Burma: Rivers of Flavor (November 15, 2012)
by Dean Tudor, www.deantudor.com
Burma: Rivers of Flavor (Random House Canada, 2012, 372 pages, ISBN 978-0-307-36216-2, $39.95 CAN hard covers) is by Naomi Duguid, the well-known Canadian author of many other Asian cookbooks for Random House Canada.
Here she travels to Burma, a neglected culinary charm: Toronto, with some relatively rare cuisines, only has one Burmese restaurant, and that one, with a steam table, caters mostly to students as a takeout place.
Burmese (Myanmar) cooking is similar to that of India, China and Thailand, but the spicing is different. For one thing, the Burmese use lots of different varieties of coriander; for another, there are lots of fresh herbs. Duguid has a primer on the basics of Burma (she's been going there for about 25 years), followed by chapters on courses or ingredients. There are salads, soups, veggies, fish and seafood, chicken, beef, pork, rice, noodles, sweets and sauces/condiments.
There is also a chapter on drinks in Burma (tea and tea-shops), as well as beer and liquor (mostly rice liquor or arrack). She writes two sentences on wines: "Burma is starting to produce wine at several vineyards in the Inle Lake area. The industry is young but European winemakers are working to bottle light, drinkable reds and whites." She's also got some brief historical notes, some travel notes (hardly any credit cards are accepted, there were no ATMs by spring of 2012, tourist money is only in un-creased US dollars), an expanded glossary of food terms, and an annotated bibliography.
Preparations, usually one to a page with accompanying food studio photo on the opposite page, have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents on the last page. And, of course, there is a major upside to this book: excellent location photography by Duguid.
This is a first-rate effort, adding to our knowledge of the Asiatic culinary world.
Audience and level of use: Duguid fans, Asian food lovers, those desiring information about obscure cuisines. Let's be apolitical about the country's administrative function, for here, only food matters.
Some interesting or unusual recipes that we tried: Curried chicken livers; intensely green spinach and tomato salad with peanuts; Mandalay noodles with chicken curry; fried sesame-seed bananas; crispy shallot and dried shrimp relish; deep-fried chayote fingers; new potatoes with spiced shallot oil; rice-batter crepes; shan tofu salad; tart-sweet chile-garlic sauce (hot stuff!); fish cakes and fish balls.
Quality/Price Rating: 92.