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by B. Marold Writes on Amazon.com
`The Indian Grocery Store Demystified' by book designer and
illustrator, Linda Bladholm is an exposition of ingredients
with a very nice little twist which saves it from being a
poor man's `Bruce Cost's Asian Ingredients'. While Cost's
classic book deals with the serious culinary details of a
great many basic ingredients, Ms. Bladholm's book, as suggested
by her title, is much more pointedly directed at the shopper's
experience in your typical strip mall Indian market.
adds appeal and charm to her book by opening it with a visit
to her own local mom and pop run Indian grocery store. The
store in question was just a bit better organized and stocked
than my own favorite Filipino run store in southern New Jersey,
but all the familiar staples were there, if not in all the
of providing a guided tour of an Asian market is reinforced
by mentioning all the major brand names for staples such as
rice, noodles, sauces, oils, and spice mixes, with opinions
by the author of which may be the preferred brands. While
I found a few misstatements, such as describing a gluten free
flour as `general purpose' (general purpose flours by definition
have 10% to 12% gluten producing proteins), and I missed some
possible warnings against Texmati rice as a less than useful
substitute for Basmati rice, I believe the advice and information
in this book is a really great supplement to other books on
Asian ingredients with a more scholarly bent.
the biggest weakness of the book is the difference in quality
between the promise of `over 400 illustrations of ingredients'
and the quality of those illustrations. The illustrations
in the book are all small black and white line drawings easily
fitting into an inch square area with lots of the pictures
giving no sense of the kind of thing they are depicting. The
little picture of ginger certainly looks like the ginger with
which I am familiar, but the picture of the related galangal
rhizome does little to assure me that I would be able to use
that picture to pick it out from bins of produce labeled in
Chinese characters. These poor illustrations give the lie
to the claim that this is a `Take It With You' guide, in that
it is dealing with a guide to items which may all be labeled
in not only a foreign language, but in a script we are simply
not used to interpreting. The very clever chapter headings
of Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Tagalong and Korean
ideograms for food categories (with English translations)
do nothing to help the situation.
unlike many other books on Asian ingredients, this book has
few recipes using these ingredients. This is not necessarily
a weakness, as it means that almost all the space in the book
is dedicated to the book's principle topic, the groceries.
And, much of this space is dedicated to subjects which purely
culinary books may not touch such as teas and medicinal herbs
and spices. This is probably not the best book on these subjects,
but treating these topics enhances the treatment of the book's
primary metaphor, the Indian grocery store, as they do, in
fact, appear in Indian grocery stores.
appendix on cooking methods and utensils is not too helpful.
These will be of little value if your Asian store has a good
selection of cooking utensils.
is great if you find yourself living within easy shopping
distance of a good Indian market. The book also useful if
you plan to order lots of Indian groceries over the Internet,
as the recommended brands gives one some assurance they are
not buying sawdust. The book is less valuable for the culinary
generalist, who has no special interest in Asian or Indian
cuisine, especially in that the book includes no bibliography.
For those readers, Bruce Cost's book mentioned above is far
superior a source.