Cookbook review: Malaysian Food

Is the proof of the pudding in the eating – or the reading?

Malaysian Food

When it comes to cookbooks, probably the answer should be both but being an armchair cook seems a perfectly reasonable approach to finding out about an unfamiliar cuisine.

I’ve been reading Malaysian Food by Norman Musa, the chef at Manchester’s Ning restaurant, but I’ll own up to not actually having cooked anything from it as yet.

Apart from the fact I’ve been travelling a lot recently, one of the reasons is sourcing some of the specific ingredients for this cuisine. But here, Musa proves to be exceptionally helpful, not only explaining what some of the ingredients are, but also including pictures and even his recommended brands.

I don’t know about you, but I find locating ingredients in Chinatown stores is often bewildering, so having some idea of what Belacab (shrimp paste) or Kari Ikan (fish curry powder) might look like in the shop, takes some of the fear of the unknown out of the experience.

And Musa provides a very patient commentary of Malaysian custom and his own experiences throughout the book. Such as this description of a street market, which not only informs the reader about some of the ingredients, but also evokes a colourful sense of the place.

“If I am with my mum, she would always get Nasi Lemak, Malysia’s national dish of coconut rice served with boiled egg, peanuts, crispy dried anchovies, cucumber, chilli sambal paste and sometimes chicken. While I eat, the street cats roam around vying for attention and scraps of food.”

The book is also full of evocative photography – from those market stalls of his home country to the individual dishes being created – everything is presented in a vibrant and engaging way.

Reading this has certainly whetted my appetite to get cooking – after a quick stop off at Manchester’s Chinese supermarkets for supplies.

Malaysian Food is on sale through Amazon or direct from the Northern Quarter restaurant and Ning can also be found on Twitter @itsaningthing.

Note: The cookbook was provided free of charge for review purposes.

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