The cover of ‘Lucky Peach Presents: 101 Easy Asian Recipes’ (Clarkson Potter)
Lots of cookbooks claim to have easy recipes. Lucky Peach Presents: 101 Easy Asian Recipes actually lives up to its promise. “I could swear on a stack of Cook’s Illustrated that these recipes are EASY,” says author Peter Meehan, who wrote the book along with the editors of Lucky Peach.
One of the ways Meehan and his team guaranteed their recipes would be easy was to establish a few ground rules. Rule No. 1: no frying. “A LOT of things can be made easily delicious in a bath of hot oil,” notes Meehan, but that wasn’t the kind of “easy” they had in mind. This is a book for home cooks, and since he hardly ever deep-fries in his own kitchen — because it’s smelly, messy, and wastes a lot of oil — Meehan ultimately decided it had to go.
The other rule, which was to not include any recipes within the recipes, referred to as “sub-recipes,” will definitely win over anyone who’s been frustrated by a certain kind of cookbook, often written by a chef, that requires making multiple other recipes to make one “easy” dish. This ends up being a rule that’s broken a handful of times, but sub-recipes remain few and far between and oftentimes they’re optional or an alternative is offered.
Rotisserie Chicken Ramen (Photograph: Gabriele Stabile)
Easy generally means fast and Meehan reports that most of the recipes in the book take 30 minutes or less. Exceptions include Beef Noodle Soup and Rotisserie Chicken Ramen, dishes that need to sit on the stove and simmer for a couple hours but certainly won’t take all day and are not exactly labor intensive. Those might be better reserved for a Sunday, but there are plenty of weeknight meal options, including Braised Chicken Wings, Cumin Lamb, and Coco-Curried Mussels.
As anyone familiar with Asian cooking is well aware, shopping can be a stumbling block. Meehan lives in Manhattan, at least in part, because he can buy almost anything within a 15-minute walk from his apartment. But not everyone lives in a major metropolitan area, or relishes tracking down obscure ingredients, and the book is written with that in mind.
“There’s a website named after a river in Brazil on which you can buy 97 percent of the stuff in the book, so ‘Oh, I can’t find that ingredient,’ is really ‘I’m too lazy to order it on my phone while I’m lying in bed.’ If you are up for a little market adventure, 101 Easy Asian Recipes includes a unique and fun ingredient guide that Meehan calls “an homage to the Asian cookbooks of the 70s, but updated for this day and age.” While not at all exhaustive, it’s written in a helpful, practical, and mildly opinionated voice. It’s also photo-heavy, which can come in handy if you find yourself strolling the aisles, struggling to distinguish soba from udon.
Pesto Ramen (Photograph: Gabriele Stabile)
With recipes that are so quick and easy and that don’t require hard-to-find ingredients, it seems almost impossible that this cookbook could be authentic. And in fact, the back cover proclaims it “100% inauthentic!”
“I love ‘authentic’ food as much as the next guy,” says Meehan, but that wasn’t the goal of this book. Instead, Meehan and his team chose recipes based on a completely different set of guidelines: “Is it delicious regardless of what Grandma would say? Will it make a mess of my kitchen? Am I gonna want seconds?”
Answering these questions helped narrow down the book, and there may be no better example than Pesto Ramen, an Italian-Asian hybrid inspired by Mission Chinese Food’s Danny Bowien, who happens to be an award-winning pesto master. There’s absolutely nothing authentic about this dish, and Grandma might not approve, but it’s the perfect thing to throw together when you get home from work, it’s not at all messy, and yes, you will want seconds.
Visit Yahoo Food throughout the week for recipes from Lucky Peach Presents: 101 Easy Asian Recipes (Clarkson Potter).
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