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Thursday, December 18, 2014
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Published: Tuesday, 9/25/2007

Authentic tastes around the world

Cookbooks are a mirror of our times with amazing topics and recipes from street food to Prince Charles.

Street Food: Exploring the World's Most Authentic Tastes by Tom Kime (DK, $22) recreates authentic tastes from around the world. Recipes include Indian spicy fried okra, crispy paratha flat bread, sweet potato and pumpkin doughnuts from Ecuador, baba ghanoush, and zucchini stuffed with lamb and pine nuts (which reminded me of locally popular koosa).

I confess to being cautious about food sold by street vendors. Food safety should be the top priority with street food, whether it comes from vendors on street corners selling hot or cold food or during college football season when brats and barbecue are served from a big smoker or grill positioned in a vacant lot. Near the ocean, you'll see pickup trucks advertising fresh shrimp or seafood. It's important to know how well the seafood has been iced down, especially if it's a sizzling hot day.

The author, Mr. Kime, advises in an article in the June issue of Budget Travel that travelers follow the crowds. If a vendor has no customers, there must be a reason. Mr. Kime gets recommendations from taxi drivers, policemen, and shop owners about what foods they like and which vendors they buy from. Watch the street food cook; in fact, request that it be cooked fresh for you while you wait. Wash your hands or use antibacterial wipes, especially before you eat. If your stomach is queasy, eat plain starchy food such as rice, bread, and noodles. Bananas are excellent.

In Jerk from Jamaica: Barbecue Caribbean Style by Helen Willinsky (10 Speed Press, $18.95), the author writes about how fish must be fresh. "My father and I would drive out about twenty miles from Kingston" to wait for the fishermen coming with their wonderful catches. Recipes include Baked Mahi-Mahi, Fried Snapper with Onions, Escovitch Fish, and Jerk Asian Grilled Red Snapper. (Jerk is also used to season beef, lamb, and goat - called cabritos by Spanish speakers. Curry Goat is one of Jamaica's national dishes.)

In India, Masala Omelet is a popular street food and a specialty at Bombay's old Irani cafes, writes Ruta Kahate in 5 Spices, 50 Dishes (Chronicle, $19.95). These thin omelets are used for sandwiches. The author writes about traveling with her parents as a child and how her mother brought "travel food"- a spicy, oniony potato dish called Railway Potatoes, and chapatis, a freshly baked flatbread.

Meanwhile, contemporary French food is changing. Nobody Does It Better...Why French Home Cooking is Still the Best in the World by Trish Deseine (Kyle, $35) discusses current farming techniques, the fascination with designer labels as a guarantee of new taste discoveries, and new French classics. Foreign dishes are remixed a la Francaise. The UK, Italy, and Spain are sources of new classics that the French have made theirs, writes the author. Recipes include Pumpkin Soup, Ratatouille Crumble, and Olive, Garlic, and Rosemary Cake. The latter can be served with salad as an evening meal. There's even a Nougat and Honey Ice Cream.

Duchy Originals was founded by HRH The Prince of Wales in 1990 to promote top-quality British food produced according to sustainable agriculture. Now Duchy Originals Cookbook by Johnny Acton and Nick Sandler (Kyle Books, $35) showcases the philosophy with plenty of photographs and recipes. The Flat Bake with Bacon and Vintage Cheddar looks like you could take a slice off the page. Bubble and Squeak Plus Souffle updates the old British dish made with potatoes, cabbage, and bacon. Toad in the Hole with Mashed Root Vegetables is sausage made in a baked batter in a muffin tin. The importance of the Cheeseboard, the classy version of Bread and Butter Pudding made with blueberries, and the roast turkey with trimmings make this a cookbook worth savoring.



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