Last year I started a cookbook club here in London to bring friends together and share food, which I recently realized happens at our house pretty much every weekend anyway. But the difference with a cookbook club is that every few months, our group selects a cookbook, and everyone makes recipes that they bring to share like a potluck.
In April, our group got together to share food from Chicken and Rice: Fresh and Easy Southeast Asian Recipes from a London Kitchen. The cookbook is written by London-based Shu Han Lee, who originally hails from Singapore and covers a wide variety of Southeast Asian foods, from spring rolls to fried rice to steamed buns.
As with all of our other cookbook club selections, our group loves a good cookbook that focuses on a specific country or region. However, traveling globally through our culinary adventures has limitations, as we’ve discovered. Sometimes finding specific ingredients for recipes can be challenging. When our club reviewed Ceviche, a Peruvian-focused cookbook, we found out elderberries aren’t available in London, so one of our members had to use blueberries instead. Mexican ingredients, like the achiote paste required for this phenomenal pork pibil from The Really Quite Good British Cookbook had to be special ordered (after a harried pursuit through several specialty markets in London) for our first cookbook club meeting.
That’s why all of our members really loved Chicken and Rice. Not only were the recipes true to the zest and spice of Southeast Asian cuisine, the cookbook also reimagined recipes with Southeast Asian flavors but using locally available ingredients, like a shredded Thai salad that used kohlrabi in place of traditional green papaya, which is very hard to find here in London. The kohlrabi doesn’t have the sourness of green papaya, but it’s just as crunchy and satisfying.
Our crew also loved a glass noodle salad with carrot ribbons and crunchy peanuts, and we also proclaimed that a similar cabbage and apple slaw could easily become a weekday staple.
For meats, we loved the barbecued chicken wings, the mutton satay and honey lemongrass pork skewers (not pictured), all of which would make a summer grill party a smashing success. The chicken wings were crispy and had a tangy heat, and the peanut sauce accompanying the mutton satay would work equally well with other grilled satay, like chicken or beef.
We also had a steamed “pumpkin” rice with shiitake mushrooms and butternut squash, which can be made very easily in an Instant Pot. The shiitake mushrooms bring a nice, earthy balance to the sweet squash, and it could be a filling one-pot meal.
For our next cookbook club, our group is headed to India with Made in India: Recipes from an Indian Family Kitchen. You can join us too by following along in our Facebook group. Or are you interested in learning how to start your own cookbook club where you live? Check out my first post on cookbook clubs here.