After the excesses of the festive season often we crave something simple, healthy and light. Yet with the cold and blustery weather we yearn for comfort too. In the Comida y Vida household this means we often head east for some asian spice.
The most used and “abused” cookbook from my Bookshelf that features recipes for this region is Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey. This book was published back in 2009 to accompany one of this chef’s many tv series’. I purchased the book some time ago but have never written about it here on CYV, but it’s going to be the first post in my series of posts called My Cookbook Collection where I will share a few recipes and reviews of the cookbooks from my collection.
I love food from the east and where time and access to ingredients permit will happily spend hours toasting and grinding spices, pounding garlic and ginger into a paste and all the other detailed preparation that many asian recipes require. The time invested into making your own curry pastes is something I definitely consider to be worth it when you taste the final dish – such depth of flavour. That’s not to say that ready prepared pastes don’t feature in my store cupboard for when time is limited – we all need a little convenience in our lives.
That is kind of how this book feels too, if you have time to leisurely prepare the dishes and access to the wealth of ingredients needed you will be rewarded with some fabulous food. For me, whilst it is possible to stock up on the dried spices and condiments from trips into Birmingham to Wing Yip, getting hold of the fresh ingredients like galangal, kaffir lime leaves and pea aubergines in local supermarkets is nigh on impossible, so creating dishes from this book takes a bit more planning.
The recipes give you the ability to reproduce the true taste of dishes from this region and travel through SE Asia from the comfort of your kitchen. There are 7 chapters, each one devoted to a different country: Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Bali, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Every dish cooked so far has not disappointed, the Beef Kofta Curry is simply delicious and very moreish, the Babi Kecap is devine to name a couple of my favourites. Now I share with you the latest recipe I’ve tried.
Roasted Sea Bass with Hot, Sour and Sweet Sauce
2 seabass – gutted, scaled and trimmed
37ml of fish sauce
25g shallots, finely sliced
15g garlic, thinly sliced
1 bird’s eye chilli, thinly sliced
25g palm sugar
15g tamarind pulp
Preheat the oven to 220C. Make 3 slashes on each side of the fish and place in a shallow dish. Pour over the fish sauce and rub into the slashes.. Pour the excess into a small pan – should be about 25ml.
Heat 1cm oil in a frying pan and once hot, fry the sliced onions/shallots until crisp and golden. Lift out with slotted spoon and leave to drain. Add the garlic to the oil and repeat the same process. Finely do the same with the chilli.
Add the sugar, tamarind and 2 tablespoons of water to the pan of fish sauce. Bring to the boil and simmer for 1 minute till thickened.
Place the fish in a roasting dish and cook in the oven for 12 minutes until it is done – when the flesh flakes away. Reheat the sauce and stir in the fried shallots, garlic and chilli. Place the fish onto the plate, spoon over the sauce and scatter over the fried elements. Serve with rice and bok choi.
I used onions due to not having shallots, only 30ml of fish sauce and tamarind paste which I find a useful time-saver ingredient. If using tamarind pulp you will need to sieve the sauce before serving.
The delicate fish against the flavoursome sauce is just sublime. The sauce delivers all the usual hits to the tastebuds from this corner of the world – sweet, salty, sour and hot. It was the perfect dish to feel healthy and yet comforting too.
If you want a cookbook to give you a a true taste of SE Asia then I think this is the one. I’d advise it is not for a novice though and you would definitely need to invest into a few key store cupboard ingredients.
Hasta la proxima / until next time