East meets West in Vancouver restaurants with such regularity, we sometimes forget how good we’ve got it, let alone how much we might make at home. When it comes to recreating the magic of Asian cuisine that has garnered a global reputation for its diversity and excellence, we of the West have already taken a tip from the East – we leave the cooking to the pros.
‘Go West, Eat East’ has been the order of the day for as long as many of us recall. We are all friends of Pho’, sushi-savvy and dynamically versed in dim sum delights. On any given day, we can Thai our shoes, pluck a bit of basil from the garden box and order in from just about anywhere in Asia – or go out for the best in the world.
When it comes to the cooking though, we of the West tend to turn a paler shade of white and do just that – grab a take-out menu, go culinary globe-trotting in the neighbourhood or call a cab to journey to the heart of the East: Richmond.
For those ready to wok the talk and take full stock of your pantry’s potential, long-time food writer Stephanie Yuen has everything you need in hand: “East Meets West: Traditional and Contemporary Asian Dishes from Acclaimed Vancouver Restaurants.”
With kudos to the art department, the cover speaks volumes: a prawn betwix the ‘sticks, a noodle wrapped ‘round a fork. Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Malaysian, Indonesian: time to bust out the spice box and flex your noodle in the kitchen.
East Meets West follows in the tradition of Vancouver Cooks, its stellar sequel and last year’s Ocean Wise Cookbook. What Yuen and publisher Douglas & McIntyre offer up with East Meets West is an Asian best of the best – compliments of some famous top tables and familiar faces. The recipes, restaurants and chefs read as an artful shuffle of the familiar and the frankly foreign – and yes, that’s a good thing; that’s where the real adventure starts.
Even the most ardent foodie explorer will prosper from Yuen’s labour of love between the pages of East Meets West. While Conde Naste has already credited Vancouver with having the best Chinese food in the world, Yuen has set her sites on celebrating the best Asian cuisine on the planet. Resoundingly, East Meets West succeeds. As a cookbook, its bound to be a winning entry, but not on the merit of the recipes alone.
The format is friendly and familiar enough(soups, salads/appetizers, seafood, poultry, meat, vegetables, rice and noodles and dessert), the glossary of ingredients, tips & techniques all present and accounted for. With a culinary travelogue’s worth of essential listings for supplies and reservations appended, East Meets West covers the basics, bases and faces nicely.
Where it shines though in the greater context of its authorship; Yuen is many things to many people – nearly all of them kitchen-related.
From plucking chickens at her mother’s side in Kowloon, Hong Kong to becoming Canada’s first syndicated Chinese food writer, Yuen was born to write this book. East Meets West provides a temporary bookend on a culinary resume of milestones and moments that span decades. Amongst ongoing highlights, Yuen was a food columnist for CBC Radio 1, and she now writes for Edible Canada and What’s On magazine, contributes to the Vancouver Sun and appears frequently on radio and TV. AND has her own blog about Asian food: beyondchopsticks.com. Yuen can cook.
Regardless, what makes Yuen truly unique is her ability to match pen a la pied – as it were. Her knowledge of the subject matter and media pedigree aside, Yuen quite literally walks her talk and talks her walks. For years, she has led walking tours of Chinatown and beyond, exploring Richmond’s hidden riches, spanning the gap of East and West in stride: sharing, learning, eating and cooking all the while.
I am lucky enough to call her my friend, patient teacher of ancient Chinese kitchen secrets and one of the most passionate and talented cooks and writers I know. She has taken me places I would have never gone and taught me more than anyone I know when it comes to Asian cooking. Simply sharing a table with her is an experience that offers as much nourishment from the narrative as the dishes.
In this light, East Meets West is simply testament to a lifetime of bridging the gap with a well-placed table. Understandably then, I joined in the launch of the the book tour that kicked off at Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks on Saturday, April 28th, 2012.
What did we eat? Noon on a rainy Vancouver weekend? What else? Dim Sum.
How West is that?
As for my friend, an open invitation for dinner. You pick the recipes from the book and I’ll do the cooking. C’mon Stephanie – Yuen me in the kitchen!