Chef Susan Feniger takes to the streets

Posted Aug. 07, 2012, at 4:28 p.m.

SUSAN FENIGER’S STREET FOOD: IRRESISTIBLY CRISPY, CREAMY, CRUNCHY, SPICY, STICKY, SWEET RECIPES by Susan Feniger with Kajsa Alger and Liz Lachman Clarkson Potter, $27.50

What it is

“My first love has always been food,” writes Susan Feniger in her new book. “My second love: Learning about people and their cultures.” She found both in street food, “usually one family’s recipe handed down and perfected over generations.” An enthusiastic tour guide and kitchen coach is just what you’d expect from Feniger, half of Too Hot Tamales with Mary Sue Milliken, a team that’s cooked up Border Grills, TV gigs and cookbooks. Feniger’s most recent restaurant is STREET in LA.

Praises and quibbles

Whether you’re a globetrotter or limit your expeditions to neighborhoods in search of kimchi and cactus paddles, you’ll enjoy this celebration of food-cart cuisine and “our common language of food.” Beyond her photos and essays on Vietnam, India, Mongolia and Turkey, Feniger offers a spin-the-globe assortment of recipes: Moroccan carrot salad with harissa vinaigrette, Turkish doughnuts with rose-hip jam, Picadillo chili dog with mustard and relish and a lentils-rice-pasta mix called Egyptian bus stop kushary.

Especially helpful chapters tackle “Basic Spice Mixes & Pastes” and “Organizing the World’s Kitchen” with its focus on balancing flavors. “It doesn’t matter what country you’re in, salt is still salty, sugar is still sweet. Different cultures use different ingredients to accomplish the very same tasks,” she writes of salts (e.g., soy sauce, anchovies), sours (vinegars, tamarind), sweets (honey, sorghum), spicy (chilies, ginger) and mellowers (yogurts, butter). Don’t expect an encyclopedic look at any one cuisine. And if you’re unfamiliar with the Japanese condiment furikake, well, Feniger does explain some less-familiar ingredients and gives tips for locating them. What might have helped? Suggestions for a few specialty food websites.

Why you’ll like it

Think of this book as postcards with recipes scribbled on the back, then sent with love by a chef who writes, “I want to give you, the home cook, the chance to get your God-given tools for mixing — called ‘hands’ — dirty. There’s no daintiness in street cooking.”

© 2012 Chicago Tribune

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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