New cookbooks demystify Burmese flavors, holiday cookies, and vegan dishes.
Burma Superstar: Addictive Recipes From the Crossroads of Southeast Asia by Desmond Tan and Kate Leahy with photography by John Lee (10 Speed Press, March 2017, $29.99, 272 pp.)
This cookbook is full of beautiful images of Myanmar, from temple-topped craggy hills and lush green mountains and fog-shrouded valleys to gritty urban streets dotted with motorbikes and bicycles and steam-infused markets and tiny kitchens. The food sizzles, crunches, and pops from the pages, promoting dishes popularized by the restaurant Burma Superstar, first in San Francisco then Alameda and Oakland. Tan, the restaurant owner, and Leahy demystify the crush of India, China, Thailand, and Laos that define this Southeast Asian cuisine. Curries and slow-cooked dishes lead the adventure, followed by vegetables, stir-fries and fast-cooked dishes, noodles, soups, salads, drinks, snacks and sweets, rice and basics, and pantry, tools, and techniques. —Judith M. Gallman
Holiday Cookies: Showstopping Recipes to Sweeten the Season by Elisabet der Nederlanden with photography by Erin Scott (10 Speed Press/Penguin Random House, September 2017, $20, $168 pp.)
Berkeley food stylist, baker, and recipe developer Elisabet der Nederlanden coaxes the most basic ingredients into stunning culinary works of tasty art. Her new holiday recipe book offers 50 recipes for cookies, confections, and other sweet treats from around the world, ranging from classics to the obscure but all equally mouthwateringly appealing and beautifully photographed. She offers baking tips and tricks, decorating ideas, packaging pointers, and storage options while also carefully noting what special equipment might be necessary for recipes. Want to try your hand this year at making your own gingerbread house? There’s a recipe, along with component templates for making the structure, included. Finally, the author insists the recipes are easy to scale up or down. —JMG
Vegan Underground: Improvisations on World Cuisines by Philip Gelb (www.SoundAndSavor.com, $25, 132 pp.).
Philip Gelb has long hosted underground dinners in his West Oakland loft bringing together his passions: vegan cooking and improvised music. The intimate events have featured Gelb’s themed multi-course meals and solo and duo performances by leading lights of the jazz, classical, and experimental avant-gardes, thus the subtitle of Gelb’s second cookbook. The new volume emulates the minimalist but deep-listening approach to music played by Gelb on shakuhachi (Japanese end-blown flute) and by his late friend and mentor Pauline Oliveros, to whom the book is dedicated, and who once asked Gelb, “Are you listening to your ingredients?” The easy-to-follow recipes take up a page or less each. But there is remarkable depth and breadth here. —Derk Richardson