Every now and then one of our chef customers tells us ‘I’m writing a cookbook!’ We’re always excited for them and the pending arrival of a good book, but when Benjamin Cooper told us he was writing a Chin Chin book we couldn’t help but get really excited.
Chin Chin, if you haven’t been, is one of the ‘it’ restaurants in Melbourne at the moment (and has been for a while and probably will be for quite a while to come). Housed in an old warehouse building in Flinders Lane, slightly raw, urban and funky, with a noisy buzz Chin Chin is as far removed as you could imagine from your neighbourhood Thai takeway, or a fine dining restaurant Bold food that merges Sth East Asian food with a strong Thai backbone complimented by a great cocktail and bar list leaves no-one hungry or thirsty - and the place pumps, often until 1am with a buzz and vibe that is hard to explain.
Although highly regarded for the food, Chin Chin is almost as well known for its egalitarian no-booking policy (you have to wait even if you are Pink or Cadel Evans) its funky post-pop Asian artwork, manga cartoons & design and for its use of social media.
All of these elements shine through in what is a strong contender for self-published book of the year. The visual elements - manga tells the story of the restaurant; strong photography by Adrian Lander tells the story of the food; clever graphics provide a neat quick guide to the recipes - all accurately tell the story of a visit to Chin Chin.
The recipes, to us, tell an even more fun story. This is food to cook at home for yourself, for friends, for family, for fun! Most recipes are accompanied by hints, tips and shortcuts; ‘hacks’ as Benjamin calls them and they are all ‘graded’ for heat on a ‘mild bunny’ to ‘hot bunny’s scale. The food is broadly Thai/South East Asian. The flavours are all authentic even if some of the dishes are not traditional in their final form. Dishes are designed to be shared and accompanied by other dishes but many will work on their own with some plain rice and a beer.
We love the sheer fun and exuberance of this extrovert cookbook and restaurant and highly recommend a trip to your local Asian market for some good ingredients and a slab of beer - after you’ve bought the book of course!!