Everyday Asian
by Marnie Henricksson

193 pages; No photographs or sketches. Hardcover
Published by William Morrow/Harper Collins, NY, NY, July2003
Reviewed by Susan Schoenhals, March 2003
In her first cookbook, Marnie Henricksson truly delivers on her mission to take the mystery out of Asian cooking. After spending time traveling around Asia and running a successful noodle shop in New York City, Marnie decided to channel her knowledge and passion for Asian food into this wonderful new cookbook. I love Asian food, but definitely fall into Marnie's target market -- an aspiring cook who is intrigued yet intimidated by the unfamiliar ingredients in Asian cooking. Consequently, Asian food is rarely cooked at our house, but rather ordered in or enjoyed at a restaurant. Everyday Asian succeeds in uncovering the mysteries of preparing Asian food at home. It reads like a novel, which I thoroughly enjoyed from cover to cover. Aside from the delicious recipes, probably the best part of the cookbook is the 29 pages describing essential Asian ingredients and equipment. It not only outlines the staples of Asian cuisine and provides helpful preparation tips, but also lists her favorite brands for many Asian products.

This is a concise and easy to read cookbook. I was initially disappointed that it contained no illustrations, however since each recipe begins with a brief paragraph describing the background and history of the dish, the reader can easily visualize the finished product. The two recipes I tried -- Pad Thai and Filipino Adobo with Pork and Chicken -- proved to have easy to find ingredients (using her guidance) and were straightforward to follow, resulting in flavorful dishes that left my guests satisfied and asking for more. I tried the Pad Thai because it's everybody's favorite and I've had it a million times. This one was refreshingly different from many restaurant versions -- much lighter and less oily. If you like spice, I would follow Marnie's recommendation and use two tablespoons of chili sauce instead of one. Adobo, which means to cook in a pickling spice, is one of the best known Filipino dishes. It's peasant food -- uncomplicated and rustic. Although I had never tried Adobo, I elected to make this recipe because it's my husband's favorite and knew he would be a good judge since he's had it prepared by Filipino families. He gave it the thumbs up and felt it was very authentic, perhaps even more complex in flavor than those he has sampled in the past. (We won't tell the Filipino grandmothers!)

I only wish I had time to try a few more recipes from this book. I will definitely be adding Everyday Asian to my cookbook collection once it is published this summer. If you are like me and find Asian cooking somewhat intimidating, I think you will really enjoy this compilation of Asian favorites. These are easy and delicious recipes the whole family will appreciate in place of your regular weekly fare.

Pad Thai
Serves 4

1/2 cup raw peanuts
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, shells reserved
1/3 cup fish sauce
juice of 2 limes
1 tablespoon chili sauce
1 tablespoon shrimp powder
11/2 tablespoons sugar
12 ounces rice noodles, soaked in a bowl of water for 30 minutes
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 carrots, grated
1 small bunch broccoli, separated into florets
1/2 cup Thai basil leaves, or Italian basil leaves
1 cup bean sprouts
1 lime sliced into wedges

1. Roast the peanuts in a 350 F oven or toaster oven until golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool and chop coarsely.
2. Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a medium frying pan and put in the chicken, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and poach until just done, about 10 minutes. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon, reserving the poaching liquid. When the meat is cool, slice it into 1/4-inch-thick pieces and refrigerate.
3. Add the shrimp shells to the chicken poaching liquid and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain the broth.
4. Combine the fish sauce, lime juice, chili sauce, shrimp powder, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add 2 cups of the shrimp shell broth and stir to dissolve the sugar. This much can be done in advance.
5. About 15 minute before you want to serve, heat the oil in a large saute or chef's pan (with a lid) over high heat. Add the onion and stir-fry for a minute. Add the carrot and broccoli and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the shrimp, then the drained noodles, sauce, and chicken. Combine everything with tongs. Cover, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until the shrimp, noodles, and broccoli are just done. This will take 7 to 10 minutes. Lift the lid a few times to recombine with tongs. Add the basil for the last minute of cooking.
6. Heap the pad Thai on a large serving dish and tip with the bean sprouts, crushed peanuts, and lime wedges.

Filipino Adobo with Pork and Chicken
Serves 4

11/2 pounds country-style pork ribs on the bone
2 pounds skinless chicken things
3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/2 small onion, sliced
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, coarsely ground
6 tablespoons canola oil
Spinach leaves, washed and patted dry, to cover a platter

1. Combine the pork, chicken, vinegar, garlic, onion, soy sauce, salt, bay leaves, and black pepper in a chef's pan or medium saucepan and then add enough water just to cover the meat, 1 to 2 cups. Let the meat marinate for an hour.
2. Put the pan on a burner and bring it to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the meat is quite tender, about 45 minutes.
3. Remove the meat from the pan, bring the liquid back to a boil, and reduce it to 1 cup. Strain the sauce and skim off the fat.
4. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Quickly fry the pork and chicken, turning once. You want a nice brown crust.
5. Reheat the sauce. Arrange the spinach on a serving platter and cover with the meat. Pour half of the sauce over the top and serve the rest on the side.