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Asian Fusion (another point of View)

by: by Wini Brugger and edited by Gillian Sutch

New York NY: John Wiley & Sons 1998, $29.95, Hardbound
ISBN: 0-470-24432-2

Reviewed by: Susan Asanovic
Winter Volume: 1998 Issue: 5(4) page(s): 13

At the high end of the sophistication continuum you found Asian Fusion reviewed in Flavor and Fortune, Volume 5, pages 20-21. This book written by Brugger and edited by Sutch, is by the once executive chef of the Hong Kong Hilton is authored by a man with extensive international training.

Fusion, not infusion, nor confusion. Infusion can be used in Fusion cooking; confusion is what ensues when you don't understand ingredients or flavor pairings. Brugger's cuisine is skillful fusion and he knows his ingredients, but do we?

The American English seems poorly translated from whatever the mother tongue might have been and we find mysteries such as: 'Pheasant mullet...cilantro seeds...poy mushroom powder...and Siam.' Isn't it Thailand now?

Nonetheless, this is a beautiful, highly refined text. Slick, glossy, admittedly impressive, and a seductive picture book with recipes. Professional chefs and culinary students will find much inspiration here. Be sure to read the informative Introduction by Ken Hom; it sets the tone and helps to further understanding of the book's concept.

The photo's are art-gallery quality; just begging to be framed; with food styling to match (take notice all food stylists). The full-color shots of each recipe, on high gloss are almost sensuous, and show precisely what results you are aiming for.

Brugger's recipes are highly professional and his talent is obvious. The fusion is not just pick one from column A, B, C, and slap the flavors together. Most of the time they harmonize and become credible, in a logical interplay. Not always, however; for instance, the mixture of coconut milk, tomato, and Parmesan in a Thai Lasagna is quite unappealing. But, we liked the sweet and sour sauce on a Wok-Cooked Vegetable and Tofu dish with fresh pineapple used as a vegetable. Delicious, sweetened only with fruit, no added sugar--and very low fat. As for the Camphor-Smoked Asparagus, maybe our Western tastes need to adjust to camphor which makes me think of Ben-Gay. But again, aren't Southwestern Mesquite Chips somewhat camphorous?

Unfortunately, there is neither a glossary nor a resource list. But the recipes are exceptionally well-indexed, in ingredient categories (chocolate, lobster, tofu, etc.). Interesting titles include Stir-Fried Pasta with Chinese Red Spinach and Pheasant and the River Stir-Fried Endive Salad with River Crayfish. The easy to make Soba Noodles with Green Mustard Leaves and Tofu was delicious. No recipes were provided in the previous review and I hope you'll at least taste the soba noodle dish before, during, and after you salivate over the photographs of the others.

Note that the recipe below is written in this magazine's style, not as an ingredient paragraph, as it appears in the book. That truly is a disconcerting format for an ingredient list.
Noodles with Green Mustard Leaves and Tofu
1 large bunch of broccoli, cut into flowerettes
2 cups sliced carrots
12 to 15 large sliced mushrooms
1 and a 1/2 cups diced fresh tofu
1 cup mustard green leaves
9 ounces soba (buckwheat noodles)
1 cup misoyaki sauce*
3 Tablespoons sesame oil
1 Tablespoon or more toasted sesame seeds
1. Steam all vegetables together, except the mustard green leaves, with the tofu until "al dente."
2. Bring eight cups of water to the boil, put the soba noodles in for thirty seconds, then drain and pour the misoyaki sauce over them and toss.
3. Add the raw mustard green leaves and mix well. Toss with the sesame oil and garnish with the sesame seeds.
4. Serve with a good chili sauce.
Note *This is available at Japanese food stores.

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