If the combination of African and Asian culinary influences seems unlikely, it’s not. More than a thousand years ago the great city states of East Africa traded with India and Southeast Asia. In West Africa, Senegal has a longstanding Vietnamese community. In the Caribbean, particularly Trinidad and Guyana, East Indian communities thrive. And that’s to say nothing of South America.
The rich possibilities of these intersecting traditions were fuel for the imagination of veteran restaurateur Alexander Smalls and chef JJ Johnson, who created a pair of Harlem restaurants showcasing the possibilities. (The title of their book is taken from a New Yorker review of one of those restaurants, The Cecil.) Nothing here is strictly traditional, but with every recipe the authors make their case for combining flavors in deft ways.
You could soon be serving up tamarind-glazed oxtails, curry-crusted cod fillets with hominy stew, Asian pear and plum kimchi, and even a West African peanut punch made with bourbon and chile honey. Photography throughout the book is stylish and vivid, offering its own jolts of inspiration.
Hardcover. Color photographs throughout.