As a chef who has worked in the classical culinary tradition for the past three decades I am generally inclined to be skeptical and somewhat wary of a cuisine that is termed "new wave." Too often, what is touted to be the next "trend" in cooking merely turns out to be a passing fad. Not so with the cooking of Alan Wong. Alan Wong's New Wave Luau is, without a doubt, the most engaging cookbook to come across my desk so far this year. It has that rare ability among cookbooks to appeal to the professional and the nonprofessional alike.
Loaded with stunning color photographs, this book is eye-catching enough to be on your coffee table. But it is much more exciting than that. In an inspiring introduction to what is now called "a new and exciting Hawaii Regional Cuisine," the initial skepticism I referred to earlier was gradually put to rest as I followed Alan Wong's path to success and learned about his philosophy and approach to cooking. Chef Wong draws much of his inspiration from his Japanese-Chinese-Hawaiian ancestry, but the fact that he worked for three years under the mentorship of the acclaimed Andre Soltner at New York's renowned Lutece helped convinced me that he is, as Chef Soltner would put it, "cooking with both feet on the ground." His cooking goes far beyond the fad and may indeed set a trend for an East-West cuisine truly based on the integrity of classical French cooking.
I encourage you to read this book from cover to cover. On the practical side there are over 100 clear, concise recipes. Each one is preceded by comments from chef Wong and there are numerous notes peppered throughout each chapter. Surprisingly, and happily, only a few of the recipes call for items that are exclusive to the Hawaiian Islands. Most ingredients are readily available in Asian and Latin markets. And don't be intimidated by the gorgeous pictures! The recipes are really straightforward and easy to follow. You might start out preparing some of the side dishes such as the Wasabi Mashed Potatoes or Alan's Asian Guacamole. I particularly liked the Grilled Lamb Chops with Macadamia-Coconut Crust, Star Anise Sauce, and Asian Ratatouille. You'll have a lot of fun with whatever you choose, but do choose to get this book. It will satisfy you in so many ways and it's well worth the full price.