Since becoming a father, Adam Liaw has renewed fervour for the family meal. In his newest cookbook, Adam's Big Pot, his wallet-friendly and time-savvy picks include kimchi fried rice, reinvented green papaya salad (sans papaya) and a dainty soufflé cheesecake. It's like pulling up a seat at Adam's shared table.
20 Nov 2014 - 11:35 AM  UPDATED 20 Nov 2014 - 1:49 PM

Why we cook

There will never be enough time in each day to do everything we want to. That’s something we all know too well. It’s what we choose to do with the time we have that is most important.

For me, there is no more worthwhile labour in a kitchen than feeding a family. Choosing dishes, collecting ingredients, and applying time and effort to the task of preparing a family meal gives a result so much more than just a full stomach.

For most of us, a love of food is born around a family dinner table. It definitely was in my case. The dishes we are served by our loved ones as children will, years later, become the dishes we crave as adults. Those dishes shape our palates and also the way we think about food.


The shared meal

Particularly in Asian cuisines, a shared meal is often defined by its variety. A range of dishes are served in the middle of the table and shared by those around it. Take a piece of whatever you like then move on to the next.

My grandmother says a well-constructed shared meal should contain an odd number of dishes, with a minimum of three. The same variety that makes a shared Asian meal so appealing can also be intimidating for those new to Asian cooking. If you’re baulking at the thought of cooking three, five or even seven different dishes for a simple weeknight dinner, take heart in the fact that you don’t have to.

An Asian meal isn’t always a banquet spread. There are many exceptional and authentic dishes that are perfect for feeding a family from just one big wok, pan, dish or pot. The bigger the family, the bigger the pot. Most of my favourite dishes from my childhood were made in this way and it is why I have called this cookbook Adam’s Big Pot. I want to help make preparing family meals easier and give you some new answers for that age-old question: ‘What’s for dinner?’


Trying something new

There’s a misconception that trying to do something different or new is difficult.

Of course, there are dishes we know like the back of our hands. Old favourites that we have committed to memory and that we could cook with our eyes shut. If those dishes were all that you wanted to cook, you wouldn’t be reading this now.

The thing to remember with those family favourites is, they didn’t start out that way. Every dish we know began as something we cooked for the first time. It was only after we came to love them that they started to get that little bit easier.

I hope somewhere in this book there is a dish or two that you choose to serve to your family. Something that gets asked for again and again, and each time you make it, it becomes a little more your own. Then one day, years from now, when the people you cook for have left and live their lives and come back to visit, you make that meal for them again. And that’s what makes them feel like they’re home.


Cook the book

1. Carrot and cucumber som tam

This som tam is a great veg-heavy salads

2. Japanese soufflé cheesecake

3. Kimchi fried rice

4. Okonomipotato

5. Udon with friends

Adam's Big Pot by Adam Liaw, with photographs by Steve Brown (Hachette, $39.99, pbk). 


Something more?

View all Adam Liaw recipes