"This is a book for the kitchen counter, not the couch," says veteran cookbook author and Lucky Peach editor Peter Meehan of his food quarterly's first-ever cookbook. While 101 Easy Asian Recipes definitely has a Lucky Peach vibe — whether in the '70s aesthetic or the love for both "authentic" and unabashedly American cuisine (recipes for jamuk bap and okonomiyaki share space in the book with Chinese chicken salad, "lamburgers," and "mall chicken") — Meehan approached creating this book in an entirely different way. "For the first few years [of Lucky Peach], we welcomed the Quixotic and exotic as or more readily than the mundane and useful. I was a bigger proponent of the idea that recipes were illustrative — that they could support a story, that the ideas they contained were equally valid as their executability or desirability. And while I still think there's a place in LP and elsewhere for that kind of recipe, I'm also pretty damn enamored with recipes that are simple and good and easy to use right now."
"This is a book for the kitchen counter, not the couch." — Peter Meehan
And so 101 Easy Asian Recipes doesn't really read like the sometimes fantastical recipes in the magazine, nor does it have the same flow as the restaurant-based cookbooks Meehan has co-authored. The process of making this book, he says, "was just totally different" from the process of making Momofuku, for example. Without a restaurant's kitchen or a Lucky Peach test kitchen, much of the cooking and shooting for the book happened in Meehan's apartment, and at the home of recipe developer and tester Mary-Frances Heck. Another striking difference? While there are introductions and headers, this is not a narrative-focused book and wordiness was deliberately avoided. "This one was about some real simple stuff: Is it easy? Is it Asian in some way? Is it delicious? That was all we needed."
But 101 Easy Asian Recipes wasn't always meant to be so cookable. Soon after the Momofuku cookbook came out, Meehan and David Chang had an idea: "Chang and I were going back and forth on what the follow up to Momofuku should be, and because Ad Hoc at Home was beating the daylights out of the sales of our book, we joked about doing a book that promised easiness but was actually really difficult. I have the proposal for that book written, and 20 or so recipes done for it — I remember setting pineapple juice with agar inside of jalapeños so we could slice them into rings of green and yellow and put them on top of a Hawaiian pizza, with the idea that Hawaii was "Asian" enough to make the cut... but the joke got stale. And then we started the magazine and we got to do all the stupid things we wanted to do and more."
Meehan also became a parent, and he says "getting dinner on the table quickly but well became a pretty daily challenge (and, all credit due, my wife is the real dragon slayer in the kitchen, and helped more than a ton with this book)." The final product, then became something very different from that pun he and Chang first imagined all those years ago. "So it went from being 101 "easy" "Asian" recipes to removing the scare quotes and doing an honestly easy book," he says. "Much of this is food that I love and food that we cook at home, and then in the course of putting the book together, we got to expand and round out the repertoire."
101 Easy Asian Recipes hits shelves on October 27. And there's more in the pipeline. Meehan tells Eater that Lucky Peach will be publishing a four cookbooks with Clarkson Potter in the next two years, "assuming we don't croak trying to get them and the site and the magazine all written." (Easy Asian is the first of those four). Other books to look out for: A spring cookbook dedicated to sausages, spearheaded by Lucky Peach's Chris Ying, which Meehan describes as "more [about] reading, learning, enjoying without needing to cook from it [kind of] book" with a collection of solid recipes. Next fall, Meehan promises another book in the 101 Easy Asian model, which he is tentatively calling POWER VEGETABLES!. Last up will be Lucky Peach editor Rachel Khong's turn to take the lead, with a book about eggs in spring of 2017.
Without further ado, take a look inside 101 Easy Asian Recipes below, and pre-order on Amazon now.