The best food I've ever tasted - hands down - was on a trip I took nearly 15 years ago to Malaysia and Singapore. With its mixture of Malay, Indian, and Chinese culinary heritages, and a bit of neighbouring Thai influence thrown in, every dish seemed to explode with flavours. Subtle and spicy. I can never entirely repeat the experience because in the intervening years I've developed an annoying shrimp allergy (sigh), but I've enjoyed trying to recreate a little bit of it this weekend with this new cookbook, The Spice Merchant's Daughter. The author Christina Arokiasamy, grew up in Malacca, Malaysia (as did my own mum), trained in hotel kitchens and now lives in Hawaii where she runs a cooking school. The recipes in this book are truly tantalizing to read but are not itimidating to try, written purposely to include ingredients that can easily be found in North American grocery or Asian stores. What I really like about this cookbook are the first few chapters that outline all the main ingredients you'll need, along with very useful tips on how long they can be stored and what to look for when buying them. There is a section on how to make your own rubs, pastes, chili powders and peanut sauce. I now have a month's supply of ginger garlic paste in my freezer.
And then come the recipes! I made the Golden Curry Puffs and in memory of the ones I had during High Tea at the famous Raffles Hotel in Singapore, I substituted ground beef for the diced chicken. Very easy to make using puff pastry and very tasty. Other mouthwatering offerings include Coconut Spareribs, Green Beans with Roasted Chile Paste, Salmon with Ginger Butter, and Cardamon Butter Rice. Lots of vegetarian dishes and yes for you lucky ones, plenty of recipes using prawns . The desserts look yummy as well. Jasmine cake made with grated orange zest. Or crepes that combine maple syrup and coconut milk for the topping.
A nice bonus - your kitchen will smell amazing when you cook with these recipes.