I relish Asian food of all kinds: Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese. I enjoy sampling the little bites and new flavors at all the varieties of restaurants. But I don’t enjoy cooking Asian-style dishes.
For one thing, the recipes usually call for a lot of ingredients, many of which I am not likely to have around. Beyond soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil and Siracha chili sauce, I don’t tend to stock up on Asian ingredients. I am not familiar enough with the flavors to substitute wisely. So making an Asian meal requires a trip to the grocery store.
Also, I find that the recipes are really fussy, which is not how I like to cook. Asian recipes work well if you prepare everything beforehand and lay it out, and if you follow the instructions fairly closely. I tend to be much more of an improvisational cook, and I like recipes to be forgiving if I happen to leave them on the heat too long.
Mexican cooking is a similar experience for me. While I greatly enjoy eating in traditional Mexican restaurants (I’m not talking about Tex-Mex here, although I like that too), when I try to make it at home, I find the long lists of unfamiliar ingredients daunting. Even though Rick Bayless and Diane Kennedy are very good cookbook writers, making any one of their recipes is likely to be a project. Beyond the special chiles and other ingredients I must have, which usually must be roasted or toasted or otherwise treated before I can start cooking, often special equipment is also needed.
It seems like so much trouble to make these dishes at home when I can go out to any number of local restaurants and get dynamite food with absolutely no trouble beyond pulling out my credit card.
On the other hand, I really enjoy cooking food from the Mediterranean, Italian and French traditions, particularly rustic-style dishes. The ingredients are familiar; often I grow them in my own garden. I know I will like the flavors, and I feel comfortable improvising and substituting in these recipes. Often, the recipes lend themselves easily to variation and don’t require a lot of fussy prep work.
As I cook more and more, I have found that the types of food I most enjoy cooking results in the tastiest dishes. While I might have mixed results when I tackle a new Asian or Mexican recipe, when I make Italian, Mediterranean or bistro-style French food, I am pretty much always successful. My style seems to be evolving, leading me to try new things, such as pizza or coq au vin.
I’m sure I’ll continue to cook occasionally out of my Bayless, Kennedy and Asian cookbooks, but they are making up a smaller part of my library now. My style seems to be evolving, and I am really liking where it is taking me.
Tagged: World Cuisines