BOOKS | “The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook”: Grandma’s comfort food


Mention grandmother’s home cooking and I can smell the beef short ribs simmering on the back burner of my grandmother’s stove. Or smell freshly made yeast rolls rising in the oven. Or see her deftly rolling out tender, fresh egg noodles to carefully drop into stewed chicken broth. But author Patricia Tanumihardja has no memories of her grandmothers’ cooking since she grew up in an adopted country without her grandparents. Instead, she gathered together ten grandmothers of Asian heritage and compiled a cookbook of their favorite recipes.

“The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook” features a wide variety of comfort food from China, Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, and India. Steamed Meatballs with Tangerine Peel, Gingered Oxtail Stew, 1-2-3-4-5 Sticky Spareribs, and Clay Pot Lemongrass Steamed Fish are just a few of the recipes offered with complete instructions to cook them at home. As the author points out, “Grandmothers are the embodiment of love, comfort, and security” and their cooking is the link to age-old traditions.

Each of the ten contributors is profiled and many grew up defying cultural traditions. Niloufer Gupta is one example. Born in Mumbai and raised in Kolkata, she was raised in a conservative Shia Khoja Muslim family. After attending college in Mumbai, she moved to London to study law and took cooking classes at Le Cordon Bleu to “…prove to my family I could be a professional earning a living on my own and also hold my own in the world of Western cuisine.” She was twenty-seven when she married Abhijit, a Hindu, causing quite an uproar within her family. But the marriage survived and produced three children while both Niloufer and her husband pursued separate careers. Today, she is retired and enjoys cooking for her grandchildren traditional dishes such as Prawns with Potatoes, Beef with Coconut Sauce, and Spicy Lamb Casserole.

The cookbook is arranged by types of dishes so finding recipes that are Japanese, Chinese or of any other particular cuisine takes some searching. There is also a chapter focusing on just “Comfort Food and One-Wok Meals.” It includes Bibimbap (Korean vegetables over rice), Oyako Donburi (Japanese Chicken and Egg over Rice), Ohn No Khauk Swe (Burmese Chicken Coconut Noodle Soup), Hong Bak (Singapore Clay Pot Black Pork), Embutido (Filipino Meatloaf), and Rad Nah (Thai Wide Rice Noodles Smothered in Rich Gravy).

Author Tanumihardja was born to Indonesian parents, grew up in Singapore, and lived in and traveled across three continents. She is a food, travel, and lifestyle writer now living in California.

“The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook” was published last year by Sasquatch Books and has a hardcover price of $35.00. Its 348 pages are filled with beautiful color photos and plenty of “grandmother tips” to make cooking these comfort foods easier.

Phyllis Louise Harris is a cookbook author, food writer and cooking teacher specializing in Asian foods. She is founder of the Asian Culinary Arts Institutes Ltd. dedicated to the preservation, understanding and enjoyment of the culinary arts of the Asia Pacific Rim. For information about ACAI’s programs call 612-813-1757 or visit the website at www.asian