I've got a stack of Paris guidebooks on the shelf, some acquired in the giddy months between the news that my husband had actually landed the job in Paris and our arrival, others left to us by departing expats, and still others that I've picked up or been gifted along the way. But none has been as much my faithful companion in the exploration of Paris as this cookbook. Written for North American cooks (using cups and teaspoons for measurement), it's divided into sections for each of regions that has large immigrant groups living in Paris: the Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia), southeast Asia, west Africa and the Caribbean, and the Middle East. Plus there's a section on Japan, not so much because of the huge number of Japanese immigrants here but due to the mutual France-Japan lovefest.
The recipes are interspersed with cute illustrations and plenty of sidebars with both the stories of immigrants who've made their careers in the food business and recommendations for ethnic groceries and restaurants. Want to make that lamb with ras el hanout? Better check out the list of spice shops on p. 49. Got a hankering for bahn mi? Head to Thieng Heng on avenue d'Ivry in the 13th.
It's colorful, inviting, and needless to say delicious. Vietnamese bo bun is now one of my kids' all-time favorite meals and the carrot salad with orange flower water has become one of my staples. Realizing these recipes demands that I leave the confines of my comfortable quartier and head off to the unknown. And you know what? Just like how food cooked outdoors when you're camping always tastes better than if you had prepared it at home, the dishes I've cooked from Ethnic Paris resonate with the sights and smells of my forays around town.
A thousand thanks to my dear friend Lauren who gave me the book as a hostess gift when she visited back in early 2008. Time for another visit!