Cookbook Review: Chop Chop

Chop Chop – Brett McGregor

Chop Chop
Asian food is my nemesis so I am glad for all the help I can get when it comes to preparing delicious meals with an oriental flair.  Curries and Thai food I have a handle on but anything else bewilders me.  I can’t tell if the recipe is Malaysian, Vietnamese, Chinese or otherwise.  Not so for Brett McGregor, New Zealand’s first MasterChef winner.  This is his third cookbook, and as with his first (Taste of a traveller) and second (A Taste of home), Brett shares a whole heap of tasty recipes suitable for family cooking.

To begin with Brett shares his Asian pantry essentials – several pages of interesting sounding ingredients most of which are readily available in regular or Asian supermarkets.  Without a well- stocked Asian supermarket in town (we do have one such supermarket but it is more focused on Indian cuisine), fresh herbs such as Thai basil and Vietnamese mint may need to be given their own little patch of veggie garden to flourish in.  Thankfully fresh lemongrass is more readily available from mainstream supermarkets as I manage to kill mine.  I’ve tried three or four times and am now giving up. Brett suggests to plant it in a pot so it doesn’t take over the whole garden so I guess lemongrass plants and I do not gel.  I planted a kaffir lime (also known as the makrut lime) to ensure a ready supply of leaves but these are also quite easily obtained from regular supermarkets.  Other items such as galangal and kachai (both related to ginger) maybe harder to source though in a pinch, ginger might suffice??

The Chilli Chicken Wraps look delicious and hot with 10-20 dried red chillies although they are deseeded which does take some of the sting out.  The Claypot Chicken with Shiitake and Rice sounds like good family one-pot meal while Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice) is always popular when it hits the table.  The ingredient lists are lengthy but they contain real unprocessed food such as herbs, spices, chillies, ginger, garlic.  This is Asian food from scratch.  The further into the book the more I find that I want to try.  Pork has always had an affinity with apples and it appears that rule applies even in Asian cuisine with both the Vietnamese Pork and Noodle Salad and Pork Belly with Chilli Caramel and Apple Slaw featuring green apple (though the noddle salad does suggest green papaya instead of the apple).  The Pork Belly looks and sounds very very good and with Mr M asking if we could have roast pork belly sometime soon, maybe I can kill two birds with one meal by keeping him happy with the pork belly and Mr L with the Asian flavours.  The only issue is a small bunch of Thai basil……. I need to get that garden planted.

I wasn’t sure I’d find any apples in this book although China does grow a lot as mentioned once before (you can read it here).  But along with the two pork dishes, there is also a Thai Rice Salad that requires a green apple.  There are none in the desserts section but I do find Kumara Waffles, Cinnamon and Cream Cheese Wontons (I don’t have a deep-fryer but this recipe seems like the perfect excuse to get one) and Thai Fried Bananas with Salty Caramel and Coconut Ice Cream (great, I can use the fryer for this one too).

Finally, at the back of the book there is a section for extras – stuff like curry pastes and Kimchi (there is a recipe for Korean Kimchi and a Thai Kimchi (Pork Ribs with Thai Kimchi)).  Kimchi is the bomb – like Sauerkraut’s hot spicy sister.  Trying making your own pickled ginger, roti or dumpling wrappers.


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