Today I have the privilege of sharing a visually-stunning, delicious and unique cookbook with you. I was sent an e-book called Bold Vegan: Food of Southeast Asia by Molly and Luanne, the dynamic duo behind the book. Right off the bat, I loved the team – Molly the vegan, and Luanne the Malaysian omnivore – because when veganizing oft-meaty recipes, it’s very useful to have someone around who knows just what the meaty version tastes like.
Now guys, I’ve read plenty of e-books, but this one takes the cake for gorgeousness. The layout and design is bright and bold, with ample amounts of yummy food pictures strewn throughout. Check out the website for their cookbook to see some photos of the recipes contained within – so good.
Not only is the book beautiful, it’s very information-dense as well. Molly and Luanne discuss the various regions in Southeast Asia, talk about lesser-known ingredients (with pictures!) like condiments and spices, and each recipe has a tidbit about its country of origin. Each recipe also has a “spicy” and “difficulty” meter (1-5), which is really useful if you’re spice-sensitive (or spice-loving), or want to see at a glance how complex a meal will be to execute.
This cookbook is small, containing around 30 recipes (including several accompaniments), which I deem a good thing – it typically means the recipes contained are well-loved and best-of-the-bunch.
Of course, there was no way to prove the recipes had that best-of-the-bunch quality unless I got in my kitchen and concocted some meals!
I started with the Spicy Coconut Laksa, a Malaysian part-noodle, part-soup kind of dish. It ranked 4 on the spicy and difficulty meter, which was good on both fronts – not only do I love spicy food, I love a good challenge as well.
In the background information on this recipe, they mention, “You know you got your Laksa recipe down when you or your guests start slurping, wiping their brow and runny noses throughout the meal!” Yup, that’s my kind of spicy. And it held true!
I found this recipe to be quite easy to make (there’s just a few parts to it), though you need to have good kitchen sense in order to improvise a recipe like this. I only used 2 red Fresno chilies instead of 3 (they were really big) and omitted the hot chili oil, mainly because my curry powder is very, very hot and bitter. I only used 4 tablespoons of curry powder (instead of 5) for this reason. The end result was absolute perfection – it was very spicy, but matched my tolerance level. If I had used the full amount of spice, it would’ve been too much for me.
Another change I made was to sprinkle a little brown sugar in each bowl – it really balanced out the flavors (again, this is pretty dependent on your curry powder). Oh, and did I mention it was one of the best things I’ve made in a while?
When I ate it for lunch, I was all, “this is pretty damn good”. Then I had it as an afternoon snack, thinking, “hellz yeah, this is where it’s at”, and then I had it for supper, when I officially determined that I would forever dream about this noodle soup and crave it always. I also had it for a bedtime snack, and the tiny amount of leftovers for breakfast the next day…it was that good.
So after a smashing success with the first recipe test, I set out to try the Rich Butternut Squash Curry, originating from Indonesia. I was looking for something homey and simple, and this only had a 3/5 difficulty ranking (and for the record, 3 ended up being pretty easy for me).
This was the first time I’ve made a curry out of winter squash (I used kabocha instead of butternut since it’s what I had), but I was particularly attracted to it because of its use of curry powder, coconut milk, star anise, and a lovely homemade chili paste that uses a crap-ton of ginger and garlic.
The nice thing about winter squash is it kind of dissolves when it cooks, creating a creamy, stewy texture. This was heaven served atop plain brown rice with plenty of cilantro. I made this for lunch and when Mike came home, the first thing he said was, “It smells incredible in here – I could smell it in the hallway!” Ahh yes, is there anything better than fragrant, flavorful food?
With a second success under my belt, I was feeling confident enough to tackle a 5/5 difficulty recipe, and the Crispy Stuffed Pancakes with Pickles Onions (origin Malaysia) were calling to me.
I’ve never eaten anything like a savory stuffed pancake before, but this was the perfect introduction. You could easily pick up the pancakes, which I guess is important for street food. The filling was a mix of spices, ground round and aromatic veggies, and the pancakes were rolled really, really thin and then folded up like a package. Which, honestly, ended up being a lot easier than it sounded! A little time-consuming, but that’s why Mike was around to help with this one.
I made the Sambal Sauce to go with these pancakes as they suggested in the recipe, and I wasn’t crazy about it when I ate a spoonful of it, but as a condiment for the pancakes it was ideal, especially coupled with the quick pickled onions. The only change I made to the recipe was to halve it and add a squirt of lemon juice.
Mike and I couldn’t get enough of these – they were so good. I really love the Fresno chilies used in the sambal sauce – they make for more of a “slow burn” as opposed to an immediate fire in the face. This meant that I could load on the sauce and not melt. In fact, I didn’t really notice how spicy it must’ve been until I noticed Mike and I were sniffling. Cleared out them sinuses!
So guys, that’s three for three. And not just “pretty good” wins, I’m talking “mind-bending foodgasm” wins. I think this proves that the recipes are indeed well loved and best-of-the-bunch.
I love exploring new culinary cuisines, and Southeast Asian food is something I haven’t spent much time with. I’m really glad I had a chance to taste some food from this cookbook and expand my knowledge!
And I know I’m at risk of sounding like a fangirl, but I really can’t find any cons about this book. The recipes are really well-balanced – there’s easy and hard ones, ones with simple or specialized ingredients, ones that aren’t spicy and ones that are flaming hot, ones that are healthy and others that are more treat-like. Some recipes use tofu, tempeh or seitan, and others are just veggie-based.
So my closing thoughts about this cookbook are as follows: 1) It’s awesome. 2) It’s awesome. 3) You should check it out because it’s awesome.