Q&A with Pat Tanumihadja, Author of ‘Farm to Table Asian Secrets’

By Shelley Pierce | May 14, 2017
by Shelley Pierce
May 14, 2017

Born in Indonesia and raised in Singapore, Pat Tanumihardja’s credits her eclectic culinary aptitude and global outlook to her multicultural background. Pat has been a food and lifestyle writer for over a decade and her cookbooks include The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook (Sasquatch, 2009) and Farm to Table Asian Secrets (Tuttle, 2017). She lives in the Washington D.C. Metro region with her husband and son. Find her at: @PicklesandTea and PicklesandTea.org.

In  ‘Farm to Table Asian Secrets,’ you’ll learn the secrets of vegetarian and vegan Asian cooking””how to blend flavors, textures, aromas and colors””to create full-flavored vegetarian dishes using seasonal vegetables.  Read on to learn more about this Tuttle Publishing book and enter to win one of five copies below!

1. What Asian secrets can readers hope to find?
They’re not quite “secrets’ per se but tips and tricks that Asian cooks use in their recipes. Readers can learn how to use crispy, crunchy ingredients like fried shallots and toasted coconut to add texture (and flavor), harnessing vegan ingredients like mushrooms and seaweed to boost umami, and how easy it is to make homemade sauces and dips.

2. How difficult was it to adapt traditional Asian recipes using local and seasonal vegetables?
Not difficult at all! There’s almost always an equivalent vegetable with a similar flavor profile to what we’re used to in Asia. Some examples are:

  • Chinese broccoli and broccolini
  • Japanese/Chinese eggplant and Italian eggplant
  • Amaranth and Swiss chard

Plus, we get so much more variety here in the U.S. I think the hardest part is resisting the urge to eat vegetables that are not in season!

3. How does this book help us to “think outside the wok”?
Well, for one thing, you really don’t need a wok to cook Asian cuisine! A large saute pan or Dutch oven work fine. My book also gives alternatives to traditional Asian cooking, be they ingredients, utensils or methods. For example, instead of a bamboo steamer and a wok, I use my Dutch oven and a metal rack. I much prefer my wooden spatulas to traditional metal wok scrapers. Plus, I give alternatives to frying (which I personally dislike)””oven roasting or broiling.

4. Can all of the ingredients be easily purchased?
Yes, most of the ingredients (sauces and herbs) are available at a mainstream grocery store or at least a specialty store like Whole Foods Market. If not, I offer substitutions and/or recipes for homemade versions. Herbs like lemongrass and Thai basil may not always be available but they’re easy to grow and can be always at your fingertips.

5. What is the difficulty level of the recipes, particularly for those new to cooking Asian cuisine, and the time investment in the kitchen that they require?
Most of the recipes are easy to make as they require basic cooking skills like stir-frying and baking. Some require multiple steps and are more time consuming than others (like pho, fried spring rolls,) but usually several steps can be performed ahead of time so that you’re not in the kitchen for an entire afternoon! However, I would say that skills like rolling spring rolls and folding dumplings will take practice.

6. What is one of your favorite recipes that is featured in this book and why?
I really love the Thai Basil Zucchini recipe””it’s one of my breakthrough recipes! I’ve never been much of a zucchini fan, I’ve always thought it bland and blah. After I developed this recipe, I’ve been yearning for zucchini in my CSA box! It’s so easy and quick to make for a weeknight meal and the anise flavor of the basil really complements the zucchini.

WIN ONE OF FIVE COPIES OF ‘Farm to Table Asian Secrets‘!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight on Sunday, May 21, 2017 (be sure to provide a valid e-mail address) in answer to the following question:

What seasonal vegetable do you enjoy experimenting with in the kitchen?

Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See rules for more information.)

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