Yes, it’s a BBQ book but one with a difference. The Asian Grill will capture the imagination of those who long for something more exotic. There are those fire-extinguisher-wielding, burnt-offering-offering culinary pyromaniacs who think that charcoal adds flavour. No, my little Webber warrior, my Hibachi hero! The charcoal is the fuel and not the food; add flavour by thoughtful use of marinades and condiments.
Corinne Trang is an international chef and food authority. Her heritage is Asian and European, and she is one of the few who are truly at home with both genres; but more importantly she loves food. Might sound a strange and rather obvious statement but there are many chefs and food-industry gurus who are just doing a job, but Corinne is a chef, a food professional, and a foodie with all the passionate enthusiasm that word implies.
I am not a lover of Fusion food as it is so often a compromise. Some chefs have built reputations on marrying ingredients which should never even have been introduced. Corinne’s food is easily described as good food with Asian flavour. There is nothing here that will bring the cry of horror, nothing that jars, but plenty that looks good on paper and even better on a plate.
The Asian Grill will gently lead you away (you can return from time to time) from ketchup, mustard and liquid smoke and will playfully nudge you in the direction of soy sauce, sesame oil and mirin. All the ingredients are available in a supermarket near you or via mail order. The cooking techniques don’t require a training course and you probably already have the equipment, so you are ready to dazzle.
Back-yard grilling isn’t famed for having a sophisticated meal as its end-product. It’s more often burgers like hockey pucks and flavourless chicken. It’s rarely the food that is the centre of attention but rather the grilling process that encourages conviviality. We marvel at the “skill” of (mostly) men who only don an apron when the smell of lighter fuel is in the air. Grilling is simple and was the first cooking method. Cavemen didn’t say “I’ll rustle up a nice soufflé for lunch” or “How about a delicately toasted English muffin with passion-fruit jelly?” No, dear reader, it would likely be “Pass me the pinny, Unk, I’m grilling tonight.”
Corinne has a flair for flavour, not only for the dishes that are grilled, but for all the associated breads, rices, noodles, and even sweets and drinks. There is everything you will need in this one vibrant and attractive volume. You will be able to compose meals around the grill that will be elegant but still fun both to cook and to eat.
I love lamb and The Asian Grill has a recipe that is a joy. Lamb Marinated in Yellow Spice Paste is flavoured with a pungent mix which elevates these kebabs into something mouthwatering. Corinne suggests serving these with Scallion Flat Bread from this same book. Pork Patties could be an alternative filling for that bread, and this recipe has a distinct Vietnamese flavour with fish sauce and lemon grass. BBQ Pork is Corinne’s version of the Cantonese classic, Char Siu, often seen hanging in windows in Chinatowns the world over. This will always be a crowd-pleaser.
Perhaps my favourite recipe is that for Spicy Sweet Soy Sauce Marinated Chicken. It couldn’t be easier to prepare but the resulting bird is a long way from the usual lack-lustre poultry of by-gone BBQs …or I might choose Spicy Squid Salad …but Asian Clambake is impressive …although…
The Asian Grill is a book stuffed with tempting and flavourful food. You don’t need to know anything about cooking Asian food, and even a novice griller should be confident of a lot of compliments; everything you need to know is here. Corinne Trang has once again produced a book that will soon be stained through much use, and that’s a fine accolade for any cookbook.
Asian cookbook review: The Asian Grill
Author: Corinne Trang
Published by: Chronicle Books
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018