Just as the weather is getting hot again comes a new cool cookbook: "Ani's Raw Food Asia: Easy East-West Fusion Recipes." This latest from my friend Ani Phyo takes all the Asian dishes you know and love, and uncooks, freshifies, and healthifies them into raw, good-for-you delights.
From Mushroom "Bul Go Gi" for Korean barbecue fans to Yellow Coconut Curry Vegetables for Indian food lovers to Pineapple "Fried Rice" with Pineapple Curry Sauce for foodies craving Thai, "Ani's Raw Food Asia" covers all the major Asian cuisines, along with green and healthy tips to get you feeling and looking good this summer and beyond.
But "Ani's Raw Food Asia" goes beyond just the recipes and tips. This book is the most personal and heartfelt from Ani yet. She kicks off the book by revealing the long personal journey it took for her to embrace her Korean heritage — and ends it with a revealing story of her health struggles created by an unbalanced raw food diet and hectic schedule, struggles that she overcame by reintroducing cooked foods and even fish back into her diet, following the advice many holistic doctors gave her, and adopting a healthier lifestyle with meditation.
These stories help explain Ani's forgiving, relaxed approach to raw foods. Throughout her book of delicious raw food recipes, Ani offers helpful suggestions for the less-than-100-percent raw foodie, from heating up the soup slightly on cold days to using toasted sesame seed oil for extra flavor — a substitution she makes herself for many Korean dishes.
Alongside the recipes, Ani offers health and nutritional details of ingredients people may not be familiar with, explaining what nutritional yeast really is and pointing out the power of papaya. And as with all her books, Ani provides a quick crash course on the benefits of raw food as well as simple suggestions for kitchen equipment and techniques, so that raw food newbies who pick up this book won't be left wondering what exactly spiralizing means. Plus, green living tips — from making nontoxic cleaning recipes to adopting greener beauty regimens — grace each chapter of the book.
But of course, the real highlights of the cookbook are the recipes! I had been craving bibimbap, so I tried my hand at making Ani's raw Bi-Bim-Bop — that's a spicy Korean version of your basic Buddah Bowl for those not familiar with the dish. This was an all-from-scratch feat that included making not only my own raw rice from cashes and radish, but mixing my own gochujang (Korean hot chili pepper paste) and making several namul (Korean seasoned side dishes) to boot!
Luckily, Ani has recipes for all of those, and once the components are made, the Bi-Bim-Bop requires just a simple assembly with the rice on the bottom, namul arranged on top, and a dollop of gochujang topping off the dish. For simplicity's sake, I made just two namul —mushroom and cucumber — along with a slightly pink rice (I had regular radish on hand that needed eating, so I used that instead of daikon radish) and cayenne pepper gochujang. Behold the result:
The dish, especially the marinated mushrooms, was so delicious and healthy that I may have to make it once a week. For the less brave, less raw-curious, or food processor-less, I recommend starting with just making the namul dishes and gochujang, which really only takes a few minutes, and putting it atop brown rice for warmth. If you want a cooler, salad-ier dish, you can work up to making raw rice.