Book Reviews

To Asia, with Love

Everyday Recipes and Stories from the Heart

To be honest I approached ‘To Asia, with Love’ by Hetty McKinnon with a certain amount of trepidation, cooking with so many new and strange ingredients worried me. However, as I started reading Hetty’s cleverly and charmingly written book I knew it was going to become a permanent addition to my cookbook shelf.

‘To Asia, with Love’ is Hetty’s fourth book (I am now on a mission to acquire the other three).  Born of Chinese immigrants she grew up in Sydney, Australia where she set up the Arthur Street Kitchen, a local salad delivery business run from her home. She now lives in America writing articles about food along with her cookbooks.

A journey of self-discovery

In many respects ‘To Asia with Love’ is also about Hetty’s personal journey to discover herself and create her own identity – a journey which she has achieved by adapting her traditional Chinese heritage and food with modern ingredients from the Western world.  Hetty, by the way, is vegetarian and her recipes in the book are a tempting combination of East meets West vegetarian and vegan dishes, combining with them glimpses of her family plus memories of the dishes cooked by her Chinese mother.

100 recipes

It’s a substantial book, over 240 pages, with an excellent and comprehensive introduction which is followed by 100 recipes divided between headings such as – The morning feast; Lucky noodles; Dumplings and other small things; Salads; and even some deliciously not too sweet Deserts. Whilst tofu may not be my favourite ingredient, I cook it quite often, and Hetty has certainly inspired me with her varied   suggestions for how to make it tasty.

Use broccoli or kale instead!

Thanks to Hetty’s clearly set out and straight forward recipes, along with her suggestions for how to adapt them by using short cuts when necessary, plus various techniques and suggesting alternative ingredients the book is a joy to read.  For instance, she endeared herself to me when it came to cooking with Asian greens. I don’t have access to them but she assures me that broccoli or kale work just as well.

I am now hooked on her suggestion for making eggs ‘jammy’ and how to cook perfect rice, learning how to make kimchi, noodles and even chili oil and dumplings. Whilst for vegans there are options galore for plant-led recipes.

Inspirational recipes – Western, Asian, vegetarian or vegan

I find this book truly inspirational – for me she has taken the mystique out of the different ingredients used in vegan and vegetarian Asian cooking by combining them with familiar Western ingredients. Every time I shop nowadays I am gradually adding new and exciting looking bottles and jars to my store cupboard so I can experiment further. Hetty would approve.

Oh, and by the way, the photos used in ‘To Asia with Love: Everyday Recipes and Stories from the Heart’ are taken by Hetty herself – a super talented lady.

To Asia with Love: Everyday Recipes and Stories from the Heart. Hetty McKinnon. ISBN: 978-3-7913-8683-6. UK £26; USA $35; Can 47.  Prestel.