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OP: Seafood of Southeast Asia

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by Alan Davidson

Alan Davidson (1924–2003), who is most remembered as a leading figure in the field of food history, also had an abiding interest in the world of fish and seafood. His first book, Mediterranean Seafood, appeared in 1972. In 1973, he entered the British diplomatic service and became the ambassador to Laos, serving until 1975. In what may have been a somewhat undemanding job, he applied himself while there to studying the marine species of the Mekong River region. 

His first book to emerge from this effort was The Fish and Seafood of Laos (1975), followed by this much more ambitious Seafood in Southeast Asia in 1976. Still authoritative, it is a substantial 366-page volume organized in two parts. Part I is a catalog, some 225 profiles of fish, crustaceans, and mollusks, each accompanied by specially commissioned artwork. In addition, there are sixteen excellent color plates. Each profile has a paragraph concerning cuisine, assessing the degree of the species’ edibility and the primary methods of cooking it (grilling, boiling, frying, etc.). 

Part II consists of more than 150 recipes, divided by region—Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma, Malaysia, and so forth. We might draw attention to one fish stew spiced with lemongrass, garlic, ginger, and chilis and served with bean patties over a bed of rice noodles. Also in the stew is “a 20 cm section of banana trunk, cut from high up.” Davidson introduces the dishes by their local names and gives credit when applicable to those who provided the recipe—a significant touch, lending more authority to an already serious work.

 This copy is a first edition, published by Davidson in Singapore. It is in Fine condition with a Near Fine jacket. Not to be confused with a Macmillan (UK) edition published in 1978, this 1976 original is now quite scarce.

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