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| 11 October 2022 | Reply

Murdoch Books
July 2022
Hard cover, rrp $39.99

Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

Immigrants Rosheen Kaul and Joanna Hu don’t just label the food they present here as ‘Chinese-ish’, but also themselves. With convoluted bloodlines and upbringings taking in Kashmiri, Singaporean, Chinese, Filipino, Indonesian, Nyonya, Malaysian and Australian influences, their own cultural identities are as blurred as the Chinese-inspired dishes they share – recipes Rosheen declares “a bounty of Chinese-influenced dishes from Southeast Asia, recipes from Saturday yum cha with family, and comforting food from hong Kong and China’s mainland that I’ve encountered here in Australia. You’ll also find recipes from Shanghai from the time I lived there as a teenager, and recipes from Jo’s childhood in Hunan.”

What that means for us is simply that it’s not a strictly defined regional cuisine cookbook. The food on offer is regionally, culturally diverse – just as any Australian Chinese or Asian restaurant’s menu will be. In fact, this is far more authentic than a Chinese restaurant.

Having such a diversity of cultural and culinary influences – as well as experience in professional kitchens – means that Rosheen and Joanna are well placed to share not only recipes, but insider secrets. There are sections on the best ingredients and utensils to have on hand “for successful Chinese-ish cooking,” as well as substitutes for gluten free, low sodium and vegan diets.

The basics are well covered – even cooking rice without a rice cooker, a skill so simple most chefs never mention it, especially in cookbooks. Believe it or not, I have worked in professional kitchens with more than a few chefs who fail at this most simple of tasks.

Multiple kinds of noodles, congee, Asian master stocks, wontons, fried rice, stir fried vegetables, simply glorious Beijing Hot Chicken – their own version of Nashville Fried Chicken – crispy prawn balls with fermented hot sauce, and there’s even a chapter on egg custard tarts, sago puddings and the like.

Some of these recipes you will rarely, if ever, see on the menu of a Chinese restaurant – more’s the pity. Some are new twists on old favourites. All are lip-lickingly enticing, written with the cook of any skill level in mind, and lovingly photographed.


Category: Book Reviews

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