The Austin Chronicle

In Print

Reviewed by Mick Vann, February 23, 2007, Food

Memories of Philippine Kitchens

by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan; photos by Neal Oshima

Stewart, Tabori, & Chang, 232 pp., $35

Filipino cookbooks published in English are rare. It is difficult to consolidate the home cooking of dozens of indigenous cultures with countless variations from a country that is spread out across 7,000-plus islands. The cuisine is unique, with heavy influences from the traders and colonizers of the past: native tribes, Indonesia and Malaysia, India, China, Spain, Mexico, and the U.S. Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan have released a comprehensive guide to the household kitchens of the Philippines, a wonderful cookbook that brings the culinary bounty and culture of the islands into sharp focus.

Co-owners of Cendrillon Asian Grill & Merienda Bar in SoHo, Besa and Dorotan have drawn on their own familial backgrounds, as well as interviews of their friends' families, to compose a collection of traditional recipes from many regions of the archipelago, coupled with warm and engaging sidebars and headnotes that further amplify the history and significance of the dishes. Oshima's 200 stunning photographs illustrate the foods, the land, and the people, putting the cuisine into context.

There are more than 100 recipes, each written in a clear, concise style and divided into such sections as Food That Was Always Ours, Food That Was Borrowed and Made Our Own, and Treasured Family Recipes. All of your favorites are included, and there will be a family reference or a historical note that will add dimension to each.

To get a real feel for the food, simply make a pot of Pochero, the traditional Sunday dish of unctuous stewed beef shanks with sausage and vegetables, accompanied by eggplant caviar. Try a batch of pork ribs simmered adobo style, with garlic, fruit vinegar, and peppercorns. Enjoy some kinilaw, the Filipino version of ceviche, or some lumpia spring rolls made with heart of palm stuffed inside a fresh crepe, with a spicy chile-garlic dipping sauce. Filipino food is unique and wonderful, and Memories of Philippine Kitchens is the ultimate guide.

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