Alan Davidson's definitive Oxford Companion to Food is a culinary powerhouse of history, rich in detail and equally vast in scope. Known for steadfast and reliable information on all things culinary, Davidson's worldliness has provided him the opportunity to expand his written repertoire and offer a trilogy on seafood. In Seafood of South-East Asia - Second Edition, Davidson revisits his 1976 tome with an emphasis on correcting omissions. Joining his North Atlantic Seafood and Mediterranean Seafood, the contemporary edition of Seafood of South-East Asia is elaborate, detailed and comprehensive.
As British ambassador to Laos, Davidson has the experience to detail the many fishes he experienced while traveling through Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia. The role of seafood in South-East Asian fare is unmistakable. As such, Davidson does well to explain the application for the 200 or so species mentioned in Seafood of South-East Asia as well as his personal remarks as they relate to the importance of the various regions, physical attributes of the specimens and even the names of the seafood as they vary from region to region. This is not, by any allusion, a traditional regional cookbook that we have come to know in the States. This is quite the opposite it reads like a textbook with accompanying diagrams, Latin genus and species as well as technical characteristics of the examples. It reads very much like his Oxford Companion.
The recipes he includes following the catalogue of seafood is a spectrum of preparations and respective samples from the listing. He prefaces each regional selection of recipes with insightful dialog from his experiences in the various countries for which he traveled. His Brit residency does show its colors the recipes are metric, but, alas, he provides conversions in the end of the book. Additionally, a rather lengthy bibliography rounds out the tome.
If authentic use of unique regional fare from the Far East is your fancy, you would do well to invest in Seafood of South-East Asia. Alan Davidson experiences are yours to exploit and make your own through his unbounded research.