BookDragon Books for the Multi-Culti Reader

The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook: Home Cooking from Asian American Kitchens by Patricia Tanumihardja

Asian Grandmothers CookbookThe holiday season is fast approaching (already!) so take note now … order this book for everyone on your list who likes to eat! Part cultural history, part talk-story, and all thoroughly delicious, author Patricia Tanumihardja “interviewed, cooked with, and connected with grandmothers, mothers, aunties” who shared recipes with origins in China, Japan, Korea, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand. “Regardless of where in Asia they come from,” writes Tanumihardja in the book’s introduction, herself of Chinese/Indonesian descent by way of Singapore then Seattle, “these recipes represent a universal theme – they tell the story of our immigrant past.”

For all immigrants, food is a defining part of both their identity and heritage. I think that’s infinitely more true for Asian immigrants. Thank goodness for the invention of vacuum-packed kimchi that travels without leaking, because some of our longer trips to remote areas just wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without our comfort foods! And yes, I’m not above also carrying a small rice-cooker (and the right rice!) in our carry-on luggage, as well. We’re serious eaters! Thank goodness, too, that our kids’ Korean grandparents are only five minutes away, and we’re invited for dinner every week (with leftovers to go). My mother, of course, is convinced that my children would starve if she didn’t feed them!

“Just when did the restaurant become the keeper of our Asian food heritage?” Tanumihardja questions. I will confess that we go out for Vietnamese pho, Thai (or Vietnamese) green papaya salad, Chinese beef chow fun, South Indian dosa, and Burmese green tea salad with regularity. “Whatever the reason, modern times are making Asian home cooking a lost art … and many of the new generation of Asian Americans are now ignorant of these skills.” Is she talking about me?

So think of this gorgeous, toothsome volume as a cultural investment. If nothing else, you will eat very, very well. You’ve got a whole section on cooking how-tos, ingredients with pictures, prep times, and clear, easy-to-read instructions. Even I’m convinced I can do it … my children are so thrilled at the prospect of getting wok-fried dou miao (pea shoots) regularly!

One teeny tiny little quibble … in the next edition (and hopefully many will follow), I would so appreciate seeing more pictures, ideally a little salivating inducement for each of the recipes. Just like in many of those (heritage-keeping) restaurants where I’m not familiar with all the dishes, I love using the point-and-“oh, could I please have one of those?”-method of ordering. For the uninitiated hungry like me, visuals are key. Of course, now I’ve got a 130-recipe excuse to stay in … and, uh, get the hubby cooking!

Readers: Adult

Published: 2009


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  • i was looking for such a book, thanks a lot

    • terryhong

      Don’t forget to invite us over for dinner, so we can make sure those recipes worked!

  • you re overestimated my skill as a cook 🙂

    • terryhong

      I’ll have to be the judge of that! Let me know when you start cooking. I’ll fly right over, hee hee ho ho!

  • Dwight Jon Zimmerman

    Though Asian cuisine is not something that’s a part of my background, I can definitely identify with the pulls and tugs here. My wife is French, and one of the reasons that we got married is because she was impressed by my cooking. My core skills are the American/European cuisines, but I’ve been working on doing more Asian dishes. I’m going to look for this cookbook at the bookstore. Thank you!

  • Wow! What a blog. You have a real knack for making a blog readable and easy on the eyes. Some sites look like train wrecks, but not this one – it’s a pleasure to read. I can’t wait to try out one of the recipes here. I’ll bookmark your site and keep coming back. Keep up the great work, and bon appetit!

    • terryhong

      Thanks to our YOUNG, non-Luddite, most capable techno wiz at our office for NOT letting this blog resemble a train wreck, hee hee ho ho!

      Let us know which recipes worked for you! We’re always ready to be taste-testers!

      And yes, DO keep coming back! Thanks indeed for your kind words.

  • When “grandmothers, mothers, aunties” teach their recipes, you just can’t get more authentic than that! This is a great review of the book. There is such a growing interest among American home cooks to explore exotic dishes nowadays – this book should sell well!

  • Shannon

    LOL, I can’t say I love rice enough to bring along a rice cooker on my travels. 🙂 Although it is a good idea if you’re a big rice eater. Especially if you eat a lot of rice.

    Rice Cookers and Steamers

    • terryhong

      As three out of four of us are allergic to wheat/gluten, rice is always the better alternative. And I never feel like I’ve eaten unless I have lots of rice. So yes, you could definitely say we’re big rice eaters! Mmmmm.

  • this is a great blog. I love everything asian. I especially like eating stick rice with som tam, that thai green papaya salad.

    • terryhong

      You’re making me hungry! Where’s my midnight snack?

      Thanks so much for visiting. Come back again soon!

  • I lived in Hong Kong for 3 years and have travelled extensively across Asia. I loved the way fresh food is used to create healthy cooking recipes

  • I remember I took some Chinese visitors to a Chinese restaurant in the US and they turned their nose at all the fried food. Fortunately the family that owned the restaurant could cook some real traditional Chinese food.