Cookbook Review: Curry & Kimchi by Unmi Abkin and Roger Taylor

Note: I received a digital advance reader copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I can't resist an Asian cookbook, and the title of this one instantly had me hooked. I love curry. I love kimchi. I was excited about what this cookbook could teach me.

I had never heard of the authors' restaurant, Coco & the Cellar Bar, before even though it turns out I live only a couple of hours away. Their story is inspiring, and I love hearing how the various cultures that both authors come from have influenced their philosophy on cooking. Every recipe is thoughtful and designed to be a more sophisticated, elevated version of Asian food. It's a philosophy that is intriguing, even if I'm not completely sold on it. Coming from a Chinese family and having eaten extensively through China and various Chinatowns, I know that some of the best food comes from the most humble of places and is far from refined. Still, I'm always willing to try new recipes and am always looking for ways to elevate my own cooking.

The recipes are mainly Asian fusion cuisine with influences from China, Japan, and Korea. Recipes include dishes like Honey Miso Noodle Salad, Shoyu Ramen, Hoisin-Glazed Baby Back Ribs, Coriander Shrimp Chow Fun, and Miso-Glazed Cod Rice Bowl. There's a Mexican influence from Roger Taylor with a recipe for Carnitas Tacos, Chili Con Carne, and a salsa recipe. And there's also oddly enough, a recipe for macaroni and cheese. It reflects the multicultural background of the two chefs, and it really makes the cookbook feel personal and special.

I actually tried one of the recipes, that for Claypot Miso Chicken, which is a misnomer since it's made in an Instant Pot (or other slow cooker) rather than a claypot. I don't often jump up and make a recipe from cookbooks that I review, so that just goes to show how compelling the book was. I also realized that I had all the ingredients already in my fridge and pantry, so it was an easy weeknight dinner. My husband enjoyed it, but I felt like it was missing something. I have a lot of similar recipes in my collection that taste better, so unfortunately, I won't be in a hurry to make it again.

My other main gripe with the cookbook is something that plagues a lot of cookbooks written by restaurant chefs. There are a lot of basic components that appear in multiple recipes, so be prepared to make a batch of togarashi oil or spicy miso paste to keep in your fridge. The Korean Bolognese sounded great, but requires me to make Spicy Miso Paste (a recipe located on a different page) and Korean Hot Pepper Sauce (also located on a different page) first, which sounds needlessly complicated.

Despite that flaw, the rest of the cookbook is enjoyable. The design is clean and elegant, which adds to the restaurant style of the book. I wish there were more recipes, as it feels rather small compared to other cookbooks these days. Overall, a good first cookbook from these authors and a compelling reason for me to visit their restaurant next time I'm in western Mass.

Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

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