1972 Charmaine Solomon’s first Asian cookbook

The South East Asian Cookbook was the first of 31 cookbooks by Charmaine Solomon

Charmaine Solomon is credited with introducing Australia to Asian food.  She was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, but moved to Australia with her musician husband in 1959.  Solomon was a journalist working for the English language newspaper the Ceylon Daily News where she assisted the editor of the women’s pages. According to her publisher, Hardie Grant, this was where her career in food writing began. They say she ran a cooking column offering food ideas and recipes. However, other accounts confirm she did not cook at all until the family moved to Australia, developing her interest in cooking as a way to fill her time in her new country.

Here, Solomon’s career in food really began. In 1969, she was the runner-up in a cooking competition sponsored by Woman’s Day and was subsequently invited by food editor Margaret Fulton to join the magazine’s team. Three years later, Charmaine Solomon released her first cookbook, the South East Asian Cookbook, which was published by Hamlyn in 1972. The book contained 120 recipes from India, Ceylon, Burma, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, China and Japan using ingredients that were readily available in Australia.

In 1976, Soloman’s The Complete Asian Cookbook was released. It has sold more than a million copies in five different languages and is still in print. The Amazon blurb describes it this way”

The Complete Asian Cookbook covers 800 classic and contemporary dishes from fifteen countries (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, The Philippines, China, Korea and Japan). Written with the home cook in mind, Charmaine’s recipes are straightforward, simple to follow and work every time. Recipe and chapter introductions give valuable information about how local dishes are prepared and served, while the comprehensive glossary explains unfamiliar ingredients (which are steadily more commonplace in supermarkets today).

Charmaine Soloman worked for Woman’s Day for nine years and went on to become the food editor at Belle and Family Circle magazines and wrote regular columns for Sydney papers. She has written 31 cookbooks, run cooking classes and developed her own range of Asian spice mixes, marinates and chutneys, which were initially sold through David Jones. In 2007 she was awarded the Order of Australia.

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