Book Review: The World’s Best Spicy Food. Where to Find it and How to Make it.

cv_the_worlds_best_spicy_foodAvailable in bookstores now.

I was thrilled to recieve this book for review because I’ve enjoyed a previous Lonely Planet Cookbook (World’s Best Street Food). Both books have in common recipes compiled by well-travelled food writers who do not compromise on the ingredients required to produce faithful versions of these international food delights.

Tom Parker-Bowles appropriately writes the introduction. His dedication to spicy food is well established in his columns and books and he passionately explains the addition of heat – smoked, charred or sauced can make to meals.

Unfamiliar ingredients are well explained in the glossary – this is very useful as it can give you some hint of the kind of store you might approach to find novel ingredients, or what could perhaps substitute. However, the writers are committed to authentic recipes so have quite deliberately written recipes that are not so over-adapted as to become unrecognisable in their country of origin.

Now, personally, I don’t like heat for the sake of uncomfortable heat in cooking and still retain an embarrassingly low tolerance for meals involving chili peppers. But in the last few years I’ve come to appreciate the variety of ingredients that supply ‘heat’ as a taste element. You don’t need chillis to get heat − it can be supplied by ingredients such as vinegar or mustard. This recipe book contains an excellent range of ingredients and cuisines displaying heat as an element.

My favourites were Lahmacun and Japanese Curry. I don’t know why Lahmacun isn’t more well known in New Zealand (Turkish Pizza topped with lamb mince cooked in tomato, capsicum and spices). At this time of the year when tomatoes and capsicums are cheap and easily available it is well worth making. I first had Katsu Curry in a school cafeteria in Japan. I spent years begging Japanese friends to send over the famous blocks of ‘kare roux’ to make my own Japanese curries. These days the blocks of curry sauce are readily available in supermarkets but it was very interesting learning how to make the sauce from scratch. If you don’t want to make the pork cutlet to accompany the curry I find small cubes of beef in the curry just delicious.

If you have a friend who lives for spicy food challenges then they will enjoy a gift of this book. Equally, I feel that there are a lot of recipes in here that will appeal to families wishing to create more interesting meal options. I look forward to more Lonely Planet recipe books in the future.

Recipes I tried:
* Pepper Jelly – I’ve made something similiar before and this is a great gifting recipe. The red/ green colour combo is fantastic at Christmas time.
* Zatar – having recently lucked into a load of fantastically cheap walnuts this month I made a small batch of Zatar. I often have leftover pizza dough and this is great on plain cooked dough.
* Lahmacun – I love this recipe but prefer roasting the capsicums first. Buy capsicums while they are still cheap and create roasted red peppers. You can freeze small servings to defrost later in the year. This is a delicious way of enjoying a meaty pizza without using preserved meats.

Reviewed by Emma Wong-Ming

The World’s Best Spicy Food. Where to Find it and How to Make it
Introduced by Tom Parker Bowles
by Lonely Planet
ISBN 9781743219768