Taste Kitchen Asia – I somehow doubt there are many British chefs who have studied a master’s degree in chemistry! Well, I can tell you of one: Philli Armitage-Mattin, and she was also the only female finalist in MasterChef: The Professionals 2020. Having studied a master’s at Bristol University, (Philli was introduced to food science by the same research professor who worked with Heston Blumenthal), she then gained her professional cookery qualification at the University of West London before training under Gordon Ramsay. Now Philli has just published her debut cookbook, and it’s fabulous.
After a life of researching, travelling and consuming Asian food, Taste Kitchen: Asia is the ultimate guide to mastering Asian flavours. It’s published by Little Brown at £26 (hardback) It demonstrates Philli’s skill at connecting some of the most loved dishes not by region, as one would perhaps expect, but by flavour. Once we’re able to understand our palates, we can tailor our cooking to our unique personalities, while tasting our way across the Asian continent.
With stints at top restaurants in Tokyo and Hong Kong under her belt, Philli’s mission is to get people to try new flavours, mainly using Asian ingredients such as miso and gochujang, and to make delicious dishes such as Xinjiang lamb kebabs, Korean fried chicken, and okonomiyaki (a Japanese pizza). Philli certainly knows her stuff – and the book is a triumph.
To give you a taste, here are a couple of recipes from the book:
Tamarind and Lime Glazed Salmon. Serves 4
“Eating fresh tamarind is an experience like no other. The seeds are super tart with naturally occurring tartaric acid (cream of tartar). This tangy flavour works beautifully with the fatty salmon. Fresh tamarind and tamarind concentrate are hard to come by in the supermarket, but if you have tamarind concentrate it’s more acidic so halve the quantity in the recipe. You’ll probably be able to find tamarind paste and tamarind sauce – please, please, please stay away from the sauce and pick up the paste. The sauce contains more sugar; the paste is straight blended tamarind, which is what we’ll be using in this recipe.
This is the perfect dish to wow guests at a dinner party, it’ll look and taste mega.”
1 Thai chilli, green or red, finely sliced
4 tbsp honey
6 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce (optional)
2 garlic cloves, minced
5cm/2in piece of ginger, minced
4 x 200g/7oz salmon fillets
50g/1½ oz tamarind paste, or juice of 1 lime and 1 tbsp honey
Juice of 2 limes
Small handful of mint and coriander, chopped
2 tbsp roasted peanuts, chopped
This goes great with Fennel and Cucumber Slaw and a cold glass of rosé
Mix the chilli, honey, soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic, and ginger together.
Line a deep oven tray with baking parchment and place the salmon skin side down. Pour the dressing over the salmon and marinate at room temperature for between 20 and 30 minutes.
When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 230°C (210°C fan oven) Gas 8 and place the tray in the oven for 9 minutes. The fish will take on a deep caramel colour and it will start to smell super fragrant. Take out the fish and mix the tamarind and lime juice. Glaze the fish with the tamarind dressing. Cover in loads of herbs and peanuts.
Taste and adjust as you eat; if you want more sourness, add lime.
“To be clear, most food is better with butter, specifically brown butter. I love rice and the only thing I can think of to make it better is brown butter. Nutty, rich, indulgent, this is the best rice dish ever.”
Large pan with lid
50g/1½ oz unsalted butter
300g/10½ oz washed rice
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp salt
Juice of ½ lemon
Shop-bought crispy onions
Heat a saucepan over a medium heat, add the butter and cook until the butter is melted and starts to turn golden brown and smell nutty. Immediately take off the heat – if you cook too long you’ll have burnt butter. Allow the butter to cool slightly.
Wash the rice in cold water in a large bowl, scrunching the grains with your hands to remove the starch. Then drain in a sieve until the water runs clear.
Add the washed rice, turmeric, salt and 500ml/18fl oz water to the brown butter. Heat over a high heat until just boiling.
Then put the lid on, lower the heat and cook for 10–12 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.
Once all the water has been absorbed and the rice is fully cooked, turn off the heat and leave the pan to fully cool down without removing the lid for 5–10 minutes. This is the secret to fluffy rice.
Squeeze over the lemon juice. Taste and adjust if it’s a little too comforting add a bit more lemon juice. Serve with Crispy Things (p. 246) scattered over the top.