The Eastern and Oriental Cookbook: nice name for a cookbook. It has an almost old-fashioned ring to it. Hints of The Orient Express, perhaps the East India Company, P & O steamers and Edwardian ladies with parasols. All romantic notions but, in truth, this sumptuous volume is a companion of the celebrated E & O.
OK, so now we are on to another flight of fancy. What is E & O? Is it something medically akin to A & E? E,N & T? No, it’s an acronym for Eastern and Oriental, although this fine London restaurant is better known as E & O. The name is well-chosen as it’s a pan-Asian restaurant with a soupçon of fusion.
There are a good many pan-Asian eateries around. They vary in quality from the sublime to the ridiculous. Some are basic Chinese restaurants which offer Thai noodles and a selection of commercially produced sushi. Others present a concoction of poorly executed versions of Asian classics. E & O was one of the first pan-Asian restaurants and it is reputed to be one of the best.
Will Ricker isn’t a chef. He is the restaurateur behind not only E&O but Cicada, Great Eastern Dining Room, Eight Over Eight and XO, all of which I hope to review in the near future. He has won numerous awards for his restaurants and food, so a cookbook was bound to be on the cards.
The Eastern and Oriental Cookbook is a striking volume with photographs by William Meppam. The black pages with white text give a contemporary and stylish feel although it remains a thoroughly practical cookbook. It’s designed with the home cook in mind. The dishes are stunning but the recipes will hold no terrors.
Pan-Asian, in this context, means China, Japan and Thailand. They are three individual cuisines which have qualities that can be easily combined to great effect. One might choose a Chinese soup along with some Japanese tempura followed by a Thai curry. You’ll have the freedom and indeed the inspiration to find the selection that will be most tempting for your friends and family.
There are plenty of classics here. Chicken Jungle Curry, Beef Bulgogi (a nod to Korea with this one), and Pad Thai will all be familiar. But how about Lobster and Prawn Sweet Ginger Noodles for a special meal, and you might consider a Jasmine Cosmopolitan to finish. There are every-day dishes as well as dinner-party fare within these classy pages.
My favourites from The Eastern and Oriental Cookbook include Sole Tempura with its unique presentation, Chilli Tofu for those days when I want something quick, light and noble, and Crispy Pork Belly for the times when I crave comfort food with attitude. It’s a Dim Sum suggestion but you’ll eat so much it’ll be a meal.
The desserts are appealing. Asian restaurants are not generally famed for their sweets, and often resort to the standard banana fritters and even Chocolate Fondant Cake. Will, however, has White Chocolate and Berry Dumplings, and Mini Cinnamon Doughnuts served with a Passionfruit Syrup. My pick of puds must be the Ginger Cheesecake with Caramel Bananas. It’s a melange of exotic flavours in a Western guise.
The Eastern and Oriental Cookbook is a culinary page-turner. It offers a feast for the eyes as well as a wealth of accessible dishes that are simple to prepare, but which have that often elusive “wow” factor. It’s gift quality so buy two copies. It’s unlikely you’ll want to let this one out of your grasp.
The Eastern and Oriental Cookbook
Author: Will Ricker
Published by: Hardie Grant Books
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018