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Eating Chinese and a cookbook review

I’m not a big fan of Chinese food. Chinjabi (Chinese + Punjabi) even less. And in India, trust me, you get a LOT of it. Which is strange because I really do like Oriental cuisine. We make Thai at least twice a month at home. I love Japanese (did you know that the Japanese do a mean all-vegetarian meal?), adore Korean (I can eat Kimchi by the bucket) and really really like Vietnamese (Bahn-mis are my current obsession).

I think there are two reasons why Indian Chinese doesn’t make the cut for me:
1. Its too deep fried. Or at least here in India, everything is deep fried. Maybe the chefs here feel a bit like Elvis. Deep fried Sesame toast is their deep fried Twinkie.
2. When the Husband and I had just started seeing each other, we’d land up eating a lot of Chinese food. Nearly twice a week, noodles and lamb would be staple dinner.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’ll never eat it. There are times when we land up drinking at a ‘dirty’ Chinese place right after work and are hungry. That’s when the Honey chilli potatoes and the chicken salt and pepper bring it on with the Vodka. Other times, I am in the minority (which happens many times over) and well, Schwezwan lamb is the order of the day.

A couple of years ago, Kylie Kwong’s TV show would aired. And I made the biggest mistake ever. I tried out a few of her recipes and they were oh-my-god, God awful.

For almost a whole year, I couldn’t bring myself to eat noodles, let alone walk into a Chinese place. Until I met Steamy Kitchen that is. Jaden Hair, really changed the way I thought of Chinese food. She made it seem simple. Not oily, filled with fresh vegetables and best of all, so pretty. 

When her cookbook came out in 2009, I was devastated I couldn't order it to India. Much later, when Flipkart started sourcing imported books, this was one of the first few books I ordered off them. 

And what a joy this cookbook has been. I used to be afraid of making Asian food at home, she helped me conquer my fear. Her photographs are gorgeous, and the recipes you make out of her books, really really look like what's in the book. And it's not just Chinese food. She's included a whole range from Asian recipes - Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese

Her language is simple and the instructions are very clear, making it easy to follow. She's also included a whole range of products, many of which can be easily sourced in India. While the cookbook has a lot of meat-based options, I have often substituted the meats. For example her Bahn-mi calls for beef, I use chicken. Instead of pork chops, I've used lamb chops. 'Ive replaced a number of vegetables- if I don't have pok choy I use spinach, if I don't have snow peas, I've used beans. And it's always always turned out great. And each time, the flavours remain constant.

I've thrown two huge Asian dinners based on her cookbooks (10-15 people) and I barely even had any leftovers.

Two of my favourite recipes are the Miso Mashed Potatoes and the Vietnamese Summer rolls. I have made the rolls with tofu (for vegetarians) and chicken. And trust me, even a complete spaz in the kitchen can roll these. They were light and delicious and could be made ahead. They also work well for a DIY dinner.

For her Thai curry, Jaden doesn't insist you make your own paste (you can if you wish) but tells you how to improve on the paste you've got in packet. Her Pad Thai is an improvement on the shop bought paste and her egg rolls, are well, just divine (even though they are deep fried).

Some of the recipes take under half an hour to make. The ingredients are readily available and you make an inexpensive and delicious meal from this book.

She's now on her second cookbook, and I cannot wait to pre-order it. My  book, now over two years old, is dog-eared, splattered with sauces, but each time I open it, I find myself wanting to eat from the book. 

You should get it. Really you should.

Available in India, US and UK

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  1. Thanks for gifting me Kylie Kwong's book. it's heavy good to hit somebody on the head with. Her recipes are so bad, so bad, that even an Asian food loving person like me gets disgusted.

    Your Miso potatoes I love. Spinach and tofu I love. Burmese curry i love. Vietnamese rolls I love. Thank you Jaden Hair.

    1. Chompsee, you told me you loved her. Therefore I thought you'd be happy to read her book. :) Next time I'll give you a tried and tested cookbook

  2. I used to love watching Kylie Kwong (especially her jewellery) thank god I never tried any of her food, too much soy for me at least!
    Will definitely try Jaden Hair and let u know for sure :)