traditions with Adam's eclectic upbringing and experience as a migrant in Australia.

The first section of Two Asian Kitchens outlines stocks, sauces and various other pantry items that, if prepared in advance, will store well and make cooking easier. Adam's philosophy is that by spending "a few relaxing hours on the weekend" preparing these items, time is saved when it comes to cooking and you don't have an excuse for not making wonderful meals during the week.

This handy section is then followed by a section that outlines several important techniques such as making dumplings, stir frying and preparing sushi. Already it's a comprehensive and detailed cookbook - and we haven't even encountered a proper recipe yet.

The rest of Two Asian Kitchens is divided into two parts - the old kitchen and the new kitchen. In the old kitchen, Adam presents recipes from his past, from his family and classic dishes from Asia. Dishes featured are beef rendang, siew yuk with chilli and coriander relish, fish-head curry, katsudon and char siew pork neck among others.

In the new kitchen, Adam reflects on what he sees as the 'bold innovation' currently taking place in Australian cooking. He encourages readers to be fearless as chefs. Included in this section are dishes such as black belly rice bowl (with lemon paste and pickled chilli), aromatic poached fish with chilli and greens, fennel and black pepper pork belly with pork condiment and tempura fish and chips with pickled chili mandarin curd among others. I especially liked the look of the farmers union iced coffee pudding with tea-smoked chocolate and five-spice tenkasu.

Photography in cookbooks has become increasingly crucial and it's a pleasure to report that the photos in Two Asian Kitchens will definitely make you hungry. In fact, as I sit here flicking through them I'm beginning to crave some delicious Asian cooking. But I'm in the office at work, so it'll have to wait until I get home.

 Adam Liaw will be appearing at Shearer's Bookshop at 7.15pm on Tuesday April 5 to discuss MasterChef, Two Asian Kitchens and cooking. Samples from Adam's book will be available to try on the night. Tickets are $15 and bookings are essential. Please call Shearer's on (02) 9572 7766 to book. 

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