Tag Archives: Asian Cooking

Gok’s Wok


Gok’s Wok
Fast, Fresh, healthy Asian Recipes
By Gok Wan
Ebury Press – £20.00

Absolutely fabulous. Did I say fabulous? Indeed I did. Gok’s Wok – Fast, Fresh Healthy Asian Recipes is a joy of a book to behold, embrace and partake in.

That it perfectly reflects Gok Wan’s personality – these 223 pages are unsurprisingly colourful, exciting and friendly – ought hardly be surprising. Reason being, it was always going to be a given that were the fashion expert and award-winning televison presenter to publish another cookery book (the first being his Gok Cooks Chinese), then this would probably be the outstanding result.

It’s ten chapters are, as already mentioned, colourful, exciting and friendly.

Colourful, because much of the exquisite photography lures you into wanting to try out nearly all the recipes immediately. Exciting, because the recipes are a little different from your lazy staple of meat and two veg/pasta dishes that find themselves on the average family table on a weekly basis. And friendly, because the cooking itself really is simple while the ingredients are more than readily accessible. There’s none of this poached partridge drizzled in truffle oil nonsense, which can so easily turn just the shopping aspect alone, into a grind of a nightmare.

So yeah, my partner and I tried the Filipino Pork and Mango Curry, which, apart being super sensational, was something of a simple and non-time consuming dish to make. It has to be said that once we’ve worked our way through the many other splendiferous offerings, it will most certainly be added to our menu on a regular basis.

Moreover, what makes Gok’s Wok so exciting, is that it looks so great. As such, photographer Romas Foord and food stylist Robert Allison warrant full credit for having undertaken and delivered a most meticulous and marvellous result. So much so, that I really would have liked a photo for every recipe, but then this is perhaps sheer indulgence.

I just adore the wonderful artwork too much I guess.

A brief synopsis of how this book needs to be approached and appreciated, is essentially shared by the author himself, when, in the Introduction he writes: ”Food is at the core of every Asian family and life begins and ends at the dinner table. Every occasion – whether it’s a wedding or a funeral – centres around a massive sharing table where you’re given your foundation of rice and then you choose your meat, fish and veggie dishes to go with it. You often share anywhere between 8 and 20 dishes around the table, with your chopsticks touching those next to you, almost as though you’re holding hands. But sharing a meal doesn’t need to be an elaborate feast of lobster, suckling pig an duck; it can be as simple as a bowl of broth. I think taking the time to sit down and eat a meal together is one of the most basic principles of living, and cooking for your loved ones lets them know how much you appreciate them. Learning to share a meal is the biggest gift I’ve ever been given and now I want to pass it on to you.”

Well I for one, am most pleased Gok Wan has decided to pass it on. For as mentioned at the outset, this really is a joy of a book to behold, embrace and partake in.

David Marx

Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey

Far Eastern Odyssey
By Rick Stein
BBC Books – £25.00

A couple of years ago, I attended a party in Cornwall, where, amid the spritzers, groovers and a coterie of cakes and cosmological conversation, I met Rick Stein – and what an all round charming chap he is too. Polite, considerate and more than happy to have his photograph taken with the host, it was only when my partner told me who he was, that I realised it was the renowned TV presenter, top chef and author of numerous books (among them: Seafood Lovers’ Guide, Taste of the Sea, Food Heroes, French Odyssey, Mediterranean Escapes and the more recent Coast to Coast).

Although said titles, do admittedly leave a tad to be desired in the imaginative department, all the books lend themselves to that of a tantalisingly, mouth-watering insistence. This most recent addition being no exception. Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey is a book that triggers a veritable avalanche of gastronomically inspired ideas from Cambodia and Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

In other words, it’s a book that ensures the taste buds run riot amid a menagerie of quintessentially spice-induced simplicity. As the author writes in relation to Southeast Asian cooking near the outset of his Introduction: ‘’the robust simplicity of the food, the immediacy of it. It takes no time to produce. It’s a glorious assault on the senses. It also seems to us to be healthy: vegetables are raw or hardly cooked; there’s a lot of seafood; freshwater fish everywhere; meat is used sparingly and rice is mostly simply steamed. It’s almost as if we’ve stumbled on something so obvious we can’t believe we’ve missed it all this time.’’

Indeed we can’t, which is why this book is as timely as it is necessary.

Quite simply, it enables the (Western) novice to engage upon a culinary discovery, which is not readily made available amid the norm’n’gorm’n’salt-drenched, pre-packaged nonsense, of a wilfully suspect persuasion.

This book – by way of Stein’s openness, vast experience and willingness to appreciate what might otherwise be considered a little too petulant to be taken seriously – is a cookbook with a difference. Reason being, it approaches the appreciation of the palette, by way of starting all over again. For instance, in relation to such a dish as ‘Bo nhang dam,’ I can appreciate the author’s inspired excitement (as I too discovered this ‘Vietnamese hotpot’ when visiting the country myself last year): ‘’I was lucky enough to participate in a Vietnamese hotpot dinner of immense complexity and for a large number of people. As far as I remember, there was raw beef, prawns, chicken and squid, along with cabbage, quartered tomatoes, slices of pineapple and broccoli stems. You dipped the meat into a simmering broth with chopsticks, then put it on a lettuce leaf, added crunchy vegetables and fresh herbs, rolled it up and dipped it into the most delicious pineapple and chilli sauce.’’

Remember what I said about the taste buds running riot? Not exactly fish-fingers and chips is it…

Replete with some excellent colour photography – which in and of themselves, warrant (n)oodles of praise – assorted Basic Recipes (Shallot oil, Duck broth, Thai green curry paste) and Accompaniments (Cucumber and mint raita, Bangladeshi spiced pilau rice, Sweet green mango chutney with panch phoran), Far Eastern Odyssey is an absolute treasure trove of a book.

I for one, will be utilising these 150 new recipes to such an extent, that it won’t be long before the book unfortunately falls apart. As such, it comes highly recommended.

David Marx