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Asian Bites, by Tom Kime

29 May 2008 by

Asian Bites
Tom Kime
Dorling Kindersley, £12.99
ISBN 978-1-4053-1961-4

Tom Kime, a Brit who's made good in Oz, has transcontinental culinary roots in London's River Café and Sydney's Darley Street Thai. Unsurprisingly, therefore, he favours and writes about unfussy, informal food - particularly what could loosely be termed grazing food - whose key characteristics are ultrafresh ingredients and straightforward cooking methods.

His last book, Street Food, dealt with the wealth of "fast" food peddled on street corners, markets and shopping malls, and this latest one is in every sense a complementary follow-up.

As its title indicates, in it Kime delves further into the world of Asian grazing grub, and for "Asia" read everywhere from the Middle East (including Iran), through the Indian subcontinent to the Japanese archipelago. The predominance, though, is for "bites" from South-east and Far East Asia.

Of course, there are any number of books around in shops dealing with the same subject, but where this one scores is in the clarity of its layout and the clever choice of dishes included.

What's particularly good, especially if you're looking for inspiration for alfresco menus for the summer in your pub or bistro - or even for canapés at a function - is the fact that the chapters are divided into sensory qualities: Smoking Hot (for grills and stir-fries), Crisp and Fiery, Hot and Steamy, Fresh and Aromatic, Tangy and Refreshing, Sugar and Spice.

Another plus is that each chapter contains "keynote" inserts - a way of highlighting building-block ingredients in Asian and Oriental cuisine. For instance, soya products looks at sauces, miso, tamari, tofu, etc. There's also one on curry pastes and spice blends, yet another on aromatic spice. All contain a pinch of culinary history alongside the contemporary culinary purpose.

The recipes are also clearly set out and have short introductions by Klime giving their context. It's good to see ones from lesser-known Asian states like the Laotian spice-pickled onions sitting alongside more familiar dishes like sesame chicken - although this particular version derives from the lesser-vaunted Chinese province of Yunan near the Burmese border. The way Kime presents it - in dainty ceramic soup spoons - makes it a perfect canapé.

The book is packed with simple recipes presented stylishly, with a chef's eye. Like Kime's earlier book, this is great value for the information it gives out and will get you scribbling in your menu notebook.

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