Tuesday, 25 October 2016
The Adventures of Fat Rice
Recipes from the Chicago Restaurant Inspired by Macau
Authors: Abraham Conlon, Adrienne Lo, Hugh Amano
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Pub date: 25 Oct 2016
With 100 recipes, this is the first book to explore the vibrant food culture of Macau--an east-meets-west melting pot of Chinese, Portuguese, Malaysian, and Indian foodways--as seen through the lens of the cult favorite Chicago restaurant, Fat Rice.
Located just an hour away from Hong Kong on the banks of the Pearl River in China, Macau is one of the wealthiest cities in the world--the so-called "Las Vegas of the East," and the only place in China where gambling is legal. However, Macau's modern-day glitz belies its rich, centuries-old history as one of the greatest trading ports in the world. Ruled by Portugal from the 1600s until 1999, Macau was a crossroads along the spice route, and a place where travelers from Europe, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and mainland China traded resources, culture, and food--making Macanese cuisine one of the most eclectic and deliciously unique food traditions in the world.
Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo are the chefs and owners of the wildly popular and critically-lauded Chicago restaurant Fat Rice, where they serve their own unique take on the food of Macau. The Adventures of Fat Rice is a fun and whimsical tear through modern-day Macau--and the minds of two wildly creative chefs. Dishes like Hong Kong French Toast (Macau's version of dim sum), Po Kok Gai (a Portuguese chicken curry), and the titular Arroz Gordo (if Spanish paella and Chinese fried rice had a baby) are enticingly exotic yet accessible and even playful. Featuring a mish-mash of classic and interpretative dishes, plus comic book-style illustrations and edgy location photography, The Adventures of Fat Rice will be the first book to bring the eclectic, richly satisfying, and previously unheralded food of Macau to the mainstream.
The bright, bold cover with the sea monster is an instant attraction, to me it served as an indication that this may be an unusual and fun book and worth a look. It is certainly unusual in that it focuses on the food customs of Macau, a culinary melting pot of food cultures that, according to the authors, is a subject not well recorded.
What I loved about the book:
The history, of how the various cultures came together on this island resulting in a cuisine that is so unique. I always like to read anecdotes about the local people who work hard to maintain the traditional procedures ensuring they are passed on. I like to think that this book contributes towards that aim. The authors do point out though that despite all efforts to maintain authenticity, there can be several ways to prepare a dish.
There is a section on equipment and how to prepare it for use and how to maintain it, handy for the new wok owner.
I loved the spices glossary, especially as some are unfamiliar, I would have liked the beautiful illustrations of the spice pots to have been labelled though, that would be helpful.
What is helpful are the diagrams of how to fold chamucas and also the cute cartoon like noodles section.
There is a wonderful illustrated vegetable glossary, again, useful as some are so unfamiliar to home cooks.
The recipes are written in a very clear style, some are quite lengthy and requires skipping to another page to find the ingredients, for example, making a curry; Po Kok Gai (Portuguese chicken curry) requires a portion of Turmeric Baked Chicken and a portion of a curry sauce, both are recipes in themselves. Meals then may require much forward planning, there are however, many less complex dishes, it's just a case of reading a recipe carefully before leaping in and attempting to cook it. I like that there are no short cut options, to me, this indicates authenticity.
Each dish is beautifully photographed so we know, at least, what it should look like!
I was a little disappointed that there was just a brief introduction to the authors, I would have liked to know more about them. As it is we jump straight in to the resource tour followed by a brief history of the restaurant itself. this is merely personal opinion, but I feel it would have rounded out the book, giving it a more well rounded and complete feel.
Copy via NetGalley and Ten Speed Press in return for an unbiased review