Media Review: Asia Street Food by Heike & Stephan Leistner

Today’s media review is about asia street food by Heike & Stefan Leistner (ISBN: 978-3862448050). This book was published in September 2015 by Christian Verlag, Munich. This book is in German language, comprises 224 pages and 300 colour photographs. It costs 24,99 EUR and is available in the German bookselling trade and on Amazon.

Asia Street Food

Cover Asia Street Food (photo: ©Christian Verlag / Heike Leistner)

Cover Asia Street Food (photo: ©Christian Verlag / Heike Leistner)

The book asia street food combines a cookbook with a (culinary) journey of discovery through the Southeast Asian countries Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar. Hence, the authors Heike & Stephan Leistner present 70 authentic street food recipes from these countries, thus inviting the reader to try these special recipes at home.

Since 2004, the authors have been travelling regularly to Southeast Asia collecting wonderful streetfood recipes. Heike Leistner is a passionate food and travel photographer and Stephan Leistner is a cook and author. Thus, in 2011 the couple also launched their website in order to make Asian streetfood recipes known in the German-speaking world.

Rice noodle soup with chicken from Vietnam (photo: ©Christian Verlag / Heike Leistner)

Rice noodle soup with chicken from Vietnam (photo: ©Christian Verlag / Heike Leistner)

The book starts with an introduction and a brief history and background of streetfood in Asia. The first chapter is about Vietnam. Thus, the authors first introduce Vietnamese cuisine poiting out its specialities. A very prominent and well-known dish in Vietnamese cuisine is the Pho Bo. Hence, there is a recipe for this kind of noodle soup with beef. Other specialities are different kinds of spring rolls, like for example springrolls with tumeric and banh mi which is a kind of Vietnamese sandwich. In addition, the authors introduce prominent cities of Vietnam like Hanoi and Saigon and also present a family restaurant from Phu Quoc.

Spring rolls with tumeric from Vietnam (photo: ©Christian Verlag / Heike Leistner)

Spring rolls with tumeric from Vietnam (photo: ©Christian Verlag / Heike Leistner)

The second chapter deals with Cambodia and begins with an introduction of the characteristics of Cambodian cuisine. A first recipe the authors present is mango salad with fish. Other prominent recipes in Cambodian streetcuisine are fish and rice soup and the Khmer baguette. In-between the recipes, the authors present important Cambodian cities like Phnom Penh and Battambang.

Mango salad with fish from Cambodia (photo: ©Christian Verlag / Heike Leistner)

Mango salad with fish from Cambodia (photo: ©Christian Verlag / Heike Leistner)

The next chapter is about Laos and starts off with an introduction about Laotian cuisine, the history of the county and its specialities. This is followed by popular recipes from Laotian streetcuisine, among them for instance fish curry with Lao whiskey. In this chapter, the authors also present a section about ‘sticky rice’ and how it is prepared as well as an informative section about the use of lime and its different kinds.

Fish curry with Lao whiskey from Laos (photo: ©Christian Verlag / Heike Leistner)

Fish curry with Lao whiskey from Laos (photo: ©Christian Verlag / Heike Leistner)

The fourth chapter is about Thailand and begins with introducing Thai cuisine emphasizing its regional cuisines and their characteristics. Thus, the presented recipes come from the different regions of Thailand. For instance, there is curry noodle soup and sausage from Northern Thailand, fried chicken from Isaan but also classic recipes found throughout the country like Pad Thai, Som Tam and Tom Yum. In the sections in-between the recipes, the authors deal with different topics like monasteries and night markets in Chaing Mai, the cultivation of rice, floating markets, curry shops, streetfood in Bangkok, usage of the coconut & Bangkok in general.

Pad Thai from Thailand (photo:©Christian Verlag / Heike Leistner)

Pad Thai from Thailand, a popular street food (photo:©Christian Verlag / Heike Leistner)

The last chapter deals with the cuisine of Myanmar. It starts with an introduction and then presents the most popular streetfood recipes like Burmese noodle soup (mohinga), chicken curry, noodlesalad & the Burmese milk tea, for example. The sections in-between are about popular cities in Myanmar like Yangoon and Bagan.

Shan noodle salad from Myanmar (photo:©Christian Verlag / Heike Leistner)

Shan noodle salad from Myanmar (photo:©Christian Verlag / Heike Leistner)

Finally, I think that asia street food by Heike and Stephan Leistner is a well-made book that offers more than a simple cookbook. Indeed, it is an invitation for a journey of discovery. What catches the reader’s eye immediately are the numerous and colourful photographs. In short, I find the book appealingly illustrated. I particularly like that the authors also introduce and present some streetfood vendors. Thus, I can recommend this book to all those who love Southeast Asia and its multifaceted cuisine.

Yours, Sirinya

Media Review: Atman by Bernd Kolb

The soul is an infinite ocean of just beautiful energy and presence made manifest in human form (Panache Desai)

Today’s media review is about Atman by Bernd Kolb (ISBN: 978-3724310570). This book was published in September 2015 by terra magica /Reich Verlag. This book is in German language, comprises 192 pages, hardcover. It costs 50 EUR and is available in the German bookselling trade and on Amazon.

Atman by Bernd Kolb

The book Atman is a picturebook which invites the reader or rather the ‘viewer’ to realize and ‘see’ Atman, the divine spark, in the extraordinary pictures that Bernd Kolb took on his journeys through Asia. Bernd Kolb is known as an internet pioneer and German entrepreneur of the year 1998. The first station in his journey was Marrakesh (2007) where he restored a traditional city palace with centuries-old methods.

Atman by Bernd Kolb, terra magica 2015

Atman by Bernd Kolb, terra magica 2015

In 2012, he went on his journey to Asia in order to find out more about traditional sources of wisdom. Hence, soon the idea for comprising the book ‘Atman’ was born. The photos are predominantly portraits of people whom he encountered during his wisdom journey through Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia. However, there are also a few stunning pictures of landscapes like the Mae Hong Son province in Northern Thailand and an amazing picture of an elephant’s eye.

Padaung woman from Cambodia, Copyright (c) Bernd Kolb

Padaung woman from Cambodia, the Padaung belong to the tribes of the Karen who also live in Thailand, Copyright (c) Bernd Kolb

Atman may also be described as ‘soul’ or ‘essence of life’. In the 3000 years old Vedas, ‘Atman’ is called the divine spark in every (human) being. Thus, it can also be understood as the truth behind all appearances. Hence, the photographer tries to capture the ‘soul’ or ‘divine spark’ of his counterpart in his pictures. Thus, it is the authors aim to show that all beings are connected to each other through ‘Atman’.

A nun from Myanmar, Copyright (c) Bernd Kolb

A Buddhist nun from Myanmar, Copyright (c) Bernd Kolb

The book starts with a foreword by Jane Goodall followed by the author’s introduction in which he tells the reader about his motivation, intentions and his wisdom journey through Asia. The main part of the book consists of the photos followed by the caption in which the author tells us who the people photographed are. He tells the reader something about their story, where he met them and what they mean to him.

A dancer from Bali, Ubud in contemplation, Copyright (c) Bernd Kolb

A dancer from Nusa Penida, a small island near Bali, in contemplation before his performance, Copyright (c) Bernd Kolb

Old Soul, Bali, Ubud, Copyright (c) Bernd Kolb

Old Soul, a 5 year old girl from Ubud, Indonesia Copyright (c) Bernd Kolb

I think that ‘Atman’ by Bernd Kolb offers the viewer an emotional journey to discover the ‘soul’ of human beings. Hence, the book is very inspiring and even like a meditation to me. When I look at the photos for some minutes, it seems that the pictures come alive. Bernd Kolb truly shares magical moments of presence. Thus, I can feel a connection to the people in the pictures.

In a nutshell, I find ‘Atman’ by Bernd Kolb truly precious and an amazing book. Thus, it is also a great gift for people who like photography, the extraordinary and the magical. The book invites the viewer to take his time and to dwell on the portraits and the impression that they give.

Yours, Sirinya

The Stories of Sri Thanonchai, the Clever Trickster

Sri Thanonchai (in Thai: ศรีธนนท์ชัย) is a clever trickster who occurs in Thai folktales and is popular until today. The first printed version of these stories was published around 1890. This figure is known throughout Thailand but also in other Southeast Asian countries like Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. In Laos, this character is called ‘Siengmieng‘ (also ‘Chieng Mieng’), in Cambodia ‘Thanon-Chai’ though his Khmer name is Ah Thonchuy Prach. In Myanmar, this figure is referred to as Saga Dausa. The Lao tales are similar to the Thai ones whereas the Cambodian versions differ from the Thai stories. There are also mural paintings of Sri Thanonchai tales at Wat Phrathum Wanaram in Bangkok, Thailand.

Sri Thanonchai

Sri Thanonchai mural painting Wat Pathum Wanaram Rajaworawihan (photo credit:

Sri Thanonchai mural painting, Wat Pathum Wanaram Rajaworawihan (photo credit:

He can be compared to the German Till Eulenspiegel who was also a great deceiver. Most of Sri Thanonchai stories are set in central Thailand where the figure probably originated from.

According to the tales, Sri Thanonchai was born near Ayutthaya as the son of a peasant. His mother bore him relatively late in her life. Hence, only after she turned to the God Indra, she became pregnant and bore a son. However, a short while after the trickster’s birth, the mother bore another son and Sri Thanonchai was very jealous of his younger brother.

Scene from the film version 'Sri Thanonchai hahaha' (photo credit:

Scene from the film version ‘Sri Thanonchai hahaha’ (photo credit:

Generally though, Sri Thanonchai was very witty, clever and enjoyed playing tricks on people. Sometimes his pranks were outrageous. Nevertheless, he was also appointed to the royal court where he annoyed and vexed everyone by his tricks. Nevertheless, he could always save his hide. Finally, he returned to the house of his parents. Sri Thanonchai is said to have died from a broken heart after he lost a bet against a court official.

The tales of the trickster provide psychological release for the frustrations of a peasantry subject to the power of the ruling aristocracy. Hence, the common people could identify with him since he is also born of peasantry but conquers officialdom through wit and deceit. Hence, Sri Thanonchai not only challenges and ridicules authority but he also emerges victorious in the fight with the establishment.

There are several movie versions of Sri Thanonchai tales. The most recent screening is ‘Sri Thanonchai hahaha’ from 2014.

The most famous tale is the one in which the trickster outwits the King. Summing up, the story relates how the trickster persuades the King to go into a pond. I have here a clip of the Lao version of this tale but it is identical with the Thai one.

There are also some Lao versions of Xieng Mieng available here.  The story of Sri Thanonchai was for many decades only verbally told and later written down in verse and in prose.

Finally, we may claim that the tales of Sri Thanonchai reflect the intellectual and creative power in the art of telling jokes in an entertaining way by using linguistic and psychological manipulation. I think the tales are still popular today because people can identify with the figures and situations presented.

Yours, Sirinya

(Reference, Supaporn Vathanaprida, Thai Tales. Folktales of Thailand, 1994)