Book Review: The World’s Best Street Food

World's-Best-Street-Food-1-(Mini)-9781760340650The World’s Best Street Food
celebrates the rich and wonderful cultures of the world through the flavours and colours of the food created for the everyday person on the street. Often sold by characters as vibrant as the food, it’s an experience not to be missed when you travel abroad.

You’ve either been recommended to try it, or warned to avoid it – street food stalls either pull people one way or sends them in the opposite direction. But sampling street food can give you lasting memories and a taste of the unique flavours of a city. It’s a chance to put your finger on the pulse of the people living there.

Many street food options have been cooked for centuries, and often have colourful histories. The World’s Best Street Food is essentially a recipe book of street foods from different countries, and each page has a snippet on the recipes’ origins which can be fascinating reading. For example, the Inca marinated raw fish to make ceviche centuries ago, but it was the Spanish Conquistadors who bought the limes to South America to flavour the bona fide ceviche that we know today.

The Malaysian and Singaporean murtabak (spiced lamb stuffed pancake) is believed to be invented in India in the Middle Ages, but was brought to South East Asia by Tamil Muslim traders in the 10th Century. Now you’ll find these tasty treats everywhere in night markets and outdoor food stalls.

The Tasting Notes on each page pitch you headfirst into the steaming, dusty, loud, colourful, zesty environs for where that particular street food is prepared and describes the flavours and how they fit into the experience. You’ll feel like you’re in Peru, the Caribbean, Malaysia, Bahamas, Mexico, Argentina, India, or that place you can’t recall but ate that amazing thing sold by that guy on the corner that blew your tastebuds away.

We tried making mohinga at home, a comforting noodle soup lemongrass, shallots, turmeric and freshwater fish – a national dish of Myanmar. It was less of a success than we’d hoped. The ingredients for the recipes will often need to be sourced from a specialist store – and you’ll be googling ‘substitute for gram flour’ for some of the more obscure ingredients. However this is a great book for the traveler and the creative cook, and if you can find the right ingredients, the results will be more satisfying.

If you’re worried about the safety of eating street food on that next trip to Thailand, the rule is to watch where the locals are eating and go there. They’ll often go there day after day and tend to know whether the food is safe or not. Also, if there are people waiting in line, it’s usually good food. With a copy of The World’s Best Street Food in your pocket, you won’t have to wait in line: impress your friends and make it yourself at home!

Reviewed by Amie Lightbourne

The World’s Best Street Food – where to find it and how to make it
Published by Lonely Planet
ISBN 9781742205939

Book review: The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo by F. G. Haghenbeck

cv_the_secret_book_of_frida_kahloThis book is in bookstores now.

Frida Kahlo (1907 – 1954) has a devoted following and in recent years I’ve read a number of novels based on her life – The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo: A Novel by Mexican writer F. G. Haghenbeck is by far the most enjoyable.

The problem with dead people is that if you’re telling their story there’s not a lot of new material to work with so it can get a bit same-same. For example, while I quite enjoyed The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver I found the plot followed a little too faithfully to the movie Frida for my liking so there was nothing new.

A Love Letter from a Stray Moon by Jay Griffiths is billed as a poetic re-imagining of the life of Frida Kahlo and is certainly lyrical and passionate but left me wanting something with a bit more substance and a bit less reliance on shock value.

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

In all honesty I was swayed to buy this new re-imagining of Frida Kahlo’s life by the cover, which was designed by Lisa Congdon, a great illustrator and a recent discovery. (She blogged about the book cover).

Haghenbeck tells a compelling, lively and interesting version of Frida Kahlo’s life that picks up familiar occasions and characters but does it in a way that feels fresh and new. There is ground covered here that readers will also find in The Lacuna and A Love Letter from a Stray Moon but it’s ground that’s covered in greater detail, or with more believability than the other two ‘Frida books.’

The genesis of the story – and it’s a great and immediate hook – is the idea that a notebook of Frida’s recipes for Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations, which was about to exhibited, has disappeared. The book expresses her passion for Día de Muertos and includes recipes and the stories associated with them – these recipes are included at the end of each chapter of the novel in a way some will find reminiscent of another Mexican-authored book, Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate.

Click image for source

Click image for source

The story features all the Frida highlights – her tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera, the development of her artistic vision, her complex personality, her lust for life and her existential feminism. Her early family life, her affairs with icons like Trotsky and O’Keeffe, her time in USA and life at her Mexican home La Casa Azul are all covered here – but in a context that gives Frida a true personality; in The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo she is more than just an angry woman or a painter strapped to a bed.

I read The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo on the train to and from work. Even if you know nothing about Frida Kahlo this is an interesting and enjoyable novel full of the heat and passion of life, love and food in Mexico. It is easy to get into and compelling enough that you can regularly return to it and quickly and easily pick up the story again.

Read this book if you love Frida Kahlo or just need a bit of daily inspiration. In fact, I also created a Pinterest board inspired by The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo.

Reviewed by Emma McCleary, web editor at Booksellers NZ

P.S. Of all the Frida Kahlo books my favourite is definitely The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait (ISBN 9780810959545), which is the reproduction of Frida Kahlo’s diary. It’s well worth looking out if you’re keen to hear from the woman herself.

The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo: A Novel
F. G. Haghenbeck
Published by Atria Books
ISBN 9781451632835