At 19, Nina Simonds more or less became Asian. The New Englander dropped out of college in the 1970s and headed far east to Taiwan “to study food, language, and culture.” She was taken in by a surrogate Chinese family, in which the mother happened to be a famous cook with a cooking school staffed by some of China’s best chefs. Such serendipitous experiences would inspire Simonds to write 10 cookbooks through the decades, and make her one of the leading authorities on Asian cooking.
Her latest how-to is as much a feast for the eyes as the palate: the photography alone is mouth-watering. And yet Simonds promises to “dispel the myth that Asian cooking is too time-consuming and difficult to prepare on a daily basis.” Her pan-Asian recipes here have been updated and adapted to fit the 21st-century lifestyle, taking advantage of short-cuts (my term, not Simonds!) like organic chicken broth and ready-made sauces in order to create fast, healthy, delicious meals. With most supermarkets going global, Simonds makes stocking your pantry with Asian essentials efficient and easy.
Simonds enhances many of her recipes with the ‘food as medicine’-philosophy by adding yin-yang boxes which highlight specific ingredients for “their health-giving properties according to Chinese medicine and scientific research.” The shrimp in her “Fiery Vietnamese Hot and Sour Shrimp Soup” warms the body which increases qi. The spinach in “Wilted Spinach and Scallop Salad with Toasted Sesame Seeds” helps hydrate the body and quenches thirst. The miso that flavors “Grilled Miso Tuna” lowers the risk of heart disease, reduces menopausal symptoms, prevents cancer, and aids digestion. Even dessert can be good for you: the peaches in “Roasted Peaches with Cardamom Whipped Cream” will help replenish body fluids and help dry coughs.
Whatever ails you (or someone in your family), you just might find an antidote between these pages. Although even without miraculous cures, everyone at your dining table is sure to benefit from some delectable fare indeed.