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Book review: Spice Temple by Neil Perry

15 March 2016
Book review: Spice Temple by Neil Perry

Lantern, £25

On the face of it, this is an odd offering: a book on Chinese cooking written by an Australian and built around one of his restaurants in Sydney. How will this help our chef struggling for ideas in Birmingham or Aberdeen?

My advice is to seek out this book and use its insight. Forget the preliminary guff from staff and well-wishers about the restaurant, and instead concentrate on the recipes and advice that follow. Try the Yunnan fried rice with mushrooms and chilli; three-shot chicken; beer chilli and soy; or, my favourite take on a cliché, hot, sweet, sour and numbing pork.

Of the fish dishes, most species are to be found in both Billingsgate and Sydney. There's recipes containing crab, lobster, prawn and squid, though blue-eye trevalla fillets might take a little more effort to find.

Probably the most useful parts of the book are the simplest dishes and the preparations, such as roast Szechuan pepper and salt; the pickles, like the cucumber with garlic and ginger; and the straightforward dumpling and wonton recipes.

Desserts never strike me as much of a feature of Chinese cooking, but Perry's offerings use oriental fruits and spices to make the sort of puds a top-class restaurant offers. This is one of the possible advantages of a foreigner taking on oriental cuisine. How about mango mousse with condensed milk Chantilly; passion fruit marshmallows; or lychee granita with dried strawberries and hazelnut praline? They all sound good to me.

By Shaun Hill, chef-proprietor, the Walnut Tree, Llanddewi Skirrid, Abergavenny

If you like this, you may enjoy these

  • Rockpool Bar and Grill Neil Perry
  • Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking Fuchsia Dunlop
  • Chinese Food Made Easy Ching-He Huang

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