101 Asian Dishes You Need to Cook Before You Die
The best Asian cookbook ever
Review by Adrianne Morrison and Linda Kissam
YUM! Americans use this word a lot, but do we know what the word really means? We didn’t until Chef Jet Tila taught us in his first cookbook, 101 Asian Dishes You Need to Cook Before You Die. “Yum is a Thai word that translates to the perfect balance between spicy, sour, salty, sweet and savory.” How cool is that, and how appropriate it is for this particular cookbook.
We can’t say enough good things about this 192 page, ($14.95) illustrated cookbook. Not so amazing that Jet could hit it out of the park on his first try. Linda has met him several times and toured his beloved Thai Town in LA with him. He is a very charming, but focused young man. His TV and radio show appearances give just a glimpse of what he is capable of.
This book gets a five out of five star rating. It’s easy to read, easy to understand, easy to execute. With a few inexpensive staples in your pantry you’ll be creating authentic Asian dishes. The instructions are short. The ingredient list is manageable and the photos are beautiful as well as informative. Highly recommended for both men and women.
Every dish in Chef’s 101 Asian Dishes You Need to Cook Before You Die will make you say, “mmmm, Yum! Thank you Chef Jet.” I promise. Chef’s writing style, 101’s layout, fonts, colors, photography, and tips will appeal to men who like to cook in the kitchen and on the grill. Women will like it too, but I just have to focus on the men. After reviewing many cookbooks, this one seems particularly right for guys especially the “Rock the Wok,” and “Grilling, Roasting and More Meat” chapters. And, once the first 2 chapters are conquered, I bet men move on to the sassy food-truck-like Korean Short Rib Tacos and a make platter full of Tandoori Chicken for games and movie night.
If your man, brother, or roommate is playing with cooking, get him this cookbook plus a WOK and reap the rewards. Roll-up your sleeves, prepare the ingredients together, and see how much fun team-cooking Asian food can be. Have kids? Make shopping a treasure-hunt for the special ingredients and chop-sticks, then, have your helpers prepare, clean-up, and enjoy the Yum you make together. Novice chop-stick users can find instructions on-line.
Pad Thai? Love it. Chef says pad Thai is a little tricky but once you make it a few times, you’ll be a happy camper and ready to cook your way through 101’s “My Favorite Noodle Dishes” serving phos, lo mein, glass and yes, even Drunken Noodles (rumor has it these are the cure for a hangover.) Going on to soups and curries you’ll find a special tip on how to utilize those cans of coconut milk. Then there are salads, dumpling recipes, and who doesn’t love crab rangoon’s? You know, those delicious, can’t-get-enough-of-them fried cream cheese crab starish shaped pop-in-your-mouth bites when you get take-out. Well, now you can make as many as you want. And, how about a Homemade Instant Chai Tea Mix? I tell you, this cookbook just doesn’t stop. Did I mention Tempura? Well, it’s a secret recipe, at least it should be — who knew about the ice water and cornstarch?
Imagine having all these proven recipes, 101 to be exact, in a stylish paperback or e-book. And, to complete the Asian experience, Chef includes a chapter covering essential “Sauces and Dippers” — that’s right: Sriracha, Peanut, and Teriyaki, even Gochujang which I recently needed and could not find anywhere. With the bazillion recipes on-line, I’m finding I prefer not to waste my time making something that turns out not exactly right. It seems people are tweaking recipes to make them their own without taste testing or verifying their recipe’s measures or ingredients. It’s worth my time and money to get a real-deal professional’s cookbook. My thanks to Chef Jet Tila for bringing together this collection of delicious recipes, for sharing your expertise and teaching us exactly how to create the Yum.
This is another hall of fame book for me. I’d put it in the, ‘Finally, Asian recipes done right” category. Who would have thought it would be so easy to make appealing and yummy Asian dishes so easily at home? Jet breaks it all down into readable, manageable chunks of information. He delivers on his promise that core ingredients and simple preparation create extraordinary dishes. It’s hard not to just give Jet a big ‘ol hug for a solid performance.
If you love this book and will be in LA sometime soon, think about taking CHEF JET TILA’S FLAVORS OF THAI TOWN FOOD TOUR . It’s a small group format featuring the ultimate, insiders’ foodie tour, previously available only to prominent journalists and distinguished visiting chefs with celebrity chef and national culinary personality Jet Tila as your personal guide. SoCal Restaurant Show‘s Andrew Harris rides shotgun sharing colorful background comments. This duo is unbeatable. It was a memorable experience for me. Think about giving a tour ticket and the book to someone for Christmas or other special occasion.
Give this book a test drive via the recipe below. Our thanks to Jet and his PR crew for the photos and recipe.
My Famous Drunken Noodles
Famous for being a late night drinking dish, Drunken Noodles is a marriage between my Thai and Chinese roots. The sauce seems complicated, but it’s as simple as measuring and dumping in a bowl. Fresh rice noodles are a deli item at most Asian markets. They are made and delivered fresh daily to the markets. It’s best to buy and use them within 48 hours. A way to tell if they are fresh is just to take the pack and fold it like a towel. If you can fold until the ends touch and the middles aren’t cracking, that’s a sign of freshness.
SERVES 2 TO 4
2 tbsp (30 ml) sweet soy sauce
1 tbsp (15 ml) oyster sauce
1½ tbsp (22 ml) fish sauce
1 tbsp (15 g) sugar
1 tsp Sriracha (page 179)
1 tsp minced garlic
6–8 Thai basil leaves, chiffonade
3 tbsp (45 ml) canola or peanut oil
2–3 cloves garlic, minced
1–2 serrano chilies, sliced thin
6–8 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ medium white onion, sliced
4 cups (960 ml) fresh rice noodles, separated
1 cup (40 g) Thai basil leaves, loosely packed
½ cup (75 g) grape tomatoes, halved
For the Sauce
Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set it aside.
For the Noodles
In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over high heat. When you see a wisp of white smoke, add the garlic and sauté until it’s light brown.
Add the eggs and serrano chilies in and lightly scramble the eggs until they’re barely set, about a minute.
Add the shrimp, onions and tomatoes, folding constantly until the shrimp turn pink, about 1 minute.
Add the fresh rice noodles, basil leaves and sauce and toss to combine for about 3 minutes. Don’t be scared to scrape the bits off the bottom before they burn. Cook for 1 minute until the noodles are cooked and coated well. Finish by tossing in the basil and grape tomatoes, allowing them to lend their flavors. Cook for about an additional minute and serve hot.