Verdict: ASIAN INGREDIENT SUBSTITUTIONS is a useful reference guide for the non-Asian cook who wants to learn how to prepare meals in one or more Asian traditions, but may not have access to a comprehensive variety of traditional ingredients.
Jean B. MacLeod has several different books available for cooks and gardeners alike, reference books that help the reader figure out what to use when they don’t have a particular ingredient or tool ready to hand. This is another in the series, rather more specific than the others. It focuses primarily on Asian cooking, including ingredients from East, Southeast, and South Asia. Like the others, it is primarily an alphabetical list of substitutions, very straightforwardly presented without introduction, but in this case the list is all there is, without helpful appendices or measurement equivalent charts such as those that appear in her other books. The list itself is quite helpful, however, offering information on whether a particular substitution will be equivalent in taste, coloration, texture, and/or other features, and sometimes simple instructions on how to make one’s own version of a particular ingredient if there are few or no available equivalents.
There are pages of detailed entries on common ingredients, such as various sorts of garlic or types of rice, and she does a good job identifying which types of a particular foodstuff – say, brands of rice – will suit which particular needs (long grain vs. short grain, sushi rice vs. basmati rice vs. sweet glutinous rice, etc.). Ingredients are frequently, though not always, at least listed and cross-referenced by both the traditional Asian name for them and an English descriptive name- “terasi,” for example, is cross-referenced to “shrimp paste, fermented”- a feature that will assist readers who find an ingredient listed in a recipe but do not immediately know what it is. There are some mildly troublesome discrepancies in how entries are referenced and cross-referenced, with some, like rices, having their main entries appear under their main noun while others, like flours, are sorted primarily by descriptor – for example, “rice, Chinese black,” and “rice, jasmine fragrant” are dealt with in the R section with all the other rices, while “flour, besan,” for example, redirects the reader to “besan flour” in the Bs and “flour, tempura” is addressed under “tempura flour” in the Ts.
ASIAN INGREDIENT SUBSTITUTIONS is a useful reference guide for the non-Asian cook who wants to learn how to prepare meals in one or more Asian traditions, but may not have access to a comprehensive variety of traditional ingredients.
~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader