Cook Book Club: Two Asian Kitchens
As I was perusing Twitter last month, I came across a Tweet looking for participants for the The Cook Book Club. The Cook Book Club is a group of people that get together once every couple of months to cook recipes out of a specified cook book. It usually happens at the home of Monkylicious in Brisbane, but this month she opened it up to bloggers Australia wide. What grabbed me was the cook book. Two Asian Kitchens is the book recently released by Adam Liaw. I was intrigued to see whether it was any good, and also have a crack at cooking Asian food, so I was in, a fully fledged member of the Cook Book Club.
Monkylicious offered to email the recipe that you chose to cook, but me being me, I couldn’t resist buying the book. And once I bought it I had immense difficulty choosing which dish to cook, so I decided to invite friends over for lunch and cook a few recipes to make up a Sunday lunch.
I got super excited about the book as my favourite cut of meat in the world ever is pork belly, and this book has the most pork belly recipes I have ever seen in one cook book in my life. My only criticism of the book is when I was trying to put together a balanced menu, I struggled to find side dishes to go with the meat dishes I had chosen. So today’s lunch was a little heavy on the meat, but nobody complained.
I love to eat Asian food, but it is not something I have cooked often at home so I was stepping into untapped territory today. My usual dinner parties consist of 3 plus courses so my gut instinct was to find a couple of dishes that could be served as an entree, then follow this by the mains. The Larb Duck (p70) was my entree choice, but I couldn’t find anything to go with it, so I ended up serving it as part of the main, so we had 4 main courses that made up the main and entree combined.
My first choice of main course was Beef Rendang (p46). I chose this dish because I had never heard of it, and I wanted to challenge my Asian cooking. If you asked me my opinion on Asian cooking I would say I don’t like curry but I have recently discovered that I can eat curry, and actually really enjoy it, if I make my own curry paste. I am a big wuss when it comes to chilli, so I have to regulate the amount of chilli so that I can cope with the heat, but I love the rest of the flavours in these dishes, so it is worth the effort. Before today I would also tell you that I don’t like coconut, but I chose the Beef Rendang before I realised it was a coconut based dish. I faithfully followed the recipe, even down to the fresh grated coconut, and boy was I surprised. I cant wait to cook this one again and I’m sure it will become a regular dish on our menu.
Alongside the Rendang there was Lemon Chicken (p90). I chose this recipe because this was always my default choice when we ordered take-out Chinese. I wasn’t sure whether you could actually re-create the take-out at home, but I followed the recipe to the letter and it was spot on, apart from the MSG. We had crispy yet juicy fried chicken, with a thickened lemon sauce. But hey, it was an awesome dish without a teaspoon of MSG in sight.
To ensure there was enough to feed four people I added in some pork belly (p56) which is also a weakness of mine. Initially I had wanted to do the Char Sui Pork Neck but I couldn’t get hold of the pork neck from my butcher this week (I have seen it there many times before) so pork belly it was. I always love pork belly, but this recipe didn’t stand out as an Asian dish. It delivered a meltingly tender piece of pork, with crispy crackling on top but I would probably prefer to serve this with roast potatoes and gravy rather than rice ans soy dipping sauce.
The verdict: overall this was an awesome lunch and I was pleasantly surprised at how an English girl in Sydney could pull off Asian cooking with relative ease. All of the dishes from today came from the ‘old kitchen’ and I will definitely be cooking some of the dishes from the ‘new kitchen’ sometime soon. Thank you Monkylicious for allowing me to take part in an awesome lunch, and I look forward to the next cook book club.