I have started to really make an effort to cook my way through a cookbook before looking for a new one; problem is, the cookbook I had planned to start the year with turns out to not be much to my taste. Library browse to the rescue, I think. I picked up East by Meera Sodha, which features both vegan and vegetarian which isn’t a mix you usually see. It focuses on Asia in general, but with a mix of Japanese, Indian, and Chinese cuisines mostly. It reminds me a bit of a cookbook I’ve worked through that I mostly liked but almost always learned something interesting. In this case, I have only tried one or two things so far, and I’m considering buying this one. Most of the recipes involve ingredients that are largely common, although there are a few things that you’d have to either find a local specialty market or order online; the good thing though is that most of those ingredients appear multiple times throughout the book, so a small investment in a possibly unfamiliar ingredient like salted fermented black beans, chile bean sauce, or Kashmiri chile powder.
The thing that I am liking about what I’m seeing is the focus on fresher ingredients and a range of flavor options, as well as some possible substitutions. There are also indicators of how to make a vegetarian option vegan when it’s possible, and the recipe headers are not pages of story but mostly notes about where the recipe is from and key things to know about it. I also like how the recipes are divided by general base, like noodles, curries, rice, tofu, legumes, condiments, sweet, and a few others. In the snack and appetizer section for example, you get bao and onigiri next to dosas, chile salt pineapple, and sweet and spicy cashews. Then you get things like the salad section which opens with a few rules, some of which make sense but aren’t the same old standards: the role of the salad in the meal is note one and makes the point that the flavor profiles should contrast and balance the rest of the meal, while rule three demands “shamelessly bold flavors”.
I have so far tried one of the curries and one of the tofu entries; I think I’ll have to try the dessert section and that will decide things. The two meal recipes have been good, but the desserts are going to be interesting, like a vegan “sunken ginger plum and spelt cake” and a “banana tarte tartine with cinnamon, black pepper, and clove”. I’d like to be sure that this is something that I can work throughout with most recipes, although I know for a fact there are a few I will not be every trying just based on my own personal tastes. This third section is just one I happen to find interesting, although I’m not totally sure about the matcha roll cake; I don’t really like matcha, although I’d love to finally find a good roll cake recipe even if this one’s not vegan. The brownie recipe though is and that’s also somethings I don’t have (a good vegan version that is). Fingers crossed this all works out; I’ve got about a week to decide (before the book is due back to the library).