LEAFING OUT: Cooking with Asian Leaves

A new (to me, anyway) cookbook always heralds further culinary adventures for armchair explorers. In Cooking with Asian Leaves, authors Devagi Sanmugam and Christopher Tan—both residents of Singapore—ladle out detailed information about 26 different leaves, many that rarely make it into mainstream American kitchens. Including scientific names, appearance, flavor, and culinary and medicinal uses, this unusual cookbook explodes with lustrous color photos of each leaf and finished dish. Leafing through the book, the reader can’t help but salivate, saying, “I want to make that, and that, and THAT!” A cursory study of the table of contents-arranged alphabetically by leaf name, with two recipes for each-smacks that bubbling enthusiasm down a notch. “Where can I find agathi leaves? Lakasa leaves? How about ponnangani leaves?” With further scrutiny, familiar “faces” emerge: basil in three flavors—Thai sweet, holy, and lemon; chives; dill; watercress, all available at almost any grocery store. A quick trip to a local Asian market will net many of the other, less- familiar leaves. Although the recipes utilize the metric system for ingredient measurements, the last page of the book contains an excellent “Weights & Measures” guide, making conversion easy from metric to non-metric. For a journey into unknown culinary territory, Cooking with Asian Leaves acts as an excellent guide. It also packs great taste. (Marshall Cavendish Cuisine, Singapore, 2004, paperback.)

Agathi Leaves (Used with permission of A. Kamala.)
Agathi Leaves (Used with permission of A. Kamala.)

© 2008 C. Bertelsen

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