Cookbook Review: The Complete Asian Cookbook

I love this book! It’s the 40th anniversary edition of Charmaine Solomon’s influential and iconic The Complete Asian Cookbook. Instantly heralded as a classic when it was first published in 1976, the book covers 800 classic and contemporary dishes from 15 countries (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, The Philippines, China, Korea and Japan). Written with the home cook in mind, Charmaine’s recipes are straightforward, simple to follow and work every time. Recipe and chapter introductions give valuable information about how local dishes are prepared and served, while the comprehensive glossary explains unfamiliar ingredients (which are steadily more commonplace in supermarkets today). The Complete Asian Cookbook is a book that belongs in the kitchens of every household. I highly recommend it!

The Complete Asian Cookbook is available at and

Spicy Coconut Custard 



This rich custard, Malaysian in origin, is very popular in Sri Lanka. If dark palm sugar (jaggery) is not available, substitute with 110 g (1/2 cup) firmly packed dark brown sugar and 175 g (1/2 cup)maple syrup.

Coconut milk

180 g (2 cups) desiccated coconut

625 ml (2½ cups) milk


175 g (1 cup) finely chopped dark palm sugar (jaggery)

4 eggs, lightly beaten (it should not be frothy)

185 ml (¾ cup) evaporated milk

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

¼ teaspoon ground mace

a pinch of ground cloves

1 tablespoon rosewater


To make the coconut milk, put the coconut and milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil, then remove from the heat, cool slightly, then knead firmly with your hands for a few minutes and strain through a fine sieve, squeezing out as much liquid as possible. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 170ºC (Gas 3). Put the palm sugar and 125 ml (½ cup) water in a saucepan over low heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Allow to cool slightly, then add to the egg and stir to combine. (If you are using dark brown sugar and maple syrup, add them directly to the beaten eggs.) Add the coconut milk and stir well to combine. Strain through a fine sieve into a large jug, then add the evaporated milk, spices and rosewater.

Pour into six or eight 125 ml (½ cup) capacity ramekins or moulds. Place the ramekins in a deep baking dish and pour in enough water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake in the oven for 1¼ hours, or until set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool, then refrigerate for at least 6 hours, and serve chilled.

Recipe reprinted with permission from Hardie Grant Books.

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