Pickled Vegetables and Garlic Pork

James McNair Cooks Southeast Asian

Southeast Asian  

He's done it again! Author, photographer, and chef extraordinaire James McNair has created a stunning addition to the innovative New World Cuisine series (following his debut volume, James McNair Cooks Italian). Presenting over seventy easy-to-follow and rewarding recipes from Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar (Burma), James McNair Cooks Southeast Asian celebrates the delectable melange of tastes and textures from some of the world's most exciting cuisines.

Influenced over the centuries by Chinese, Indian, Portuguese, Dutch, and British cultures, a meal in the Southeast Asian tradition is an experience in exquisite contrasts: spicy and sweet; warm and cool; crunchy and smooth. Fiery chiles and fragrant spices coupled with sweet coconut milk create expressive curries; tangy Lemongrass, ginger root, roasted peanuts, tamarind juice, fish sauce, and citrus offer compelling and contrasting flavors to fresh vegetables and meats. And James doesn't forget the staple of every meal: perfect rice.

Begin with the cool and complex flavors of an exotic Ginger Salad; or a smooth Mushroom Coconut Soup with its fragrant blend of coconut milk, galanga and Lemongrass. Chile lovers will thrill to Fiery Fried Green Vegetables, Chile Beef with Fragrant Herbs, or a traditional red, green, or yellow Thai Curry. As an imaginative milder dish, try Stuffed Eggplant with tamarind dipping sauce, Vietnamese Fresh Spring or Summer Rolls, or the ever-popular Coconut Noodles. Westerners often overlook Asian desserts, but there are some delicious ones here: Burmese Semolina Cake, a rich treat sweetened with palm sugar, cardamom, and poppy seeds, and Malaysian Agar-Agar Pudding are just two of the many tempting possibilities. And who can resist a refreshing Thai Iced Tea?

Featuring McNair's elegant signature full-color photography and imaginative food design, this volume also includes a basics guide, shopping tips for special ingredients, and ideas for dining and entertaining. With over thirty cookbooks under the author's belt, James McNair Cooks Southeast Asian is his most enticing yet.


Pickled Vegetables

Pickled Vegetables

This vegetable combination should be altered according to seasonal availability. Offer either Red Chile Sauce or Cooked Red Chile Sauce or purchase bottled versions of these sambals for diners to adjust the level of heat to preference. I also enjoy a garnish of Coconut-Peanut Sprinkle strewn over the vegetables.


  • 1-1/2 cups cauliflower florets (from about 1/2 small head)
  • 1-1/2 cups peeled baby carrots or 1/2-inch lengths of larger carrot
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar snap peas or green beans (about 6 ounces)
  • 3 fresh small red hot chiles, stemmed and thinly sliced lengthwise, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 2 teaspoons minced lemongrass, tender bulb portion only
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil or other high-quality vegetable oil
  • 1-1/2 cups thinly sliced shallot
  • Salt

Place the prepared cauliflower, carrots, peas or beans, and chiles alongside the stove.

In a mini food processor, spice grinder, or heavy mortar with a pestle, blend the ginger, garlic, lemongrass, and turmeric to make a paste, adding up to 3 tablespoons water if needed to facilitate blending. Transfer to a small bowl and place next to the stove. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, sugar, and water and place alongside the stove as well.

Place a wok, large sauté pan, or large, heavy skillet over high heat. When the pan is hot, add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. When the oil is hot but not yet smoking, add the shallot and stir-fry until soft and lightly golden, about 3 minutes. Add the ginger-garlic paste and stir-fry to coat the shallot, about 1 minute. Add the reserved vinegar mixture, cauliflower, and carrots and stir-fry, moving the pan off and on the heat as necessary to prevent scorching, about 5 minutes. Add the peas or beans, chiles, and salt to taste and stir-fry until the vegetables are crisp-tender and the sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes longer.

Transfer the vegetables to a serving bowl and serve warm or at room temperature while the vegetables are still crisp.

Makes 6 servings.


Garlic Pork

Garlic Pork

Of all the delectable Thai ways with pork, this simple preparation is my all-time favorite.

This dish may also be prepared with chicken.


  • 8 ounces boneless lean pork
  • 2 tablespoons minced or pressed garlic
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil or other high-quality vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped shallot
  • Fresh cilantro (coriander) sprigs for garnish

Quickly rinse the pork under cold running water and pat dry with paper toweling. To facilitate slicing, wrap the pork in freezer wrap or plastic wrap and place in a freezer until very cold but not frozen hard, about 2 hours.

Using an electric slicer or very sharp knife, slice the pork across the grain as thinly as possible, then cut each slice into pieces about 2 inches long by 1/2 inch wide. In a bowl, combine the pork, garlic, and pepper and toss to mix well. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or as long as overnight.

In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, oyster sauce, and sugar and stir to dissolve the sugar; set aside.

Place a wok, large sauté pan, or large, heavy skillet over high heat. When the pan is hot, add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the shallot and stir-fry for about 1 minute. Add the pork mixture and stir-fry, moving the pan off and on the heat as necessary to prevent scorching, until the meat is no longer pink, about 2 minutes. Add the fish sauce mixture and cook until the meat is well coated and the liquid thickens slightly, about 1 minute longer.

Remove from the heat and transfer to serving platter. Garnish with cilantro sprigs and serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 4 servings.


Recipes From:
James McNair Cooks Southeast Asian
Written and Photographed by James McNair
Chronicle Books
Publication Date: February 26, 1996
ISBN: 0-8118-0483-6 $24.95 hardbound
ISBN: 0-8118-0453-4 $14.95 paperbound
168 pages
60 Full-color photograph
Reprinted with permission.

This page originally published as a FoodDay article (circa 1997).

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