Book review: A Splash of Soy by Lara Lee
A Splash of Soy is a celebration of Asian home cooking with recipes designed to be made quickly with minimal mess.
Author Lara Lee takes influence from her upbringing to a Chinese-Indonesian father and Australian mother, eulogising the contrasts in flavour, temperature and texture offered by the cuisine of her childhood.
Australia, she says, has always explored playful interpretations of the dishes introduced by the country's immigrant communities. Accordingly, A Splash of Soy is not a homage to authenticity but features recipes that retain traditional flavour combinations with simplified technique and fun twists.
The result is a selection of recipes spanning weekend brunches, curries, broths, stir-fries, noodles and sweet sensations – with all savoury dishes that can be prepared in between 10 and 45 minutes. Take for example, Lee's almost-instant chicken katsu curry, which uses good-quality breaded chicken fillets to make it achievable in just 25 minutes.
While authenticity is not king, Lee does highlight those ingredients she considers to be ‘life-changing' and essential to appreciate a dish, for example, Tom Yom, which is used in a 15-minute soup, a bloody Mary and roast chicken recipes. There are also influences from London's food scene, with a kimchi, spring onion and siracha cheese toastie paying homage to one served at the now-closed Pacific Social Club in Hackney, London, close to where Lee first lived with her now husband.
Less familiar dishes include a charred leek gulai sayur, which has a fiery lemongrass, lime leaf and ginger spice base, blistered miso cabbage with seaweed and a banana katsu with soy sauce caramel. A miso and gochujang butter roast chicken that promises "sweet-spicy-umami richness" caught my eye along with lemongrass charred brussels sprouts.
A Splash of Soy may not be a bible to culinary tradition but its vibrant, colourful Asian-western mash-ups would offer great inspiration for chefs considering a pop-up or themed day.
A Splash of Soy – Everyday Food from Asia by Lara Lee (Bloomsbury, £22)