Why buy it?
Adam Liaw’s second cookbook (Two Asian Kitchens was his debut) seems designed to stop you from picking up takeaway Thai on the way home from work. The recipes are those you’d find at your local Asian tuckshops, but without all the legwork one might assume.
Adam introduces every dish with an anecdote, plus cooking tips that will help you on your way. He covers the gamut of Asia’s finest cuisines, including Thai, Filipino, Vietnamese, Japanese and his native Malaysian. So whatever you’re craving can be found among the heap (98 in total). Towards the front, you’ll find Adam’s hand-picked menus with quippy names like “Thai streets”, “Seoul food” and “Good evening, Vietnam”.
Recipes are categorised according to days of the week, with Saturday and Sunday reserved for slightly more elaborate recipes and to prepare certain staples in advance for the week, such as master chicken stocks, garlic and shallot oil. As a kind addition, Adam even reveals the Liaw family’s recipe for XO sauce, not to mention his wife’s Japanese-style cheesecake.
With Asian foods – such as salt and pepper pork belly or mango pancakes – widely found across the nation, he marvels that more of us don’t crack out the wok more often. “Australians today have little trouble telling their teriyaki from their tempura, or their bulgogi from their bibimbap. However, Asian food is most frequently eaten out of takeaway containers.”
A solid month with this book and you might consider opening your own little hole-in-the-wall. That, or welcoming more regular weeknight guests to your abode.
The recipes range from easy to intermediate, but you might have to stock your pantry with a few new sauces and condiments, and potentially buy a wok, if you have never cooked Asian at home before. However, Adam Liaw takes pride in the fact that most ingredients can be found at regular supermarkets.
Fish-sauce roast chicken: this classic with a Thai twist will bring a refreshing change to your Sunday roasts.
Most surprising dish
The Mille-feuille with chilli ponzu is a very comforting dish consisting of many layers of cabbage and pork. “Despite the French name, this fantastic winter one-pot dish is very popular in Japan,” writes Adam.
According to Adam, “Confidence and skill in the kitchen, as in many things, comes with practice. If you say you can’t even fry an egg, try frying five eggs in a row and don’t worry about the ones that fail. Twenty minutes and five eggs is a small price to pay for a skill you will have for the rest of your life.”
People who love Asian food, but who so far have been shy about cooking it at home themselves and busy people, who need easy but tasty recipes they can whip up quickly after work.
Asian After Work, Adam Liaw (Hachette, RRP $40, pbk)