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Cookbook Watch

April 28, 1999|RUSS PARSONS

Most people know Martin Yan as the cartoonish character he plays on his PBS television cooking shows--yakking it up in Charlie Chan shtick and flailing a cleaver like a madman. That's only one side of him, though. Even his fans might be surprised to learn that Yan is actually a very smart, thoughtful guy, albeit one who has never let those qualities become a threat to his television success.

In "Martin Yan's Feast" (Bay Books, $34.95), the accompanying cookbook to his new TV series, those qualities shine through more than ever. This is an Asian cooking primer for those who can't find the old Ken Hom books or who find Barbara Tropp intimidating. There are sections on equipment and techniques and brief descriptions--many with photographs--of what may be unfamiliar ingredients. There is also a smattering of pan-Asian dishes--not just Yan's attempts at Fusion Cuisine but also more traditional recipes from influences as far-flung as the Philippines, Korea and the Nonya cooking of Malaysia and Singapore.

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