“I would eat Asian food everyday if I knew how to cook it.”
If this sounds like you, To Asia, With Love is the cookbook for you.
Chef Hetty McKinnon‘s parents immigrated from China to Australia where she was born. The recipes in To Asia are a love letter to the food of her childhood. A sense of home pervades the book. With a little bit of planning, these are meals that any of us could put on the table any night of the week.
Before We Start
I live in the US. In the midwest, in fact. I am of northern European heritage. And, my home kitchen leans heavily on western European cuisines – French, Italian, British – the foods that I ate as a kid.
Chef McKinnon’s childhood was different than mine. As a first generation Chinese immigrant in Australia, her food memories have one foot firmly in the east and one in the west. She welcomes all of us to explore and enjoy the food of her youth and cultures.
I am not Asian, but I enjoy Asian cuisines of all sorts and respect flavor profiles and traditions that aren’t my own. With deep thanks and appreciation to Chef McKinnon for inviting all of us to explore and enjoy the recipes of her childhood, let’s take a closer look at what To Asia has to offer.
Everyday Asian recipes from the heart
The first thing you’ll notice about To Asia, With Love is that it is a cookbook from the heart. The recipes are based on flavors and memories of McKinnon’s childhood – and the earnest respect she has for these memories shines through immediately.
The second thing that you’ll notice – right away – is that Hetty McKinnon doesn’t mind breaking rules. For example, her flavor-packed Shawarma Singapore Noodles includes kernels of corn, cauliflower florets and peas. And frozen corn and peas are just fine according to Chef Hetty – thank you very much!
Although I love to explore the foods that I grew up eating, there is a rebellion side of me that often feels a strong pull to dismantle these traditions and create new ones.
– Hetty McKinnon
The recipes run the gamut from breakfasts to noodles to dumplings, rice and salads. The recipes are veg-forward, and many are vegan. To give you an idea of the less-is-good approach to meat, just check out her dumpling recipes. Momos are round dumplings that originated in the Himalayan region of Tibet, Nepal and northern India. McKinnon fills hers with potato and leek, reminding more than just a bit of my northern European roots. And, 100% vegan – bonus!
Best of All
As I said before, McKinnon understands the time crunch home cooks face. She encourages us to take advantage of time savers that make sense – whether that’s frozen veggies or store-bought dumpling wrappers.
This salad is vegan, using nutritional yeast to flavor the crackers and the dressing, and soft tofu in place of mayonnaise. If you are not vegan or do not have these elements on hand, feel free to use grated pecorino or Parmesan in place of the nutritional yeast, and mayonnaise in place of the silken tofu.
– Hetty McKinnon, Grilled Napa Caesar with Wonton- Scallion Crackers
Options, options, options! She creates a framework within the recipe and then says, “You do you”. No judgment, no chef-y pretensions. She gives us permission to be rebels too, to dismantle recipes and create new ones that work for us as individuals.
The thing that I love best about Chef Hetty though is that she’s not perfect – and she owns it. When I read lines like “I have yet to perfect my technique” in one of her recipes, I have the courage to jump right in. My technique isn’t perfect either, and that’s just fine. After all, good home cooking isn’t about perfect technique – it’s about memories, family and joy.