New travel-inspired cookbooks to take you on a virtual gastronomic trip

Eat your way around the world.

Lara Lee's Coconut & Sambal contains more than 80 recipes, some of which were discovered when the author was travelling across Indonesia (Photo: Bloomsbury)

With recipes spanning Indonesia and the island of Sardinia, to Africa and New York City, these cookbook-cum-travelogues offer an exciting journey for adventurous palates.


In Bibi's Kitchen: The Recipes and Stories of Grandmothers from the Eight African Countries That Touch the Indian Ocean
By Hawa Hassan + Julia Turshen

Another cookbook-meets-travelogue, this insightful volume by Somali chef Hawa Hassan and renowned food writer Julia Turshen is a collection of 75 recipes and stories gathered from bibis, which is Swahili for grandmother. They travelled to eight African nations that form the backbone of the spice trade — South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar, Comoros, Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia and Eritrea. There, they met an eclectic mix of women such as Ma Shara from Zanzibar, who taught them to make Ajemi bread with carrots and green pepper; and Ma Gehennet from Eritrea, who shares her recipe for Kicha (Eritrean flatbread) and Shiro (ground chickpea stew). Through Hawa and Julia’s lucid writing and the evocative photography, readers will be transported into the lives of the women and the stories behind their recipes. This book delves deep into the intersection of food, people and community.


Bitter Honey: Recipes and Stories from Sardinia
By Letitia Clark

Sardinia, a charming island in the Mediterranean Sea famous for its turquoise waters, is also a land of scrumptious food. Seasoned chef Letitia Clark explores its cuisine, which she describes as “a distilled version of Italian food: simpler, more rustic, more wild”. Food slow-roasted over an open fire, cheese made to mature slowly, and vegetables cooked long and slow to extract their sweetness is a reflection of the laidback life on the island. Featured are enticing yet healthy dishes such as roasted eggplants with honey, mint, garlic and burrata; a zesty salad with celery, orange, anchovy and hazelnut, and Sardinia’s iconic malloreddus, a pasta dough gnocchi with sausage ragu and a generous amount of chilli, saffron and bay leaves. These recipes evoke visions of an Italian paradise and a relaxed lifestyle.


Xi'an Famous Foods: The Cuisine of Western China, from New York's Favourite Noodle Shop
By Jason Wang, Jenny Huang & Jessica Chou

Xi’an Famous Foods has been a favourite go-to of New Yorkers who want to indulge in authentic Western Chinese cuisine, and has since expanded to 14 different locations in New York City. Born in Xi’an, but raised in the US, Jason Wang, CEO and owner of the iconic eatery, divulges the untold story of how the chain came to be. Never-before-published recipes are also included, ranging from detailed instructions to make divine-looking ribbons of liang pi doused in vinegar sauce, to flatbread stuffed with caramelised pork, to cumin lamb over hand-pulled biang biang noodles. These recipes not only serve to make Wang’s culture more accessible, but will also take readers to the ancient streets of Xi’an as well as the kitchens of New York’s Chinatown.


Coconut & Sambal: Recipes from My Indonesian Kitchen
By Lara Lee

Coconut & Sambal is not merely a cookbook extolling the virtues of authentic Indo­nesian cooking and honouring age-old family recipes, it is also part travelogue. Growing up in Sydney, half-Australian, half-Indonesian chef Lara Lee learnt her Indonesian heritage from her grand­mother, who is from Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara. Her grandmother would often cook Indonesian comfort foods such as gado-gado, chicken satay, perkedel jagung and, an essential in most Indonesian dishes, sambal. Lee shares more than 80 of these recipes, some of which she discovered while travelling across the Indonesian archipelago and which have been passed down through generations. Interweaving the recipes with tales of island life and stunning travel photography, Lee sheds light on the marvellous yet amazingly diverse cuisine of Indonesia.


This article first appeared on Oct 19, 2020 in The Edge Malaysia.


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