Over the summer, I noticed many notable collaborative cookbooks pop up, like Oaklander C-Y Marie Chia’s “Storm Now,” “Potluck Carry-In,” Dine Diaspora’s “Eziban” and Tezeta Press’ “Community Comfort.” Propelled by the work of Black Lives Matter and news that COVID-19 was disproportionately affecting communities of color, many of these cookbooks serve as fundraisers for food and health justice organizations. They’re fun to read, too, and are full of excellent recipes.
Rather than being a straight cookbook, “Storm Now,” made up of contributions by AAPI people in the Bay Area, is a hybrid. A recipe for Sichuan-inspired eggplant by Mister Jiu’s chef and owner Brandon Jew follows a page of QR codes pointing to guides for safely navigating COVID-19 and tear gas exposure, for instance. The layout by Oakland design studio Open Daily is clean; even more complicated recipes, like Henry Hsu’s multi-component cornerstone rice cakes, are easy to follow. Physical copies are sold out, but you can grab a digital version by donating at least $15 to Movement for Black Lives or the People’s Breakfast Oakland and sending proof of the donation to @smveganchefs on Instagram.
As far as ambition goes, “Community Comfort” is astounding. Compiled by writer and photographer Riaz Phillips, the e-book raises money for the families of COVID-19 victims in the UK, so they can access mental health services for themselves and afford memorial events for their departed loved ones. The book contains 100 recipes by British cooks from migrant backgrounds, including “Longthroat Memoirs” author Yemisi Aribisala and “Coconut & Sambal” author Lara Lee. Recipes touch on comfort foods of the UK’s many migrant communities: claypot rice with Chinese wind-dried meats, Jamaican ackee and saltfish, and a very stoner-friendly Mexican egg roll with American cheese and crawfish. There’s even an entire chapter devoted to curries, which is always a promising sign for a cookbook. Keep in mind that all of these recipes are in metric, so make sure you have a scale handy. You can see a preview and grab yourself a copy at Tezeta Press.
Reading all of these really made me want to put together a collaborative cookbook, too! I’ll put that on the pandemic project pile.
On the podcast
The antiracist zine “Chinese Protest Recipes” by Torontonian Clarence Kwan — which was also produced in the wake of this year’s events — insists that food and cooking are political. As a response to George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police, the zine includes treatises on anti-Black racism within Asian families, as well as recipes for dishes like shrimps in lobster sauce. We asked Kwan how a recipe could be a form of protest; also, Justin Phillips requested that Kwan spill the tea about Drake, a fellow Torontonian. Download the zine here.
What I’m eating
This week, I got to publish a review about Hayes Valley’s Dumpling Home, a new Chinese restaurant focused on handmade dumplings and noodles. The xiaolongbao are my favorite that I’ve had in recent memory — and yes, I’ve been to Din Tai Fung and Din Ding in Fremont. Those little beauties are made with exhilarating finesse by specialist Lily Wong, and they burst with a soft and silky broth.
I’ve also been eating so much pizza! To flesh out the Top Pizzas list, I visited dozens of pizzerias around the Bay Area to try out square pies, round pies and amoeba-like pies cooked in coal ovens, wood-fired ovens and toaster ovens. (Maybe my next list should be about the best fruit salads of the Bay Area.) One particular highlight was going hard at PizzaLeah, a pizzeria that opened in Windsor this past March. I wrote about Leah Scurto’s pizzas in the PizzaLeah blurb, but I also want to shout out the calzones. They’re gooey with mozzarella and ricotta and customizable; they make an amazing quick lunch if you freeze them at home.
• For Eater Seattle, Sabra Boyd finds that foraging right now — to go out in nature, meditate and avoid the grocery store — reminds her of the way she ate when she was a homeless teen living in the woods of the Olympic Peninsula.
• Food & Wine does its first Diwali story, featuring Bay Area cookbook author Hetal Vasavada. Her cookbook, “Milk & Cardamom,” is one of my favorites from last year; this story is chock full of recipes for Gujarati takes on alfajores and hash browns that I cannot wait to cook at home.
• A distant cousin to the ghost kitchen, the food hub is a fascinating phenomenon that has popped up during the pandemic. As more food makers and bakers aspire to start their own businesses, their colleagues at restaurants and cafes have granted them the space to cook out of licensed kitchens, thereby allowing them to avoid the regulatory pitfalls of popping up. Janelle Bitker spoke to the owners of Bissap Baobab, Hidden Cafe and others about why sharing space has worked for them and their communities.
• In Vittles, Joanna Fuertes tackles what she calls the “Bourdainification of food travel,” a topic that could surely sustain a whole book. “The stereotype of holidaymakers shouting for the nearest burger and chips is less of a truth now that what you eat abroad is just as important, if not more, than the sights you see. To eat ‘like the locals’ is to get the truly transformative experience you hope from travel.”
Bite Curious is a weekly newsletter from The Chronicle’s restaurant critic, Soleil Ho, delivered to inboxes on Monday mornings. Follow along on Twitter: @Hooleil