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Ep7: The Complete Asian Cookbook - Sri Lanka and The Philippines by Charmaine Solomon

Another fun lunch, another set of interesting recipes.

Since we've settled into a comfortable arrangement around how we organize our meets and pick our books, there really isn't much left to talk about, except who attended and what they cooked. So, this time around, I'll do a small review of the book. And if that works, this might as well become a cookbook club that does book reviews. Sounds like adding some more fun to the exercise, if you ask me.

At our last cookbook club meet, we had a bunch of new faces. So, while talking to them about what we usually do, we mentioned that we'd made Sri Lankan food the time before that. That's when Keya, who was a first timer at the Justin Gellatly cookbook meet, mentioned she has a wonderful book by Charmaine Solomon about Sri Lankan and Filipino food. With everyone equally and almost instantaneously excited about it, the decision was easy.

The vegetarians dropped out over the next couple of weeks because, as it turns out, Filipino food (even the vegetarian dishes) use a lot of chicken stock and shrimp paste.

The book, going by its title, is one out of a series of books on Asian cooking. The other books in the series cover groups of countries:

  • India & Pakistan

  • Indonesia, Malaysia & Singapore

  • Japan & Korea

  • Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos & Burma

  • and China,

with each book being divided into a section of its own, by country.

Every individual section in each book begins with an introduction to the country - cultural and historical aspects, and how those relate to the food that native folk cook food.

Some of us, while going over the book, had comfortably skipped the introduction, yet observed that the recipes had a heavy Spanish influence. Turns out, the introduction explains why that is. Filipino food is a mix of recipes from Malay traders, Spanish conquerors, and local tribes. The book also talks about how meals are typically served.

Recipes then follow, being grouped into four sections, the first three being seafood, meat and veggies. Of course, it's a little alarming and disappointing that there are only four vegetarian recipes - three of which use pork or shrimp. But that's hardly the fault of the book or author. The cuisine, I'm led to believe, is meat heavy.

The dessert section at the end is, again, heavy on Spanish influence and you see recipes for flan and bombones de arroz, among others.

The recipes are pretty accurate - they even give users tips on what they can substitute for ingredients that may not be locally available. For instance, annatto seeds can be substituted with a mixture of turmeric and red chilli powder. While cooking, as Indian consumers, all of us did think that there wasn't enough spice/heat in the recipes, but the end product tasted great nevertheless.

For non-vegetarians, this book provides a window into a culture less explored and a fresh set of South East Asian recipes. I'm looking forward to picking up another book from the series!



About our potluck, here's who attended and what they brought

  • Keya fried some empanadas (pastries filled with a mix of chicken and pork)

  • I brought in some lumpias (egg wrappers filled with lettuce and a shrimp, chicken & pork filling) that we assembled just before eating

  • Suraj (Prabhudesai) made the Pipi-An (chicken and pork in peanut sauce)

  • Sahil made the Adobong Manok (chicken adobo with coconut sauce), both the curries were served with white rice.

  • Pranav baked some Capuchinos (brandied cakes) and also made some Rum and Chocolate cupcakes by tweaking the Capuchinos recipe

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