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As soon as I heard about this book, I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy. After all, what foodie (vegan or otherwise), wouldn't love a book filled with 150 Asian-inspired recipes you can prepare in 30 minutes or less? With a collection of delectable dishes from Afghanistan to Viet Nam, The 30-Minute Vegan's Taste of the East held the promise of accelerated culinary nirvana.
I am already a huge fan of the authors' best-selling book, The 30 Minute Vegan. So I wondered if they could they possibly outdo themselves with another collection of 30-minute recipes? As soon as I honed in on the recipe for Vanilla Cardamom Rose Lassi on page 38, I quickly realized they had.
The most enticing ingredients combine to create a romantic beverage that is intoxicatingly fragrant. I felt at ease substituting coconut milk kefir for the coconut milk yogurt suggested in this recipe, with palate-pleasing results. "Suggested" really is the key word in all of this book's wonderful recipes. In both 30-Minute Vegan books, authors Reinfeld and Murray encourage readers to experiment and have fun playing with the recipes. While many authors invite readers to create their own variations, in an almost magical way, Reinfeld and Murray truly inspire such creativity.
Like a mystery novel page-turner just waiting to be devoured, Taste of the East excited both my curiosity and my taste buds. With dishes like Tibetan Dumplings, Tempeh Vegetable Korma, and Arame Lotus Root Sauté, it was agonizingly difficult choosing the next recipe to sink my teeth into. Thoughtfully, Taste of the East is organized by country of origin, so you don't have to wait to get to the end of the book to get to the dessert recipes. Within each section, the recipes are listed in the order you'd find them on a menu, from appetizers to desserts. Each section starts with a glossary of ingredients unique to the country's cuisine, and sprinkled throughout the book are helpful boxes with Thoughtful Chef's Tips and Tricks. (What do you do if you tear your nori in the middle of making a sushi roll?) Highly useful appendixes include Preparation Basics for everything from toasting spices, nuts, and seeds to roasting tofu and tempeh.
In the spirit of sweetness, (and because I have absolutely no problem with eating dessert first), I dove straight ahead into two enticing recipes--Mango Custard Pudding from China and Black Rice Pudding from Thailand. Both desserts were decadently rich, creamy, and sweet.
After satisfying my sweet tooth, it was time to explore more serious fare. Inspired by the red lentil dal I enjoyed recently on a trip to Ananda Village, I decided to try the Indian Dhal and paired it with the recipe for Coconut Spinach Rice. True to the book's promise, once I had all of the ingredients assembled, both dishes went from stove to table in no more than thirty minutes and were as tasty as any dish it might take hours to prepare.
Next, I wanted to become reacquainted with a dish I'd only eaten once many years ago. Indonesian Gado Gado is a delightful medley of both raw and cooked vegetables served with a sassy peanut sauce dressing. Although the dish is traditionally made with cooked potatoes, I used yams instead, which together with roasted tempeh, red cabbage, green beans, carrots, cauliflower, red onions, tomatoes, and cucumbers created a vibrantly delectable fusion of flavors. The dressing blended peanut butter, coconut milk, garlic, garlic, jalapeño, maple syrup, and tamarind paste together and was the perfect accompaniment.
Before writing this review, I last tried the recipe for Sweet Soybean Sauce with Noodles, better known as Pad Siew. This simple dish, made with a soy-sauce marinade and stir-fried vegetables, is surprisingly tasty. Among the ingredients is a fish-free sauce (the recipe is in the book!) which substitutes for the traditional fish sauce used in many Thai dishes. It's an optional ingredient in this recipe, but it added a little pizazz to my Pad Siew. And I appreciate having an alternative to fish sauce on hand for all of my other Thai cooking.
Whether you want to impress your friends and family with your cooking prowess or you just enjoy eating great Asian cuisine, I highly recommend The 30 Minute Vegan's Taste of the East. This jewel of a book will inspire and delight you and awaken the creative culinary genius within you.