Four Dishes of the Earth
From Bangkok to Baghdad, these two cookbooks by Sarin Rojanametin, Jean Thamthanakorn and Anissa Helou will transport you to a faraway land.
A cookbook can be a portal, a time machine, a convex lens into a faraway place through the prism of food. With the right book, you can find perspectives that would otherwise be foreign, and expand your understanding of how other people eat – for enjoyment and not just for sustenance.
For our International Issue, we’ve chosen two books that swept us off our feet from the moment we flipped through the first pages.
In Feast: Food of the Islamic world ($54.27, amazon.ca), acclaimed food writer Anissa Helou has managed to show the impact Islamic culture has had on the culinary world through the ages. The stories behind the recipes add historical context for this cookbook that won her a James Beard International Cookbook Award.
Authors Sarin Rojanametin and Jean Thamthanakorn take us on a deep-dive into the bustling streets of one of Southeast Asia’s most important food cities. The beauty of Bangkok Local: Cult recipes from the streets that make the city ($23.33, amazon.ca) is that it covers many lesser-known Thai dishes that make Bangkok one of the most famous street food cities in the world. The food is equal parts vibrant and spicy. Enjoy the trip.
Jean Thamthanakorn & Sarin Rojanametin's Prawn Noodles
Head-on prawns are the star of this light and flavourful noodle dish that makes for an easy lunch.
1. Fill a large bowl with cold water and soak the glass noodles until they have softened. Drain in a colander and set aside.
2. Combine the oyster sauce, soy sauces, caster sugar, sesame oil, white pepper, shaoxing rice wine and ½ cup water in a mixing bowl. Add the glass noodles and mix thoroughly until evenly coated. Set aside to marinate.
3. In a mortar and pestle, pound the black peppercorns into a fine powder and set aside.
4. Coat the bottom of a wok or a large saucepan with the vegetable oil. Evenly layer the pork belly slices along the bottom, then place the ginger slices on top, followed by the prawns. Sprinkle with the pounded black pepper and pour the glass noodles and marinade over the top. Cover with a lid and bring to the boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and steam for 7 minutes.
5. Add the spring onion and celery, cover and cook for a further 2 minutes. Serve immediately in the cooking vessel or transfer to a serving plate.
◆ 3½ oz dried glass noodles
◆ 1 Tbsp oyster sauce
◆ 2 Tbsp soy sauce
◆ 1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
◆ 2 tsp superfine sugar
◆ 1 tsp sesame oil
◆ 1 tsp ground white pepper
◆ 2 Tbsp shaoxing rice wine
◆ 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
◆ 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
◆ 3½ oz pork belly, cut into 10 slices
◆ 1 whole small young ginger root, cut into 5 pieces
◆ 7 oz tiger prawns, cleaned
◆ 5 spring onions, cut into 2 in lengths
◆ 2 Chinese celery stalks, cut into 2 in lengths
Jean Thamthanakorn & Sarin Rojanametin's Crispy Pork
Indulgent pork belly gets a light-footed dance partner in stir-fried and spicy Chinese broccoli.
1. Prepare the pork a day or two in advance. Using a sharp knife, score lines into the skin a ¼-inch apart, taking care not to cut into the meat. Place the pork on a piece of foil and fold the edges of the foil up around the meat, but not the skin. Transfer to the refrigerator and let the exposed skin air-dry for 1–2 days.
2. On the day of serving, preheat the oven to 430 F. Place the pork and the foil on a baking tray, sprinkle the pork skin with the salt and roast for 25–30 minutes, until the skin is crisp and golden and the meat is just cooked through. Remove from the oven and allow to rest, uncovered, for a minimum of 15 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wok over high heat. Sauté the garlic and chillies until fragrant. Add the Chinese broccoli and shiitake mushrooms and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Season with the oyster sauce, soy sauce and fish sauce and stir-fry for a further 2–3 minutes. Stir through the white pepper and remove from the heat.
4. Transfer the Chinese broccoli to a plate. Slice the pork belly and arrange on top of the Chinese broccoli. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.
◆ 14 oz pork belly
◆ 1 Tbsp fine sea salt
◆ ⅓ cup vegetable oil
◆ 4 garlic cloves, chopped
◆ 3 red bird’s eye chillies, sliced
◆ 2 bunches Chinese broccoli, finely sliced on the diagonal
◆ 3½ oz shiitake mushrooms, cut into ¼-inch slices
◆ 1 Tbsp oyster sauce
◆ 1 Tbsp soy sauce
◆ 1½ Tbsp fish sauce
◆ 1 tsp ground white pepper
◆ Steamed jasmine rice
Anissa Helou’s Lamb Tangine
Get set for cooler evenings with this one-pot tagine featuring hearty lamb shanks. Fancier tagines can be used as a serving plate as well as a cooking vessel.
1. Put the shanks, onion, garlic and seasonings in a large pot, barely cover with water (about 1 litre) and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and cook covered for 1 hour, or until the meat is tender. Turn the meat into the sauce after 30 minutes, then again after 15 minutes and again before adding the potatoes and peas. They should cook within the hour but check for tenderness before adding the vegetables, and, if need be, extend the cooking time by 15 to 30 minutes, adding a little more water.
2. While the meat is cooking, prepare the potatoes and herbs and if you are using frozen peas defrost them by plunging them in boiling water.
3. When the meat is ready, add the herbs (reserving a little cilantro for garnish) and potatoes, and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are just done. Then add the peas and cook, with the pan uncovered for another few minutes until the peas are done. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. If the sauce is still runny, uncover the pan and let it bubble hard until the sauce has thickened. Transfer the meat and vegetables to a serving dish. Garnish with cilantro and serve very hot with good bread.
◆ 4 lamb shanks
◆ 2 medium onions, cut in half, thinly sliced into wedges
◆ 2 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
◆ 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
◆ A good pinch saffron threads
◆ ½ tsp ground cumin
◆ ½ tsp ground ginger
◆ ½ tsp finely ground black pepper
◆ 1 tsp paprika
◆ Sea salt to taste
◆ 2 oz flat-leaf parsley, most of the bottom stalks discarded, finely chopped
◆ 1/4 bunch cilantro, most of the bottom stalks discarded, finely chopped
◆ 1 lb new potatoes, left whole if very small or cut in half
◆ 9 oz fresh or frozen petits pois
Anissa Helou’s Pakistani/Indian Ice Cream
These pops do a delicious job of combining comforting and warm flavours with a cool, icy experience and a smooth, creamy texture.
1. Put the saffron to steep in 2 tablespoons of milk.
2. Put the rest of the milk in a pot and place over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then add the cream. Reduce the heat to low and let the milk and cream bubble gently, stirring very regularly so as not to let the bottom burn, until reduced by half.
3. Add the sugar and slivered nuts and mix well. Let bubble for 5 minutes, then take off the heat and add the cardamom. Let cool completely before ladling into kulfi molds and freezing for 4 to 5 hours. Halfway through, insert a bamboo stick into each kulfi. To take the kulfi out of the molds, plunge in hot water. Garnish with slivered pistachios.
◆ Pinch saffron threads
◆ 1 litre whole milk
◆ 1/4 cup crème fraiche or mawa/khoya
◆ 1/2 cup raw cane sugar
◆ 1 Tbsp slivered pistachios, plus extra for garnish
◆ 1 Tbsp slivered almonds
◆ 4 green cardamom pods, shell discarded, seeds coarsely ground