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Rick Stein's Far Eastern Odyssey – Book review

12 August 2009 by
Rick Stein's Far Eastern Odyssey – Book review

Rick Stein's Far Eastern Odyssey
Rick Stein
BBC Books £25
ISBN 978-1-846-07716-6

Rick Stein's latest collection of recipes has taken him from sleepy Cornwall to the bustling streets, markets and waterways of Asia.

As usual, it's the companion volume to a major new BBC series featuring the usually fish-focused chef.

And, as ever, Auntie's high production values are plain to see, with the book's 150 recipes lavishly illustrated by mouthwatering and evocative accompanying images.

How his publishers missed the opportunity to entitle the book "From Padstow to Pad Thai" remains a mystery. Then again, "odyssey" neatly sums up Stein's approach to his work.

Whether he's traversing France by barge, touring the Med's culinary hot spots or travelling the highways and byways of his own country in search of Britain's food heroes, Stein embodies Tom Waits's belief that "the obsession's in the chasing and not the apprehending".

It's all very well knowing how to approximate the hot, sharp intensity of a laksa at home, but how much more satisfying is it to learn how to do so in a Georgetown laksa restaurant on Penang island?

Stein's latest epic voyage took him to "anywhere where outrageously spicy food was the norm", for which read South-east Asia, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Unlike more scholarly works on the regions, like David Thompson's Thai Food and Sri Owen's Indonesian Food, Stein's book doesn't require you to arrange for pallets of unpronounceable ingredients to be FedEx-ed to your kitchen door from the wet markets of Saigon and Bangkok.

Nevertheless, Stein has compiled an authentic and representative cross-section of Asian dishes, encompassing all levels of eating, from snacking to feasting.

Asian food lovers will find much to enjoy here. Regional classics like fish head curry, Hainanese chicken rice, Thai mussaman curry and beef Rendang all merit inclusion. As do street-food staples like satay, Indonesian gado-gado, Thai crispy mussel pancakes with bean sprouts and Balinese nasi kuning, or fragrant yellow rice.

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