Saturday, May 23, 2009

Cooking from the Heart: Reviews and Recipes

I just received my copy of Sheng Yang and Sami Scripter's Hmong cookbook, Cooking from the Heart, and it doesn't disappoint. I haven't read all of it yet, but I've enjoyed skipping around, looking at the recipes for some of my favorite foods (all of which make my mouth water). Besides being a joy to read (and a pratical cookbook), there is enough context to make it helpful resource for learning about Hmong cultural practices, both traditional and modern. The role of food in rituals is described as well as food practices associated with health and illness. It's also a book about the friendship between Yang and Scripter and the creativity of the individual cooks they worked with. Even the book itself is beautifully designed and well-organized.

There have been a number of positive reivews around the web, but one of the best is from The Heavy Table, a Twin Cities-based website. The review is broken up into two pages. In A Day in the Kitchen of a Hmong Family, the reviewer tags along with a Hmong family as they shop for the day and prepare a big dinner. Among other stops, they visit the International Hmong Market on Como, a sprawling, labyrinthine collection of stalls containing everything from karaoke to qeej (not to mention an amazing variety of food). While the book isn't the main focus here, the review does conclude with a recipe for papaya salad and another recipe based on the cooking of the Hmong family in the review. Of great interest to everyone, a video is included that demonstrates how to de-bone a chicken wing so it can be stuffed with eggroll filling and baked. (The one time I got to help out with this time consuming, but worthwhile task, we later deep-fried the wings in a giant vat of oil.)

The review of the book featured on the site is equally rich and detailed. It also includes two more recipes as well as links to other websites
Yang and Scripter were recently interviewed by Lynne Rossetto Kasper of The Splendid Table and their segment will be airing sometime in July. It's clear the book has already been a success and more great things are in store for the authors.

Pictured: My personal speciality, fawm kauv. By the way, blogger Mozemoua has several nice posts on Hmong cooking (which include much nicer pictures than the above).

Monday, February 02, 2009

More Hmong food - New cookbooks available

Just got the word that Cooking from the Heart: The Hmong Kitchen in America (website), a new Hmong cookbook by Sami Scripter and Sheng Yang is now available for pre-order from Amazon. The book places recipes in the context of folklore and healing practices and sounds very promising.

In the meantime, the Eau Claire County UW Extension has a Hmong cookbook with 15 recipes along with profiles of the contributors. Just $10, including shipping, and the proceeds benefit entrepreneur grants and scholarships in western Wisconsin. (Ordering information, pdf)

See also: Authentic Hmong food