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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
ebooks I have in my list so far:
  • The Red Boat Fish Sauce Cookbook-- my current ebook read. Written by the founder of Red Boat fish sauce. The opening recipe of fish sauce bacon has me intrigued.
  • America's Best BBQ I like Paul Kirk's writing on barbecue.
  • Putting Czech Recipes on the Map just because I know nothing about the cuisine.
  • NYT No Recipe Recipes
  • NYT Recipes of Record
  • Bress 'N' Nyam a carryover from last year
  • Lucky Peach Wurst Recipes The Wurst of Lucky Peach
  • A Simple Art--based on chrislehrer's suggestion.
  • At the Chinese Table I struggled a bit with her earlier book, but I'll give this a shot.
  • Prep School This is from 2013, but came through on a recent epub deal. This is a collection of cooking articles from a Chicago newspaper
  • The Asian Market Cookbook based on

I have Cradle of Flavor checked out from the Library but haven't spent any time with it yet. Butzy has recommended this in the past. I thumbed through it once and thought it interesting but hadn't come across it again until this week.

Still to acquire, but interested in. Some of these release dates are contradictory and seem to reflect when they release in different publishing regions. Or might just be wrong.

  • The Wok kenji lopez alt 3/8
  • Jeremy Pang's School of Wok 1/22 5 /31 in US I enjoy his Youtube channel and his prior tw o cookbooks.
  • Wing Crush 1/22 Paula Stachyra 4/26 on Amazon
  • Paon: Real Balinese Cooking by Tjok Maya Kerthyasa and I Wayan Kresna Yasa (AU) 4/22
  • Gullah Geechee Home Cooking: Recipes from the Mother of Edisto Island by Emily Meggett 5/22
  • Modern Asian Baking at Home: Essential Sweet and Savory Recipes for Milk Bread, Mooncakes, Mochi, and More; Inspired by the Subtle Asian Baking Community by Kat Lieu 6/21
  • The Vegan Chinese Kitchen: Recipes and Modern Stories from a Thousand-Year-Old Tradition by Hannah Che 8/22 or 8/30
  • Have You Eaten Yet?: Stories from Chinese Restaurants Around the World by Cheuk Kwan 9/1/22

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
There's a problem with how my phone displays the diacritical marks so common on Vietnamese english characters. The main text works fine. The Bold and Heading displays have problems. I'm not sure why this happens. The book itself bundles three font families. CooperBlackStd, GrotesqueMTStd and HelveticaNeue, so it should display properly. That's the whole point of including fonts in epub and pdf. Maybe there's a setting to tweak.

The RedBoat Salt is described as the crystals formed in the barrels when drained and cleaned for the next batch of fish sauce. This increases my interest in the salt.

And to share the excitement, Red Boat Bacon
Red Boat-Cured

This recipe for bacon is a riff on the one served at Good Girl Dinette, the restaurant that Diep Tran ran before she joined Red Boat as our R&D chef. To make the bacon, start with an entire slab of pork belly and coat it in a rub made with Red Boat Salt or Fish Sauce, coriander, cinnamon, and other warming spices (as with most spices, the fresher, the better-so grind them fresh if you can). The rub cures the belly beautifully and, after a four-day cure, the belly is ready to be roasted into bacon. Any leftovers will freeze easily. If you don't feel like taking on a four-day project, Diep also has a faster version using store-bought strips (see Quick Red Boat Bacon). Whichever version you make, you'll understand why this bacon was a star of Good Girl Dinette's weekend brunch.

Makes 5 pounds
  • ¼ cup ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground star anise
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup ground coriander
  • 2½ tablespoons Red Boat Salt or ½ cup Red Boat Fish Sauce
  • ⅓ pound (⅔ cup) packed brown sugar
  • ⅔ cup minced garlic
  • 5 pounds center-cut pork belly, skin removed
  • ½ cup applewood chips
Make the spice rub and cure the pork
  1. To make the spice rub, begin in a dry skillet by toasting the black pepper, star anise, cinnamon, and coriander over medium heat until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes, being sure to shake the pan constantly so the spices don't burn. Transfer the spices to a mixing bowl.
  2. Add the salt or fish sauce, brown sugar, and garlic to the spices. Stir to combine.
  3. Trim the pork belly into 7 x 11-inch slabs. To make it easier to slice the belly into bacon slices, take care to trim the pork so its grain is perpendicular to the longer side of each slab. Massage the spice rub into the slabs and place them in resealable food bags. Refrigerate the pork for 4 days, flipping the bags on the second day to ensure that spice rub evenly coats the pork belly.

Make the bacon
  1. On the fourth day, place the applewood chips in a bowl and cover with water. Soak the chips for at least 1 hour, then drain. Cut two pieces of aluminum foil into 8 x 8-inch pieces and layer them on top of each other. Place the soaked chips in the center of the double-stacked aluminum foil, then fold up the sides and crimp to create a closed pouch. Use a paring knife to perforate the top of the pouch to allow smoke to vent, then place the pouch in the center of the oven floor. Heat the oven to 225°F. This is essentially a makeshift smoker, so the chips will start to smoke.
  2. Remove the pork from the bags and place it on a wire rack on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the center of the oven and roast the pork until its internal temperature is 140°F, about 2 hours. Turn the oven off and keep the pork belly in the oven for another 30 minutes.
  3. Remove the pork belly from the oven. When the belly has cooled completely, slice each slab into ¼-inch-thick slices.
  4. To crisp the bacon using your oven, increase the temperature to 400°F. Set a wire rack onto a baking sheet and lay the bacon strips in a single layer on the rack. When the oven comes to temperature, place the baking sheet in the center of the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the pan after 10 minutes to ensure the slices crisp evenly.
Alternatively, you can crisp the bacon on the stove. Place the strips in a cold heavy-bottomed frying pan. Cook on low heat, flipping the strips every 2 minutes, until the bacon is crisp.

This recipe yields quite a bit of bacon. If you aren't eating right away, you can slice the bacon, bundle it in 1-pound parcels, and store them in the freezer for up to six months. To do so, lay the bacon slices onto a large piece of parchment paper, shingling the slices so they'll lay flat. Fold up the parchment to cover the slices, then wrap everything up in plastic wrap. Store the bacon in the freezer until ready to use.
Butzy, you'll have to do the math conversions to metric. This site may help when you're in internet range.

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Looks like a good recipe!
I can convert OK ;)
I just struggle with things like "pound per gallon" and so, as thats a double conversion. 440 gr per 3.8 litre still doesnt talk to me, but 116 gr per litre does

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
What I've discovered about fonts and my phone reader apps.

I use FBreader and Librera for my apps. Both use fonts on the phone for the display, not in the book. Further, I pick a font and size I like. I'm used to being able to control font size, and I recall being able to over-ride default font choices in earlier apps. But using only the phone font, this is news to me. I would think with the rise of unicode font support that the variant characters would be well supported by phone fonts but this is not the case. I wonder if it's about conserving RAM that they avoid loading the supplied fonts? Interesting behavior.

One of my favorite fiction books of the year, XX by Rian Hughes sidestepped this with a lot of bundled graphics for specialty text. I gave up reading it on a small device and used my tablet only because it relied on the graphics for its content. He really wanted and needed fine control of your reading experience and it was critical to the book.

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Went looking for Red Boat Salt. Found some and it's expensive. surprisingly punget for salt. Packs quite a punch though.

Discovered that two of my more Vietnamese oriented grocery stores are gone. One was my preferred banh mi vendor, though I've not gone there for banh mi since the pandemic started. Both of these were smaller grocers and older operations. The newer operations tend to be larger and less culture specific.

Another store was limiting quantities of fish sauce per customer.

The market is changing.

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
The Red Boat Fish Sauce Cookbook by Cuong Pham.

The book is about 1/3 non-trational uses and 2/3 more traditional uses. The bacon is non-traditional for example, at least to my knowledge. I've been under the impression that the Vietnamese do bacon much like the Chinese do bacon. I could be wrong.

Some of the non-traditional uses mimic things I've been doing for a while. I use it tomato based sauces in the Italian style, much like you would use anchovies in Puttanesca. Good fish sauce has some similar cheese notes as parmesan from the protein age/fermentation. Pham goes a bit farther with fish sauce replacing anchovies in Caesar dressing. I have fish sauce more readily available than anchovies usually so I'm tempted to by this idea.

As another example, my wife was making split pea soup and wasn't happy with the flavor. I reached for fish sauce and she stopped me saying she didn't want the soup to taste fishy. I added maybe a scant teaspoon and stirred the pot. She couldn't taste the fish sauce but the savoriness and impact of the ingredients now stood out. She is now a convert to fish sauce in other places.

I use fish sauce in my clam chowder and clam dip as well. Pham even does a Mexican chicken tinga with fish sauce.

I was more interested in his versions of the kho braises than most I've seen. He always uses sugar to start the dish but acknowledges there are those that don't. I'm still bothered by the curry powder beef kho recipe from last year...

And he finishes up with a section on pickles and sauces, stocks, custom mayo, a fairly big section. There are a couple of regional nuoc cham variations and a lengthy guide for how to approach making a nuoc cham of your own style.

I was particularly intrigued by a special occasion picked radish using fish sauce. I wonder a bit about the odor though. I once made banh mi for a family reunion. My brother was wondering where that wiff of garbage smell was coming from. It was coming from the pickled carrots and daikon. Daikon and vinegar combine to a bad smell, but taste great. Adding some fish sauce to this would taste good, but the odor in the fridge might be pretty strong.

And there is story content of course. Some discussion of the escape from Vietnam, the weak fish sauce then available, his mom's recipes. how they make fish sauce and the salt. The wooden vats he prefers for making the fish sauce, the source tree is now protected and can't be harvested. Some discussion of sustainability of fish sauce as well.

If you like fish sauce, you'll enjoy the book. I'm usually bothered by brand name recipes and cookbooks, but this one rose above the commercialism for me. I admit that Red Boat fish sauce is my preferred brand. So good.

Strangely, my second place fish sauce is on the other end of the spectrum. Where Red Boat is fish and salt and time, 9999 fish sauce is compounded with added nucleotides and flavor. It tastes good, not as good as Red Boat, but is an opposing approach in many ways.


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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Cradle of Flavor: Home Cooking from the Spice Islands of Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia by James Oseland.

A pretty good book on the topic of cooking this cuisine. Excellent ingredient description and information. Probably too much actually.

And that's my main peeve with this book. It's richly and lovingly written; a loveletter to his experience of learning to cook this way. I think there's a better cookbook here that the editor failed to uncover that's probably only a third the size. Quality writing obscures this but I'd have preferred a more direct delivery of the information.

There's a lot of travel writing, meeting people, discovering dishes and learning to cook them. Which involves a fair amount of culture explanation. And those are all meritorious topics, well written and important to James. Maybe it's pent-up COVID me talking, but I wasn't interested in that this week. It blocked me from the cooking.

Good satay recipes and adaptions to the broiler. Good discussion of using power tools instead of the manual pounding. Good rendang. The Nonya dippiong sauce of worcestershire and soy struck me as the nuoc cham of those without fish sauce. It otherwise matched up pretty well.

I was glad to see a bibliography. They're useful for finding other quality books on the topic. Interesting to me was the mention of Joy of Cooking 1997 ( the oft maligned edition for cutting butter and simplifing some things--I have it, I like it, I like the more recent release better). And also Breath of the Wok by Grace Young. Breath seems so much more modern and cooking oriented. It's not, it's two years older and full of discussion of time and place of wok manufacture, regional technique, coffee table photographs and only some cooking. It just feels less stodgy and less romantic, though it's romance is with carbon steel. I read that in a dffierent time as a different person. If I read it new to me today, I might be a bit bitter about it as well. Hard to say.

My view on that in 2008


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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I'll get to the book in a moment.

Red Boat Fish sauce in the 500 ml bottle has gone from $7.99 to 16.99 US $ in the last two weeks. Ouch.

The Asian Market Cookbook by Vivian Aronson

I started this before Cradle of Flavor, but where that was borrowed from the library, I gave it priority over this one. Asian Market is mostly Chinese content with a few side trips to other Asian dishes.

Organization is fairly simple, Sauces, Condiments, Dry Spices and so on. What's the difference between a sauce and a condiment to put things in one chapter over another? Just for confusion sake, soy sauce is a condiment in her classification and Oyster Sauce is not.

It seems that the difference is sauce ingredients are usually cooked along the way and a condiment is more in the 50/50 camp of cooked or not cooked.

So Sauces covers the use of Oyster Sauce, Miso Paste, Gochujang, Dou Ban Jiang, and Tian Mian Jiang. Condiments covers the use of Soy Sauce, ShaoHsing wine, Black Vinegar, and Sesame Oil. I like that she calls out her preferred brands. It gives you something to look for and helps you find a baseline flavor that is considered "good".

I want to quibble with her explanation of basmati and jasmine rice.

Xian Mi 籼米

Xian mi is white rice and comes in long or medium grain. The rice is usually served at a Thai restaurant as Jasmine rice or Indian restaurants as Basmati rice. I often buy the Kokuho brand. The Kokuho rice in the yellow packaging is good for everyday rice. Kokuho Rose in the red packaging has a softer texture and is good for everyday use and great for making congee. Botan Calrose and Nishiki are good brands too.
The cooking itself is pretty good. She teaches the Superior stock practice of a hybrid pork and chicken stock. She uses it on her steamed fish which I don't recall seeing before but don't have an objection to. She gives a recipe for Sichuan Jelly Noodles which I think I've seen in a restaurant and maybe at dim sum, but didn't know what it was, a mung bean starch jelly. Her Scallion Pancakes run to the simple interpretation and looked flat and crisp rather than flaky. My tastes differ, but there is a lot of regional variation in what a scallion pancake is.

I thought it got more interesting in her dry spices section. I've been doing more of this sort of braising during covid so I had more resonance with this section. She touches on red cooking and gives a few different dishes and hints at others--a smoked red cooked egg for example.

So, yes, I like it. I like that it's current on brand recommendations and availability. I think there are better books on ingredients generally, but they are more out of date on brands or don't discuss brands. These books are:
  • Asian Ingredients by Bruce Cost. There are a couple of different editions of this with slight variations in the title. He doesn't offer as many recipes and is more ingredient focused. His brand recommendations are out of date imho. He also covers produce and other things.
  • The Chinese Kitchen by Deh-Ta Hsiung. Usually a number of recipes on each ingredient. Also covers produce. A much more complete book and my preference unless you're looking for brand recommendations.
So while I like it, I think this is book is probably one to get when it's on sale. Not quite a full price value I think.

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Made the pork belly kho from the Red Boat cookbook. I quite liked it. My kids found it too intense. I knew it would be fatty and I skimmed fat, and used some more for the water spinach side, drained away fat while I scooped it up for serving, still fattier than my digestion will be happy with in a bit.

So, as a family meal, I would use pork shoulder next time to cut the fat, reduce the fish sauce and sugar to appease my children. Worth a repeat performance though even in a lesser production.

Bacon goes in the smoker tomorrow.

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
Straight off the smoker, it smells more like dessert than bacon. My wife thought it akin to hoisin in smell. I've found you have to give bacon some time to meld flavors before it will really reveal itself. It's usually very sweet in flavor right out of the smoker and then changes after 12 or so hours into what it will taste like in a stable way.

Now reading Prep School. In the section on knife tips there was something I don't recall seeing before. A simultaenous double knife grip for mincing tender herbs like parsley. In the referenced text below, these are photos 2 and 3. He seesm to be using two knives of different lengths as well.



Pinch the blade of one knife between the thumb and index finger of your knife hand (photo 1). Rest the edge of the blade on a cutting board to give yourself some stability.

2. Place the second knife's handle between your index and middle fingers so that it becomes parallel with the first knife. Grip the blade of the second knife with your index and middle fingers (photo 2).

3. Wrap your remaining two fingers around the handles of both knives. Undoubtedly, this will feel awkward at first, but, while both knife blades are still on the cutting board, steady them with your guide hand and then relax the muscles in your knife hand and fingers so that they settle into the most comfortable position possible. Practice lifting the knives and setting them down several times until you can do it without them going off the parallel.

Using the knives
You can do this with nuts, herbs, anything that needs to be reduced to a small size in a short period of time. We'll use some fresh parsley.

1. Mound the parsley loosely in the center of your cutting board. Holding both your knives, set the blades down, to one side of the pile. Use the palm of your guide hand to anchor the tips of the knives. Keep the fingers of your guide hand splayed and up and away from the board and the knives. I don't think I need to tell you why...

2. Lift up on the knife handles while using your guide hand to keep the tips on the board, as if you were using a paper cutter (photo 3). Using a steady up and down motion, start chopping without stopping. As you cut, pivot the knives slowly from their tips so that the blades sweep across the parsley, chopping as you go.

For some reason, I only chop in one direction, and then when I get to the far edge of the pile, I start over from my original point. Other people go back and forth across the parsley. You do what you want.

3. Keep chopping and pivoting until the parsley (or nuts or garlic) is reduced to the state of fineness you need.

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Testing the bacon. It wants to take on color FASTer than you can really render the fat. And there is a definite bark to it from the spice coat.


Flavor is an aromatic sweet, smoke is light, then some fish funk in the finish. I have no objection to it, but I'm not sure what to do with it. Off hand I'm thinking a Thai Hot and Sour style soup would be good with it.

Probably a noodle dish with some lime too.

Banh mi, heavy on the pickle daikon/carrot and liver pate perhaps.

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I tried a bit in my noodle bowl last night. It was a fun contrast from the garlic ginger lemongrass pork. Not something to base the noodles on, but a fun accent.

I'm debating putting it in sous vide to render it a bit more then just a quick time in the pan for color when it's time to use.

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Prep School by James P. Dewan

This was mostly a skim. It was covering a lot of territory I'm familiar with. So I was looking for refreshing my knowledge, new approaches or a new insight.

The double knife skill above is a new idea. I was more impressed with his approach to buerre blanc than most others. I think this is because of the vinegar approach rather than wine and lemon juice. I don't drink so rarely have wine on hand for cooking beyond the Chinese ShaoHsing. And they often add tarragon, an herb whose use I struggle with. A bit odd that as I like fennel, fennel seed and star anise.

Also two things in pastry stood out to me. Pate Sucree made a sense to me it hasn't before. And the Brisee he divides the dough after cutting in the butter. One to make flakey for the top crust and the other to make more mealy for the bottom crust.

I wouldn't use Prep School as an initial approach to cooking. It lacks structure and some common details for starting to learn. But it was pretty good as a refresh course and worthwhile for me.

The Paul Kirk bbq book is a revised edition of something I read some years back. So it has dropped off my to-read stack.

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Bress 'n' Nyam: Gullah Geechee Recipes from a Sixth-Generation Farmer by Matthew Raithford.

Gullah a language/dialect and culture that developed mostly off shore of islands of the US South, after the Civil War largely. This region has struggled with bigotry, lack of funding, emigration to the mainland for jobs, a common story of the world in many ways. New development threatens the traditions and people.

There's a fair overlap with other southern dishes, as you would expect. Raiford has trained as a chef and lived with the military in foreign lands and so has a more diverse taste than just the historical practices. Saffron, coconut milk, berbere spicing and other non-regional things sprinkle the book. So it's more of a contemporary upscale version of this food and with some other heritages included.

The organization is loosely modeled after some linguistic uses

Eart/Earth--plants, grains beans
De Wata/Water--fish, seafood
Fiah/Fire--pork/game usually with a live fire cooking element
De Spirits/Spirits--drinks

Also a sources section. The food is highly regional and ingredient specific, though substitutions are provided for us thousands of miles away.

I was hoping for a more traditional view of the food than contemporary but I'll take what I can get. There's story of course. This is about a threatened cultural group and story is important for context and preservation. But not so much story as you might think given the topic.

Tastes, he relies on some of my favorite seasonings like smoked paprika and sumac. He also uses a modified Montreal Steak Seasoning with smoked paprika and cayenne. That shows up fairly often.

I was intrigued with the collard greens recipe. He boils his in a gallon of water with other seasonings. I don't know if this is his method or common to his culture. But my experience of general southern collards is more of braise with a few cups of water or stock. He uses a two stage cooking, with half the greens cooked 15 minutes, then the rest added. But no instructions on the rest of the timing or what to look for for proper doneness.

He saves the liquid, potlikker, for cooking other things like boiled peanuts. The potlikker is usually considered desirable in its own right for flavor so this makes sense. I've just never seen it cooked in so much liquid.

Mess o' Greens

My Aunt Mary Lou used to make what she called a "mess of greens," and I couldn't get enough of them. But it wasn't until I traveled in the military that I learned people either (1) had no idea what collards were, (2) had eaten badly cooked greens, which turned them off of them forever, or (3) were too intimidated to cook them. Greens can be temperamental: pulled too soon from the stove, they can be tough and spiky; pulled too late, they can be a soupy, mushy mess. I love these greens ladled over a bowl of CheFarmer's Grits (page 29) or as a side to Za'atar Roasted Chicken (page 155).


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and finely diced
3 garlic cloves
2 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, stemmed, deseeded, and cubed
2 pounds each collard greens, mustard greens, and kale, shredded
4 quarts water
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Smokin' Hot 'n' Sweet Seasoning (page 77) (this is the montreal seasoning based mix)
1 tablespoon pink Himalayan salt

IN A LARGE stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and caramelize, about 5 to 7 minutes more. Then add the peppers, stirring until they grow tender.

ADD 1 POUND of the greens, 2 quarts of the water, ½ cup of the vinegar, and 1 tablespoon of the seasoning. Cook down for 15 to 20 minutes, then add the remaining greens and the remaining water and vinegar. The liquids will also make a strong stock, full of nutrients pulled from those greens. Just before they are done, stir in the remaining tablespoon of seasoning and the salt. Serve immediately. Reserve the potlikker (nutrient-rich juices) for Potlikker Goobers (page 61).
Just for contrast, this is more what I'm used to

I'm no authority on Gullah cuisine to criticize Raiford's approach. I would have appreciated more timing information. Oh, he always uses the pink Himalayan salt everywhere.

I'm interested in finding some of the Carolina Gold rice and giving it a try.

It's certainly southern. It's certainly local. I would have liked more details about what differentiates the Gullah from the Southern in food. Perhaps even just more about tradition and holidays.

The cooking seems pretty good. The cultural context less so. I need to read some other things to better understand what he's doing most likely.
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