Something magical happens when you combine thinly sliced pieces of pork belly with an assertive pickled vegetable and tofu. I didn’t realize that kind of synergy till I made Korean tofu stir-fried with kimchi and pork belly (dubu kimchi). It’s a drinking classic, I was told by my friend Linda Lim, a Korea- born woman whose petite size belies her enormous ability to eat and drink.
I made dubu kimchi repeatedly to get the recipe down for the tofu book, and in the process learned to understand how the three ingredients worked. The pork belly lent its wonderful richness to soften the blow of the harsh kimchi, which had to be the stinky, mature kind for the dish to shine. The tofu played an intermediary role to soak up the meat’s richness and the umami funk of the pickled cabbage.
That said, I couldn’t resist making this stir-fry from Naomi Duguid’s sensational Burma: Rivers of Flavor, released just this fall. With her former husband, she wrote landmark works such as Beyond the Great Wall, and Hot, Sour, Salty Sweet. This is her solo performance and it’s compelling, well sized for cooking and reading. Unlike her previous large scale productions, Burma is a book meant for using in the kitchen or holding on the sofa, not displaying on the coffee table.
Naomi has been traveling to Burma for decades, observing, tasting, and noting a great deal of detail about the country, which stands at a true culinary crossroads of South Asia, East Asia and Southeast Asia. All this means that if you’re adept at cooking foods from Asia and venturing to Asian markets, you’ll find Burma to be a splendid book to cook from. If you’re not adept at those cuisines, then Naomi gives you a pass and says it’s okay to just be an armchair cook and eater. In any event, you’ll relish the heartfelt writing and immense research in Burma.