Happy Publication Week to Burn the Place!


Starting this week, you can finally pick up your very own copy of Burn the Place! Burn the Place is an unforgettable memoir that follows Iliana Regan’s journey from foraging on her family farm to running her Michelin-starred restaurant, Elizabeth. For Regan, food quickly became a way through which to understand a world in which she often felt isolated. Burn the Place recounts Regan’s experience coming to terms with her gender and sexuality, fighting for sobriety, and pursing a career in a male-dominated field with unapologetic, emotional power. This is not your typical chef’s memoir.

Named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs 2016 and receiving praise from Eater, Esquire, and the Chicago Tribune, Regan articulates her narrative with the same fiery force that she uses in the kitchen. See below for more rave reviews!

We can’t wait for you to read it!



Praise for Iliana Regan's memoir Burn the Place:

“This raw and emotional memoir testifies to the power of persistence and grit. With vivid description, we explore Regan’s almost inborn connection to food and the earth, her rise as a queer woman in a male dominated industry, and her journey to sobriety.” Real Simple


“With this deeply personal work, Iliana reminds us that there is great strength in vulnerability. Her story is one of resilience, determination, and vision.” —René Redzepi, chef and co-owner of noma

“[A] blistering yet tender story of a woman transforming Midwestern cooking, in a fresh voice all her own.” —Publishers Weekly


“It turns out that Iliana Regan writes the way she cooks: with a voice that’s bold and soulful, tender and tough, impossible to ignore, and utterly her own. Burn the Place is much more than an account of hustling in the kitchen. It’s a story about identity and addiction. It’s about getting creative and becoming a boss. And it’s full of scenes of gothic drama that still give me goosebumps when I think of them.” —Jeff Gordinier, author of Hungry


“The dynamic story of a dynamic life.” —Ms.


 “What bold new voice is this? Iliana Regan is out to shake up the literary world in the same was she's shaken the culinary world. Unexpected, flavorful, and distinctive, Burn the Place is a debut to savor.” —Beth Ann Fennelly, author of Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs


“Renowned chef Iliana Regan turns stuffy patriarchal stereotypes upside down. She is self-taught, charismatic, delightfully foul-mouthed, and utterly devoid of pretension as she parallels her ascent in the culinary world with a past strewn with AA chips, jail cell stints, and brutal family losses. This groundbreaking memoir reinvents the well-worn trope of the “bad boy” superstar chef, presenting us instead with a palpably vulnerable, complicatedly feminist, and sexy-queer-girl genius who takes no prisoners, including herself. Regan’s wild rags-to-Michelin story has appeal far beyond the “foodie” market, particularly among those hungry for tales of unapologetic women who have made it entirely on their own terms.” —Gina Frangello, author of A Life in Men and Every Kind of Wanting

Discussion Questions for The Last Thing You Surrender


It’s been almost four months since the publication of Leonard Pitts Jr.’s newest novel, The Last Thing You Surrender, which begs the question: are you on your third re-read or your fourth?

Whether you’re looking for new ways to engage with the text or something to share with your book club or library, the following discussion questions will help you think more deeply about the novel and its historical underpinnings.

  1. Thelma and George, despite their many differences, find that they have a natural ease in talking to and confiding in one another. Why is it easier for them to talk to each other than to their family members?

  2. In discussing Babe’s actions against the Japanese soldiers’ corpses (page 290), George explains, “What scares me isn’t that I couldn’t do what you did. What scares me is that I could.” Do we all carry the capacity for cruelty? Do you find Babe to be a sympathetic character? Why or why not?

  3. Pick a chapter that stands out to you. What elements make it memorable?

  4. On page 408, Books explains how much he has endured in the war “all in service to this ideal they call America. I do not know exactly what will happen after this, but I do know that I have more than earned my piece of that ideal.” If Books were alive today, would he be satisfied with his piece of the American “ideal”?

  5. After killing Earl Ray, Flora Lee sits and waits for the police. Why does she not try to flee?

  6. On page 245, the narrator says, “George was good, good in a way John never had been and never would be. It wasn’t that John saw himself as a bad man. Rather, he was just a man, a mostly decent man in his own estimation, but a man who also recognized in himself a share of selfishness and pride that are to be found in most men.” What is the difference between a good man and a decent man? By the end of the story, does George’s father become the type of man he wants to be? Why or why not?

  7. Who, if anyone, is the moral authority in the Hayes family?

  8. Thelma names her child Adam, after “the man in the Bible who was the first, who was new, who came into a world without history. She would try to raise this boy without history because history, she knew, might crush him. It might crush them both” (page 416). Give examples of other characters who are haunted by their history.

  9. Thelma and Flora Lee’s friendship is complicated and dangerous for both women. Discuss the ways their struggles are the same and the ways they are different.

  10. The book’s portrait of the 761st Tank Battalion is based on real events and real people. Had you heard of the Black Panthers before reading this book? Why do so many portrayals of World War II focus solely on the contributions of white soldiers?

  11. Explore the book’s main themes—morality, humanity, discrimination, survival—in the context of today’s world, rather than World War II. What has changed? What has stayed the same?

  12. Andy and George take enormous risks to carry out theft, sabotage, and other acts of defiance. What benefit do they derive from defiance that is worth risking so much?

  13. Describe the character of Franklin “Books” Bennett at the beginning of the war and at the end of the war. How do his ideals change, and why?

  14. Many characters struggle with their own identities and the identities of others. Discuss the differences in the ways Earl Ray Hodges, Johan Simek, and Randy “Jazzman” Gibson view the question of identity in America.

  15. Nearly every character undergoes profound changes during the war. Who changes the most, and in what ways? The least?

  16. When Makoto Fujikawa sends George to the POW camp instead of killing him, he says, “What I did was not generous, but selfish. It was for me, not for you” (page 359). What does Fujikawa gain from it?

  17. On page 498, while reflecting on the war, George says, “I saw so much evil while I was over there. I saw so much hate. And I felt so much hate. You almost had to feel hate in order to survive. It just seems to me that where there is so much hate, there has to be a corresponding love—there has to be, even if sometimes we can’t see it or make sense of it.” Do you agree?

  18. This book contains scenes of great violence and cruelty, usually inflicted by one group of people against another. What do you think the author sees as the common element that allows one group of people to be so violent and cruel toward another group?

  19. Discuss the similarities in what Thelma, Luther, and George endure during the war, despite their disparate settings.

  20. In a letter to George on page 291, Thelma writes, “You may have to give up your faith and your hope, George. You may even have to give up your life. But if it’s at all possible, you hold on to your decency. You make sure your decency, your humanity, is the very last thing you give up. Because without it, I don’t think the rest matters too much.” By the war’s end, which characters have managed to hold on to their humanity?

The Book Behind the Movie: I Am Somebody’s Child: The Regina Louise Story


Regina Louise’s Someone Has Led This Child to Believe is a rich, engrossing account of one abandoned girl’s efforts to find her place in the world, people to love, and people to love her back. The book’s raw and honest portrayal of Regina’s traumatic experiences as a young African American girl in the US foster-care system and her fight, not only to survive, but to flourish, continues to inspire us and countless others almost a year after the memoir’s publication. Regina also communicates her message of perseverance in her role as a motivational speaker and trauma-informed trainer advocating on behalf of youth in foster care.

Her message will reach an even wider audience this Saturday, April 20, at 8 p.m. EST with the premiere of the Lifetime movie I Am Somebody’s Child: The Regina Louise Story. Based on Someone Has Led This Child to Believe and Regina’s first memoir, Somebody’s Someone, the movie traces Regina’s navigation through thirty foster homes and psychiatric facilities and her relationship with Jeanne, her counselor and would-be adopter. The movie tells the story of Jeanne’s love and Regina’s triumph over a corrupt system designed to keep her down.

The movie pulls its timeline and story from Someone Has Led This Child to Believe and draws additional context from Somebody’s Someone. It retells the story we’ve known for years already here at Agate, and we are pleased to have published the book behind the movie.

In Regina’s own words, “the movie really is an adaptation of Someone Has Led this Child to Believe, and I feel like my story—the book and the movie—has a sense of timelessness to it that I believe is worth its weight in gold.”

For an intimate, inside look at Regina’s story, pick up a copy of Someone Has Led This Child to Believe, available everywhere books are sold.

Lifetime partnered with Promise House for the Promise to Care: An Unsheltered Experience event in Dallas, Texas, in early March. Business and community leaders were invited to spend a night at a bridge frequently used by the area’s homeless youth population to learn more about the issues they face and to see an exclusive screening of the movie. Regina was the keynote speaker.   Photo from Regina Louise /    @therealreginalouise

Lifetime partnered with Promise House for the Promise to Care: An Unsheltered Experience event in Dallas, Texas, in early March. Business and community leaders were invited to spend a night at a bridge frequently used by the area’s homeless youth population to learn more about the issues they face and to see an exclusive screening of the movie. Regina was the keynote speaker.

Photo from Regina Louise / @therealreginalouise


Celebrating International Women's Day with Vote Her In

Celebrating International Women's Day with Vote Her In


This International Women’s Day at Agate, we’re looking to the future of our country with the help of Rebecca Sive’s Vote Her In: Your Guide to Electing Our First Woman President.  

Vote Her In is organized around the inspirational messages seen on protest signs carried at the record-breaking 2017 Chicago Women’s March. Part One outlines the case for—and the research behind—why we need to start mobilizing now to elect a woman president in 2020, and Part Two provides a clear strategy for how we can all come together to get it done. Each chapter in Part Two includes an action plan that women can complete to help each other (or themselves) attain political power and work toward electing our first woman president.

Even after a historic 2018 midterm election with a record number of women elected to Congress, women are still wildly underrepresented at every level of US government: federal, state, and local. Research has shown that women in executive government positions are far more likely than men to commit to policies that benefit women, girls, and other marginalized groups. So, after centuries of marginalization, it’s clear: our best bet for creating a system that is more fair, balanced, and just for everyone is electing our first Madam President—as soon as we can.

In that spirit, here are seven research-proven ways in which women excel, in government and beyond:

  • Getting things done

Women legislators bring back more programs and spending to their own districts than men do. Minority-party women are also better at keeping their bills alive in adverse environments.

  • Decision-making and bipartisan collaboration

Women demonstrate strong political leadership by being more likely to work across party lines, even in the most challenging environments.

  • Introducing legislation on civil rights, health, and education

Women are more likely than men to request spending for projects promoting women’s health and combating violence against women.. Women also increasingly focus on gender equality issues (i.e., pensions, gender equality laws, and parental leave and childcare) and introduce bills advancing healthcare, education, and civil rights.

  • Communication with constituents

Women legislators send 17% more mail pieces to their constituents and station on average 3.5 more staff members in their home districts than men do. Women in Congress more closely represent their home district’s needs and interests and are  more likely to take committee assignments that reflect district needs than men are.

  • Following through

When women in government make promises to their constituencies, they follow through. Women not only introduce more bills related to policy areas important to their home districts but are also more likely to vote in ways that reflect their constituents’ needs.

  • Making and keeping peace

When women participate in international peace discussions or delegations between warring parties, the likelihood of peace lasting past two years increases by 20%.

  • Leading and management styles

Women care more about inspiring their supporters, and do so by engaging with them and helping to stimulate new ways of thinking within their base.  Through the current theory of transformational leadership, experts suggest that women leaders will dominate, as they’re better suited to 21st century management styles.

Read more about the benefits of women in charge in Rebecca Sive’s Vote Her In. Today only, we are offering this invigorating guide to help inspire your actions this International Women’s Day for FREE! Enter code IWD2019 at checkout on our website (agatepublishing.com/vote) to get a free download of the ebook, and check out our Instagram (@agatepublishing) and Twitter (@AgatePublishing) for a giveaway of a print copy of Vote Her In.  

Happy International Women’s Day!

Additional Sources:






Celebrating Black History Month with the Release of The Last Thing You Surrender

Celebrating Black History Month with the Release of The Last Thing You Surrender

This Black History Month at Agate, we celebrated the publication of The Last Thing You Surrender, the newest novel from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Leonard Pitts, Jr. This powerful story takes the classic World War II narrative—so familiar to us, and yet so frequently told from the same perspectives—and turns it inside out, this time bringing all-too-often overlooked African American characters to the forefront. 


Set during World War II, this historical page-turner follows three characters from the Jim Crow South as they face the enormous changes World War II triggers in the United States. An affluent white marine survives Pearl Harbor at the cost of a black messman’s life only to be sent, wracked with guilt, to the Pacific and taken prisoner by the Japanese . . . a young black woman, widowed by the same events at Pearl, finds unexpected opportunity and a dangerous friendship in a segregated Alabama shipyard feeding the war . . . a black man, who as a child saw his parents brutally lynched, is conscripted to fight Nazis for a country he despises and discovers a new kind of patriotism in the all-black 761st Tank Battalion. Set against the backdrop of violent racial conflict on both the front lines and the home front, The Last Thing You Surrender explores the powerful moral struggles of individuals from a divided nation.


Though Black History Month may officially be coming to a close, we want you to celebrate and share black voices and stories all year round! After picking up a copy of The Last Thing You Surrender as soon as you can, check out more recommendations from our Bolden imprint—dedicated to fiction and nonfiction by African American writers—and keep the remembrance, education, and celebration going:


For Kids: Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes & Gordon C. James

A 2018 Kirkus Prize Winner, and a Caldecott Honor, Newberry Honor, and Coretta Scott King Author and Illustrator Honor book, Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut is an unbridled celebration of the self-esteem, confidence, and swagger boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair—a tradition that places on their heads a figurative crown, beaming with jewels, that confirms their brilliance and worth and helps them not only love and accept themselves but also take a giant step toward how they present themselves to the world. Crown is a high-spirited salute to the beautiful, raw, assured humanity of black boys and how they see themselves when they approve of their reflections in the mirror.


For Social Justice Advocates: Someone Has Led This Child to Believe by Regina Louise

In this unflinching, unforgettable memoir, child advocate and motivational speaker Regina Louise tells the true story of overcoming neglect in the US foster-care system. She writes of her determined pursuit of a college education upon her high school graduation—the event that officially marks a foster child’s “aging out” of the system—despite an unsupportive social worker and the challenging circumstances surrounding her early education. Louise also lays bare her attempts as an adult to acknowledge and overcome her early trauma through writing: an outlet that eventually led to a reunion with the woman to whom Louise had been closest during her childhood—and whose own long effort to adopt Louise finally came to fruition after the publication of Louise’s first memoir, Somebody’s Someone. Regina’s story is the basis of a Lifetime movie (I Am Somebody’s Child) due out April 20.


For Motivation and Inspiration: Soar by Gail Campbell Woolley

The posthumous memoir of acclaimed journalist Gail Campbell Woolley, who, after being diagnosed with sickle cell anemia at age seven, made a conscious decision to live life, full of ambition and hope. While doctors predicted Gail would be dead by age 35, Gail outlived her diagnosis by more than 20 years and lived an eventful, exciting life that ultimately included—despite a troubled home life and the systemic racism and sexism of the late 20th century—academic success, an impressive career, a long and loving marriage, and the ability to leave her unmistakable stamp on every person she met. Woolley’s remarkable story not only will move readers to root for this irrepressible, quietly heroic woman but also will push readers to reassess their own approach to life.


For the Political Junkies: Harold, The People’s Mayor by Dempsey Travis

Harold, The People’s Mayor is a firsthand personal account of the life and career of one of the country’s most significant big-city mayors and influential African American politicians––a man who former President Barack Obama credits as an inspiration––written by civil rights activist and prolific author Dempsey Travis whose own friendship with Washington spanned 50 years. Moving, comprehensive, and well-researched, Harold, the People’s Mayor is required reading for anyone interested in 20th-century big-city politics and in this remarkable figure and how he lived, worked, and rose to transform the political landscape of Chicago.


For History Buffs: An Autobiography of Black Chicago by Dempsey Travis

In An Autobiography of Black Chicago, Author Dempsey Travis depicts Chicago’s African American community through his own personal experiences, as well as those of his family and his circle. Starting with Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, who was the first non-Native American to settle on the mouth of the Chicago River, and ending with Travis’s own successes leading the city’s NAACP chapter, organizing Martin Luther King Jr.’s first march in the city, and providing equal housing opportunities for black Chicagoans, The Autobiography of Black Chicago is a comprehensive yet intimate history of African Americans in 20th-century Chicago.


Foodie Holiday Gift Guide

For the inventive cook!


Jacqueline Chio-Lauri

A collection of 30 stories and recipes from expat Filipino chefs, home cooks, and writers that serves as a delicious, accessible introduction to the complex and adaptable, though perennially overshadowed, cuisine that is Filipino food.

For the introspective foodie!


An interactive keepsake journal that provides a framework for you to capture food memories beyond physical nutrition and wellness by tracking your eating habits every day for five years.

For the host and hostess!


David Danielson and Tim Laird

A tour of Bourbon Country and modern Southern entertaining through more than 90 recipes developed by David Danielson, executive chef at Churchill Downs, and Tim Laird, chief entertaining officer at Brown-Forman.

For the restaurant lover!


Alison Pearlman

Art historian and food lover Alison Pearlman visits more than 60 restaurants to take an inquiring look at the design of physical restaurant menus—their content, size, scope, material, and more—to explore how they influence our dining experiences and choices (if they do at all).

For the coffee fiend!

Jessica Easto

An accessible guide to handbrewing coffee at home that explores multiple pour-over, immersion, and cold-brew techniques on 10 different devices—written by a local.

For the carnivore!


Jess Pryles

A protein-packed cookbook for meat lovers everywhere by Jess Pryles—touted as the “female Ron Swanson” by her loyal followers—that covers everything you need to cook meat like a seasoned pro.

For the honey lover!


Carrie Schloss

A collection of 130 sweet and savory recipes inspired by the vast artisanal honey selection at Asheville Bee Charmer, a North Carolina shop located in one of the United States’s most bee-friendly towns.

For the holiday baker!


Chicago Tribune

A comprehensive collection of the best holiday cookies as curated from nearly three decades worth of reader submissions to the Chicago Tribune’s annual Holiday Cookie Contest.

For the gastrotourist!


Gabriella Opaz and Sonia Andresson Nolasco

A portrait of Northern Portugal’s cuisine and culture as told through the stories and recipes of the women of Porto's historic Bolhão Market, who have been selling produce and creating traditional artisanal goods for generations.


Agate 2018 Holiday Gift Picks for Chicagoans

For the Instagram guru!

Chicago Tribune

A charming collection of unexpected photographs from the Chicago Tribune’s vast archive, curated from the popular @vintagetribune Instagram account. And yes, there are cats.

For the activist!

Rebecca Sive

An inspirational, practical guide to why we need to elect the first Madam President in 2020 that includes action items all of us can take to help make it happen—written by a local. 

For the true crime expert!

Nina Barrett

A stunning history of Chicago’s 1924 Leopold and Loeb murder case, told chiefly through a rare collection of primary source material, including court transcripts, psychological reports, evidence photographs, and more.

For the artist!

Chris Arnold

Hours of coloring fun in more than 50 pen-and- ink illustrations, featuring modern architectural treasures, local icons, and Chicago food and fauna.

For the coffee fiend!

Jessica Easto

An accessible guide to handbrewing coffee at home that explores multiple pour-over, immersion,

and cold-brew techniques on 10 different devices—written by a local.

For the history buff!

Chicago Tribune

A history of Chicago told through the stories, headlines, and photographs of its hometown newspaper.

For the Royko fan!

Mike Royko

A collection of legendary columnist Mike Royko’s best work from his years at the Chicago Tribune, edited by his son David Royko.

For the sports fan!

Decade-by-decade team histories from the Chicago Tribune comprising essays, original reporting, archival photographs, and memorabilia from Chicago’s most beloved franchises.


Vote Her In Kicks Off Launch Week

Vote Her In Kicks Off Launch Week


Here at Agate we’re no stranger to of-the-moment books, but it is hard to think of one more timely than Vote Her In by Rebecca Sive. Last Tuesday, a panel discussion hosted by YWCA Metropolitan Chicago at WeWork Kinzie––a coworking space in River North––kicked off a flurry of events surrounding the book’s publication.

Rebecca was joined by Julia Stasch, former president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Kim Foxx, state’s attorney for Cook County, for a discussion and Q&A moderated by Dorri McWhorter, CEO of YWCA Metropolitan Chicago. The rousing conversation covered a lot of ground—from how the impact of electing a woman to the presidency will be felt throughout all levels of government and society to why it is so important that women in leadership positions lead as women rather than conforming to the norms that have historically stifled their voices. The panel also discussed how to prepare for the inevitable backlash that will come once a woman is finally elected (Spoiler alert: it is clear from the reaction to the 2016 US presidential election that the backlash will be sizeable). As Julia mentioned at the start of the panel, we have already elected a woman president via the popular vote, so the ground has been laid. And, as Kim later pointed out, when little girls tell us they want to be the “first” woman president, we should tell them we don’t have time for that—because the time to vote her in is NOW.

Excited attendees gather to discuss political strategies and line up to get their copies signed by author Rebecca Sive.

Excited attendees gather to discuss political strategies and line up to get their copies signed by author Rebecca Sive.

Upcoming events:

November 7, 2018: Book signing and conversation with Dean Katherine Baicker and Rebecca Sive hosted by the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy at Ida Noyes Hall Library in Chicago, Illinois, from 12:30 to 1:30 pm. 

November 1, 2018: Discussion and signing at Women and Children First in Chicago, Illinois, at 6:30 pm. 

October 29, 2018: Book signing hosted by Chicago Now at Rebellion Rising in Chicago, Illinois, from 6:15 to 8:30 pm. 

From left: moderator Dorri McWhorter, Rebecca Sive, Kim Foxx, and Julia Stasch.

From left: moderator Dorri McWhorter, Rebecca Sive, Kim Foxx, and Julia Stasch.

Happy Pub Day to The New Filipino Kitchen!

Happy Pub Day to The New Filipino Kitchen!

The New Filipino Kitchen: Recipes and Stories from Around the Globe hits shelves today! This gorgeous cookbook is a mouthwatering, multifaceted introduction to Filipino food as told through the stories and recipes of 30 chefs and home cooks of the Filipino diaspora. Check out the book here, and read on to gain more insight from the book’s editor.

Q & A with Jacqueline Chio-Lauri, Editor of The New Filipino Kitchen


You have an extensive background in the food industry and you’ve worked in several different countries. How did you originally get involved in the industry?

On my last day at the University of the Philippines, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant administration, a job ad thumbtacked on the college bulletin board caught my attention. A certified Angus beef steak house in the city’s business district was looking for an assistant manager. I applied and was hired after two interviews.

Months later, the first five-star hotel to open in Manila in 15 years was recruiting for management trainees. I applied and was one of the 14 selected out of thousands of applicants. Seven out of the 14 were assigned to F&B (food and beverage) and sent to chains abroad to train before returning to Manila to open the hotel and its numerous restaurants. I was one of them.

What are some of the challenges you’ve experienced as a Filipina working abroad?

At 24, I was hired as a restaurant manager for a deluxe hotel in Dubai and offered the same salary and benefits package as my male and Caucasian counterparts. People couldn’t wrap their heads around that, so rumors spread that I was sleeping with the boss (not true, of course).

My assistant at that time was a blue-eyed, blonde German woman. Guests automatically assumed that she was the manager. One particular incident I will never forget was when I welcomed a guest to the restaurant—the guest ignored my outstretched arm, walked past, and shook the hand of my assistant standing behind me. The saddest part was that this guest happened to be a Filipina. More of the challenges I experienced appear in my story in the book.

Why did you decide to compile these stories and recipes into The New Filipino Kitchen? How did the project come together and what was your experience working with all of the different contributors like?

I was working on a food memoir about the food I grew up eating, the “emotional soufflé” of my childhood in the Philippines’ culinary capital, and my lola (grandmother)—a complex, strong-headed woman, storyteller, and cook extraordinaire. The intention was to immortalize the memories, reflections, and lessons learned so that they could be passed on to family members and relatives, but a voice in my head wouldn’t let up. “What have you done for your motherland?” it nagged.

I decided to go broader and round up kababayans (compatriots) around the world. Having lived in many places with no Filipino food presence, I always longed for our cuisine to be more accessible globally. One question I was often asked and struggled to answer was, “What is Filipino food?” No short explanation really did it justice, because as you know, most of the time, food is not just about food. The narratives behind each dish put the food into context. It’s been one hell of a ride! I can’t sing the praises enough of those who have contributed to and supported this project.

Interest in Filipino cuisine is clearly on the rise, especially in the United States and Canada. Why do you think Filipino food is only now starting to get the recognition it deserves?

I have two theories. One is globalization. I’m not from the United States or Canada so I can only speculate. Globalization has made the world smaller. What only the privileged few could experience or taste by traveling is now available to almost everyone at their doorstep. Think of all the exotic fruits, vegetables, and spices that your local supermarket stocks compared to what they stocked years ago. I remember having to ask my mother to ship ginger to me when I lived in Croatia because I couldn’t find it anywhere. Nobody even knew what it was then. Now, it’s available everywhere. People have now become more exposed and open to different flavor spectrums and combinations.

Filipino food is for the adventurous palate, and I think many people are now ready for it. I would also go as far as to say that globalization has made us Filipinos less overprotective of our culinary traditions. What might have been considered as sacrilegious before is tolerable now. Saying that, I hope the Filipino food police or the guardians of gastronomy won’t scorn if my sinigang recipe is not like their nanay’s! Knock on wood.

My second theory is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It is said that members of the new generation are better off than the members of the generation before them. Understandably, the focus of the first-generation Filipino immigrant was on survival, necessities, and security (the first stage in the hierarchy). As those needs are met for the next generation, there’s a shift up the ladder of the hierarchy. The need to be recognized or accepted for our identity and for who we are became one of the priorities. This, in my opinion, is why there are more and more people of Filipino heritage who showcase their identity through food. I think that’s what the Filipino food movement is about.

What are the three best tips you would give to home cooks who have never made Filipino food before?

1. Don’t be daunted. It’s not as difficult as it seems. Witnessing my lola slave away for hours on end in the kitchen gave me the impression that Filipino food was very time consuming and labor intensive to make—until I started cooking it myself. Believe me, it doesn’t have to be. And the more you cook it, the easier it becomes.

2. Don’t fret. If you don’t get the flavors or seasonings just right, there’s always a fallback: sawsawan, the dipping sauces and relishes that are hallmarks of the cuisine.

3. Cook more than you need. Many dishes, especially those stewed with acid and aromatics, develop flavor and complexity when stored in the fridge. Reheat and enjoy!

What’s your favorite part of Filipino food culture?

One of the most common greetings in the Philippines is, “Kumain ka na?” It means, “Have you eaten?” Food is always shared and everyone who comes to the house is invited to join at the table to eat. I grew up thinking that it was rude to eat without offering what you’re eating to everyone present. I thought this was a universal rule until I lived abroad.

Do you have a favorite recipe in the book (besides your own!)?

Not just one favorite. I have favorites depending on my mood or the occasion. For something quick that everyone in our multicultural family would surely love, I’d cook Dalena’s spaghetti sauce afritada. If I have non-Filipino guests and want to show off the range of the cuisine, I’d prepare Rowena’s inihaw—grilled fish in banana leaves—but I would use filleted fish (instead of whole) and bake it in the oven. I would also make Vanessa’s kare-kare using tofu as the protein. There’s something for everyone in the book, that’s for sure!

What’s next for you?

Getting settled in my new and seventh home country and finding the other half of my food beginnings. And who knows? Maybe The New Filipino Kitchen II.

Q&A with Regina Louise, author of Someone Has Led This Child to Believe

Q&A with Regina Louise, author of Someone Has Led This Child to Believe

Cozy up with a good book this fall: Someone Has Led This Child to BelieveRegina Louise’s unflinching, unforgettable true story of overcoming neglect in the US foster-care system, is the memoir you’ve been waiting for. 


Called “revealing and much needed” by Booklist, Louise’s latest memoir is a remarkable story about courage, determination, and renewal. From her beleaguered adolescence in the foster-care system to her long-awaited reunion with the woman whom she’d been closest to during her fragmented childhood, Louise sheds light on her own experience growing up in (and aging out of) the US foster care system, and the many ways that system failed her. The result is a rich, engrossing account of one abandoned girl’s efforts to find her place in the world, people to love, and people to love her back.

Louise’s passion and fervor rings clear in the following interview, where she discusses her evolution as a writer, the difficulty of revisiting past traumas, and the indestructible nature of the human spirit.


Q&A with Regina Louise, author of Someone Has Led This Child to Believe

Do readers need to have read your first book, Somebody’s Someone, to understand Someone Has Led This Child to Believe?

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Absolutely not! As a matter of fact, it’s probably best that readers enjoy Someone Has Led This Child to Believe as a stand-alone piece. Although both memoirs address experiences that characterized the conditions that shaped my childhood, each, in its own way, serves a different purpose. Somebody’s Someone is a testimony to the misdeeds and negligent attitudes of the people in whose charge I was left, and it’s an indictment of my own recklessness and the unconscious ways I—unwittingly—made life harder for myself as a child. Someone Has Led This Child to Believe traces my childhood to the present through the lens of love: how it blossomed when I first met Jeanne and the trajectory of that love afterwards.

This book is much more introspective and reflective, written from a more informed sense of craft and personal responsibility. I understood my own journey better in writing Someone Has Led This Child to Believe, and I am much better able to articulate a fuller story with empathy for others and deep self-compassion.  

Your life story thus far is being turned into a movie with Lifetime. Was there a particular scene from Someone Had Led This Child to Believe that was surreal or emotional to see recreated on set during filming? Can you tell us about what it’s like to see your story on screen?

Oh, dear. Yes. There were so many scenes in the film that were surreal to see play out. One particular scene that stands out from filming is when Jeanne (Ginnifer Goodwin) is teaching Regina (Angela Fairley) to swim for the first time. The scene is charged with the tensions of the times—racism, discrimination, and outright disdain for these two human beings moving forward with love—and it was difficult to recall the soul-wounding and psychic injury the behavior of others impressed on me as a child. However, to see the way the Jeanne character protects her charge, the girl who is slowly being born of her heart, on screen reminded me of the ways Jeanne’s love had the power to show the young me that I was indeed worthy of protection. Those were ideals worth fighting for then, and now.

The movie really is an adaptation of Someone Has Led This Child to Believe, and I feel like my story—the book and the movie—has a sense of timelessness to it that I believe is worth its weight in gold.   

Your book deals with so many painful experiences. Were there any parts that were particularly challenging to revisit?

Writing about my womb-mother was particularly challenging, mainly because I’m certain the chance for us to get to know one another and perhaps engage in courageous and radical conversations is gone. Thank the Lord I got me some education and deep personal healing because it has helped me elevate my perspective from victim to victor.

I now better understand the historical conditions that aided and abetted not only my mother’s failure but also the generational underachievement and lack of opportunities that is synonymous with being born black. As I state in my book, I am grateful for the journey—it has given me the privilege to transform my devastation into my motivation.

What do you hope readers will take away from Someone Has Led This Child to Believe?

The indestructible nature of the human spirit, and the importance of keeping one’s solemn vow—especially to one’s self.

If there was one thing you wanted the general public to know about the US foster-care system that they may be unaware of, what would it be?

That it’s a business with the intention of parenting children from the outside in. This is done by way of professional surrogates who may or may not know how to connect with a child according to that child’s style of attachment or the true context of that child’s lived experiences. Doing so means the surrogate would tailor their care according to variables such as the child’s class, culture, race, religious practices, and gender identifications, to name a few. This is not by any means to say that these considerations are not factored into the equation as best as can be in terms of recruitment and training of prospective resource families (foster parents, fost-to-adopt families, kinship caregivers, etc.), but organizations have budgets, and it can become problematic if and when a child’s healing trajectory is directly affected by that budget. When this is the case, both the resource family and the child get the short end of the stick by not receiving all of the support and resources that bolsters a family’s ability to provide the child with what is needed at the time the need is present.

What advice would you give to a child currently in the system or who has just aged out? Is there anything you wish you could have told your younger self?

That’s another book in and of itself! Allow your imagination to be in service to you. Think and dream about the places you want to go and the people you’d like to see and ask for support to make it a reality. Make friends. Insist upon it. Learn social skills that have cache to them and pleasantries that are scalable—people love you with manners. Learn why social proclivities are the way they are, and learn how to best use them to navigate social situations. Learn the value of saying “thank you”—that can go a very long way. Practice patience and loving kindness with yourself. And if you don’t understand anything I’ve suggested, look it up online or reach out to me and I’ll assist you. My new website (www.iamreginalouise.com) is live now!

What’s next for you?

Book three. More coaching. Maybe a PhD. Maybe a television show where I am coaching people into their highest and greatest version of themselves. Maybe a professorship. I’m open.

Crowned One of the Best Books of the Year

Sound the trumpets—Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, written by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James, is one of 2017's best books of the year!


Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2017

Publishers Weekly Best Books 2017

NPR’s Book Concierge Best Books of 2017

Horn Book Magazine Fanfare 2017

Chicago Public Library Best Books of 2017

Evanston Public Library 101 Great Books for Kids 2017

Huffington Post Best Picture Books of 2017

Boston Globe Best Children's Books of 2017

News & Observer Best Children's Books of 2017

Multnomah County Library Best Books of 2017

Mr. Brian’s Picture Book Picks Blog Favorite 25 Picture Books of 2017

Center for the Study of Multicultural Children's Literature Best Books of 2017

Denver Public Library Best & Brightest Picture Books of 2017

Los Angeles Times’ Rebecca Carrol’s Top Two Picks of 2017

Mommy Shorts Top 20 Picture Books of 2017

Mr. Shu Reads Top 20 Books of 2017

Curbed 17 Best Kids’ Books about Design and Cities from 2017


Thank you to everyone who read and loved Crown as much as we did this year!

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The Perfect No-Stress Hanukkah Menu


The Perfect No-Stress Hanukkah Menu

Happy first day of Hanukkah! To help you celebrate in style and with minimal stress, we are providing the perfect holiday menu, courtesy of Laura Frankel's Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes: 120 Holiday and Everyday Dishes Made Easy. Serve these hearty main courses up next to your traditional dishes and you're guaranteed a crowd-pleasing meal!

"This festival demands big, hearty flavors and textures to stand up to latkes, sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), and other festive treats. I reach for rich and saucy meat dishes. Garlicky Pot Roast and Coq au Vin are perfect foils for crispy potato latkes. Slow cooker ease means I don’t fuss or fret over the main course. That way I have plenty of time and energy to make my latkes and doughnuts and keep everyone happy."

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Something magical seems to happen when this dish cooks for a long time—the meat becomes fragrant and the garlic becomes caramelized and sweet. The “gravy” that results is so delicious that I often find one of my kids hanging around the kitchen with bread in hand to sop it up. The addition of the gingersnaps to the dish might seem odd, but they add a lot of flavor and help thicken the gravy.

The roast can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for 3 days, or frozen for 1 month. To reheat the pot roast, place the meat and gravy in a saucepan. Add enough chicken stock to moisten the meat, usually only about ¼ cup. Cover and cook on low heat until heated through.


3 tablespoons chopped garlic (about 4 large cloves)

¼ cup light brown sugar

¼ cup olive oil, plus extra for browning the roast

½ cup balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons tomato paste

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

One 3- to 5-pound chuck roast, fat trimmed

Olive oil


2 large Spanish onions, chopped

6 garlic cloves, chopped

1 cup dark beer such as Guinness or Aventinus

1 whole head of Roasted Garlic

2 cups Essential Chicken Stock 

1 cup crumbled gingersnaps (about 15 small cookies; store-bought are fine)

¼ cup tomato paste

1. Marinate the Roast. In a bowl large enough to hold the roast, stir together the chopped garlic, brown sugar, olive oil, vinegar, tomato paste, and 1 tablespoon each salt and pepper. Add the roast and turn it to coat on all sides. Cover the bowl and marinate for at least 3 hours, or overnight in the refrigerator.

2. Place a large sauté pan over medium heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Remove the roast from the marinade and pat dry. Discard the marinade. Lightly season the roast with salt and pepper. Brown the meat on all sides, about 7 minutes per side. Set aside the roast but do not clean the pan.

3. Preheat a 6½-quart slow cooker to High.

4. Make the Sauce. Add the onions to the sauté pan and cook until brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more, until the garlic is very fragrant and has softened slightly; do not let the garlic brown. Add the beer. Scrape up the browned bits (sucs; see page 7) with a wooden spoon or spatula. Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker insert.

5. Place the roast and any collected juices in the insert. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the skin and into the insert. Add the stock, gingersnaps, and tomato paste. Stir together. Cover and cook the roast on High for 7 to 8 hours, until it can be pierced easily with a fork.

6. Remove the roast from the cooker and keep warm. Strain the sauce before serving. Cut the roast into large chunks and serve hot with your choice of accompaniment. Pass the sauce.




The deep, earthy flavor and fragrance of the porcini mushroom powder complements the wine and herbs perfectly in this chicken and wine stew. This is a terrific example of a recipe that is enhanced by the slow cooker—it just gets better the more time the ingredients mingle. I prefer using the slow cooker for this even when I have time to tend the pot. The flavors are deeper and more layered when made in the slow cooker.

Olive oil

8 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered

8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons Porcini Dust (page 202)

1 large Spanish onion, chopped

2 medium shallots, chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

6 garlic cloves, chopped

1 bottle (750 ml) dry red wine such as pinot noir

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup Essential Chicken Stock (page 207)

Bouquet garni of 6 thyme sprigs, 1 bay leaf, and 6 parsley sprigs, tied together with kitchen twine

3 cups pearl onions (about ¾ pound), peeled and sautéed

1. Preheat a slow cooker to Low. Place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Cook the mushrooms until they are browned and very fragrant, about 5 minutes. Reserve the mushrooms in a covered container. Turn off the heat under the sauté pan.

2. Pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels. Lightly season the chicken with salt and pepper. Mix together the flour and porcini dust. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour mixture. Return the sauté pan to medium heat and add more oil if necessary. Brown the chicken pieces, in batches, on both sides, about 7 minutes per side. Transfer each batch of chicken to the insert. When all of the chicken has been browned, drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.

3. Cook the onion, shallots, carrots, and celery in the sauté pan, in batches, until the vegetables are lightly colored, about 5 minutes per batch. Season each batch with salt and pepper. Add the garlic to the last batch and cook for 3 minutes more until the garlic is very fragrant and has softened slightly. Transfer each batch of vegetables to the insert.

4. Increase the heat under the sauté pan to medium-high and add the wine. Scrape up any browned bits (sucs; see page 7) with a wooden spoon. Transfer the wine to the insert. Add the tomato paste, stock, and bouquet garni to the insert. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on Low for 8 hours, until the chicken is very tender.

5. Gently remove the chicken pieces to a serving platter and set aside to keep warm, tented with foil. Pour the braising liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a large saucepan. Press on the vegetables to get all of the liquid, then discard the vegetables. Skim off and discard the fat. Bring the liquid to a boil, then simmer until about 2 cups remain.

6. Add the pearl onions and mushrooms to the sauce to warm them. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve with your choice of accompaniment.


Catch up on the latest:


The Agate Holiday Gift Guide: Chicago Edition!

The Agate Holiday Gift Guide: Chicago Edition!

Not sure what to give your loved one for the holidays? Does your loved one live in Chicago? Worry not, my friend—your local indie publisher has got you covered. Scroll down to find amazing books for anyone who lives in or simply loves Chicago. Check out these great selections!

For the sports fan!

Decade-by-decade team histories from the Chicago Tribune comprising essays, original reporting, archival photographs, and various memorabilia from Chicago’s most beloved franchises. From left to right, titles include The Chicago Tribune Book of the Chicago Bears: A Decade-By-Decade HistoryThe Chicago Tribune Book of the Chicago Bulls: A Decade-By-Decade HistoryThe Chicago Tribune Book of the Chicago Cubs: A Decade-By-Decade HistoryThe Chicago Tribune Book of the Chicago Blackhawks: A Decade-By-Decade History, and coming in April 2018, The Chicago Tribune Book of the Chicago White Sox: A Decade-By-Decade History


For the holiday baker!

Holiday Cookies: Prize-Winning Family Recipes from the Chicago Tribune for Cookies, Bars, Brownies and More

Chicago Tribune

A collection of the best recipes from the Chicago Tribune’s annual holiday cookie contest, as judged by the newspaper’s award-winning food writers.


For the trivia whiz!

NEW 10 Things You Might Not Know About Nearly Everything: A Collection of Fascinating Historical, Scientific and Cultural Trivia about People, Places and Things

Mark Jacob, Stephan Benzkofer

A carefully curated collection of fun and obscure facts, covering everything from language and food to politics and war.


For the caffeine fiend!

NEW Craft Coffee: A Manual: Brewing a Better Cup at Home

Jessica Easto with Andreas Willhoff

This accessible guide to making coffee explores multiple pour-over, immersion, and cold-brew techniques on 10 different devices.


For the Chicago enthusiast!

The Chicago Coloring Book: Iconic Landmarks and Hidden Gems (Adult Coloring Book)

Chris Arnold

Hours of coloring fun in more than 50 original pen-and-ink illustrations, featuring modern architectural treasures, local icons, and Chicago food and fauna.


For the true crime aficionado!

Capone: A Photographic Portrait of America's Most Notorious Gangster

Chicago Tribune

A visual retelling of the rise and eventual fall of Al Capone—the Chicago gangster, bootlegger, and leader of Prohibition’s most infamous crime syndicate.


For the photography guru!

Gangsters & Grifters: Classic Crime Photos from the Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune

A powerful and visually stunning photographic collection that tells the dark story of Chicago’s nefarious crime underworld.


For the history buff!

A Century of Progress: A Photographic Tour of the 1933-34 Chicago World's Fair

Chicago Tribune

A comprehensive photographic portrait of the second Chicago World’s Fair, a civic milestone forever honored by the fourth star on Chicago’s flag.


For the journalist!

Chicago Flashback: The People and Events That Shaped a City’s History

Chicago Tribune

A history of Chicago told through the stories, headlines, and photographs of its hometown newspaper.


Chicago Flashback is out this week—take a look inside!

Happy publication week to Chicago Flashback: The People and Events That Shaped a City’s History! As the temperature counts down to the holidays, all you need to stay entertained is this coffee-table volume that covers decades of Chicago history.

The devoted journalists at the Chicago Tribune have been reporting the city’s news since 1847, amassing an inimitable store of its hometown's long and colorful history. Since 2011, the paper has mined its vast archives for its regular Chicago Flashback feature, which reflects on the people and events that have made the city tick for 180 years.

Now the editors of the Tribune have carefully collected the most interesting Chicago Flashback stories in a single coffee-table volume, accompanied by black-and-white images from the paper’s fabled photo vault located deep below Tribune Tower. Explore the city's history—from politics and crime to arts, pageantry, and progress—as it was lived by everyday Chicagoans with this one-of-a-kind window into the past.


Check out the slideshow below for a sneak peek!

Quick, before fall ends: Try these autumnal soup, cocktail, & dessert recipes


Autumn leaves, temperatures between 40 and 60 degrees, soup and bread, seasonal cocktails, and cozy sweaters make life one hundred percent better. Today, we are celebrating the season with three of our favorite fall recipes from our Surrey Books collection! 


So, go borrow some sugar from your neighbor and stock up your bar cart, because you're going to want to get started on these recipes from Market-Fresh Mixology by Bridget Albert with Mary Barranco, Soup & Bread Cookbook by Martha Bayne, and The Fly Creek Cider Mill Cookbook by Brenda and Bill Michaels right away.


Don't forget to tag us in your "cheers" Boomerang on Instagram and your #KitchenMasterpieces on Twitter!


1. The perfect pre- or post-dinner drink for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday: a Pumpkin Cocktail

Pumpkin Cocktail


Tool Box

Mixing glass



Bar spoon


Cocktail glass


1½ ounces pumpkin liqueur

1 ounce orange vodka

½ ounce half & half

Splash of Vanilla Syrup (see page 26)

Gooseberry (for garnish)

Rim Ingredients

4 bar spoons super fine sugar

¼ bar spoon ground cinnamon

Lime wedge

To rim the glass: Measure sugar and cinnamon onto a small plate. Rim outside top of glass with lime wedge. Roll the outside rim of glass in sugar mixture. Set aside.

Add pumpkin liqueur, orange vodka, half and half, and Vanilla Syrup to mixing glass. Add ice to tin. Shake well. Strain into cocktail glass.

Garnish with a gooseberry. Peel back the outer leaves of the berry. Slit the bottom of the berry. Rest on the rim of the glass.

2. Never go wrong with soup for the perfect main course on a chilly fall evening. This Potato, Butternut Squash, and Leek Soup gets double points for using seasonal vegetables!

Potato, Butternut Squash, and Leek Soup

From Kent Lambert


(Serves 16)


1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into ¾-inch pieces

olive oil

1 tablespoon crushed coriander

½ teaspoon salt

6 pounds purple and Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, pared, and chopped into ½-inch pieces

4 leeks, finely chopped

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon rosemary

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon rubbed sage

1 tablespoon salt

16 cups vegetable stock

chopped parsley


Place the squash pieces in a roasting pan, drizzle a little olive oil over them, and toss them with the coriander and salt. Roast in a preheated 375˚F oven for an hour or more, until soft and a little bit caramelized. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, potatoes, herbs, and salt and sauté, stirring frequently, until the leeks are translucent and the potatoes are starting to brown. Add the soup stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes or so, until the potatoes are starting to get soft. Add the roasted squash. (Note: if you happen to have squash puree on hand, e.g., leftover from Thanksgiving dinner, you could just add it with some crushed coriander a few minutes after this point.)

Continue to simmer for another few minutes or until the squash is totally soft. Puree the soup and return to pot, if necessary. (If you’re using squash puree, add it after pureeing the potatoes and leeks and stir by hand until the orange streaks have vanished.) Add more salt, if needed.

Garnish each serving with chopped parsley. A touch of lemon zest or juice with each serving brightens the soup nicely, as well.

3. The best part of the meal: sweets. But don't restrict these delicious Apple Cider Doughnuts to the end of the meal, try them for breakfast. Or for a 4pm snack. Or ... really whenever.

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Fly Creek Cider Mill Apple Cider Doughnuts

(Makes 18 doughnuts)


1 cup apple cider

2 cups granulated sugar (divided)

2 teaspoons apple or pumpkin pie spice mix (divided)

3½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 tablespoon baking powder

1¼ teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, room temperature

½ cup buttermilk

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Approximately 2½ quarts vegetable oil, for frying

1. Place the cider in a small nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil; then, lower the heat and simmer until reduced to ⅓ cup. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

2. Combine 1 cup of the sugar with 1 teaspoon of the spice mix in a shallow bowl. Set aside.

3.  Combine the remaining 1 cup of sugar with the flour, baking powder, baking soda, remaining spice mix, and salt in a large mixing bowl.

4. Combine the cooled cider with the eggs, buttermilk, and melted butter in a small mixing bowl. When fully blended, stir the liquid into the dry ingredients, mixing until combined. The dough will be sticky.

5. Generously flour a clean, flat work surface.

6. Scrape the dough onto the floured surface. Lightly flour your hands and pat the dough out into a circle that is 13 inches around and ⅓-inch thick.

7. Using a doughnut cutter (a round cutter with a hole in the center), cut out as many doughnuts as possible. Repeat the process with any remaining scraps once; after one repeat, discard remaining scraps since the dough will become tough if worked too much.

8. Place the oil in a deep fat fryer over medium heat, and bring to 370°F on a candy thermometer.

9. Using a spatula, carefully transfer a few doughnuts to the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. The doughnuts should rise to the surface as they begin to cook. Fry, turning once, for 3 minutes, or until light and golden brown. Using a slotted spatula, transfer the doughnuts to a double layer of paper towel to drain.

10. Continue frying until a few doughnuts at a time until all of the dough has been used.

11. Let the doughnuts cool for a couple of minutes. Then, transfer one at a time to the dish of the spiced sugar mixture and turn to coat lightly. Serve warm or at room temperature. 


Catch up on our latest posts and newest releases below!

A Sneak Peek at The Chicago Tribune Book of the Chicago Blackhawks


As the NHL delves into hockey season, you can take a deep-dive into The Chicago Tribune Book of the Chicago Blackhawks for a decade-by-decade look at the city’s 21st-century sports dynasty!

Curated by the Chicago Tribune sports department, this brand new book documents every era in the team’s history, from the 1920s to the present day, through the newspaper’s original reporting, in-depth analysis, comprehensive timelines, and archival photos.

Each chapter also gives you a profile on a key coach or player, so get ready to crush your next Trivia Night!

To celebrate the book's recent publication, we are giving you an exclusive sneak peak into the pages. Let us know what you think in the comments, or here, or maybe here!


If you like this book, check out the whole series! We've got a tome on all your Chicago teams: Bears, Bulls, Cubs, and White Sox (coming April 2018).

The 1 thing you need today: 10 Things You Might Not Know About Nearly Everything

The 1 thing you need today: 10 Things You Might Not Know About Nearly Everything

How does it feel to be the smartest person in the room? 

Now you can find out for yourself because 10 Things You Might Not Know About Nearly Everything: A Collection of Fascinating Historical, Scientific and Cultural Trivia about People, Places, and Things is now available at your local bookstore, online, and anywhere else you buy books!

We think it's pretty cute, but don't take our word for it: 


This delightful and carefully curated collection by Mark Jacob, Stephan Benzkofer, and the Chicago Tribune staff provides well-researched, obscure facts on a variety of topics such as arts, culture, money, food, politics, war, science, technology, language, and more.

Here are two of our favorite lists, for your reading pleasure. Tweet us the best thing you learn!


10 things you might not know about Wine

1. Wine was first produced about 8,000 years ago in the South Caucasus, according to scientists who tested residue from an ancient pottery shard dated to about 6,000 B.C. Which means history waited about 2,500 years before it saw its first drunken driver. The wheel wasn’t invented until about 3,500 B.C.

2. Even in his wine drinking, President Richard Nixon was sneaky. He would offer run-of-the-mill wine to his guests while servers poured Chateau Margaux into his glass from a bottle wrapped with a towel or napkins to hide the label.

3. Wine grapes are a finicky bunch. A superb vintage requires a perfect mix of sun, soil and rain, which is why scientists say you’ll be saying bye-bye to Bordeaux and Napa wines by as early as 2050 because global warming will push prime growing conditions elsewhere—to such wine hot spots as Britain, the Netherlands and the Yellowstone National Park area of the American West.

4. What do you call a leprechaunlike creature that likes to drink? It’s a clurichaun. According to an Irish folk legend, clurichauns are fairies that hang out around the wine cellar, either guarding the stock or raiding it or both.

5. In the mid-1980s, about 36 million bottles of wine went undrunk, with their contents used instead to cool the ovens of a cement factory. Why? Because Austrian producers had adulterated their wines with a toxic substance, diethylene glycol, to sweeten it so it was more valuable. They got caught, and the wine was banned. No one died in the scandal, but the Austrian wine industry was badly injured.

6. Benjamin Franklin famously wrote in a lighthearted letter to a friend that wine is “a constant proof that God loves us.” Later in the same letter, to further his point, he raises a toast to the elbow, so ingeniously designed as to allow the arm to bring a goblet of wine “exactly to the mouth,” a sure sign of God’s “benevolent wisdom.”

7. Many people have likely seen or heard of a magnum of wine, equal to two regular bottles. But how about a Jeroboam (six), Salmanazar (12), a Balthazar (16) or the Nebuchadnezzar, the equivalent of 20 bottles? The larger bottles are prized for their rarity and also because the wine ages more slowly.

8. It wasn’t William Sokolin’s night. At a gathering of wine enthusiasts at the Four Seasons in Manhattan in April 1989, he was showing off a bottle of Chateau Margaux 1787. That vintage is worth a mint, but this bottle, etched with the initials “Th J,” was believed to have come from Thomas Jefferson’s own wine cellar. Sokolin said it was worth more than $519,000. Unfortunately, he accidentally hit the bottle against a table, breaking two holes into the back of the bottle. Wine gushed out. Horrified, he bolted from the restaurant with the broken bottle and went straight home. But his bad night wasn’t over. He had attended the event with his wife, who was left behind. She had to borrow taxi fare to get home. (It was later discovered the Jefferson link was most likely faked.)

9. Before early Champagne bottlers perfected the use of the cork, the drink was called the “devil’s wine” because the bottles were prone to shatter if jostled—or even explode without warning if gas built up in a defective bottle.

10. Ludwig van Beethoven, on his deathbed, accepted a parade of well-wishers bearing pastries and drink. But the arrival of a case of Rudesheimer Berg inspired his last words: “Pity, pity—too late!” 

Happy Publication Week, Crown!


At long last, you can walk into your favorite indie book store TODAY and pick up Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, written by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James. As the third installment of the Denene Millner Books line, this stunner of a children's book is an unbridled celebration of the self-esteem, confidence, and swagger boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair. 

Already critically-acclaimed, Crown boasts FOUR starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, Horn Book Magazine, and Publishers Weekly, and is one of the "best reads for young black boys in years," according to Kirkus. Keep scrolling for more reviews.

We can't wait for you to read it! 

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Praise for Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut:

“Safe to say, there’s nothing like the feeling of the fresh cut. You feel so extra visible with a fresh new cut, and this book built from that experience translates it in a way never before brought to the children’s bookshelf. Basquiat-inspired king insignias and a bit of Kehinde Wiley flair shape portraits of all the various ways men (and women too!) come into the black barbershop to restore their cool, leaving the chair with high self-esteem, self-pride, and confidence—if only for as long as their hairlines remain crisp. It’s sacred. The all-important line and the diverse styles take center stage here. The Big Daddy Kane-homage flat-top. The part. The light shape-up surrounded by cornrows and locs. The taper. The classic wavy dark Caesar. Barnes’ imaginative prose mirrors the hyperbole and swagger of the barbershop. No cut is just good. It will have you looking “presidential,” “majestic.” Like you own “a couple of acres of land on Saturn.” The swagger is on a million. The sauce is drippin’. James’ oil-based portraiture will send many readers reminiscing. This book oozes with black cool and timely, much-needed black joy, using the unique and expansive experience of the barbershop to remind young boys that their inner lives have always mattered there. One of the best reads for young black boys in years, it should be in every library, media center, and, yes, barbershop.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“A powerfully moving tribute to barbershop culture . . . . Pride, confidence, and joy radiate from the pages, both in the black and brown faces of men, women, boys, and girls featured in Barnes’s majestic paintings, and in writing that celebrates human worth with every syllable.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Themes of confidence-building, self-esteem, and joy of young black boys are the important takeaways, and the illustrations jump off the page and invite readers to share in the experience. A super fun read-aloud, this title is a recommended purchase for all picture book collections.” —School Library Journal, starred review

“Alternately precise, metaphorical, and culturally specific, Barnes’s descriptions make each page a serendipity. . . . A not-to- be-missed portrayal of the beauty of black boyhood.” —Horn Book Magazine, starred review

“Barnes mixes fresh and sharp lines with an integral part of the African American experience: maintaining one’s hair. Illustrator James deftly uses bright colors . . . and a colorful galaxy complements Barnes’ words well. The strong voice will resonate with readers, soothe any young child scared of their first cut, and give a boost of confidence to the seasoned pros.” —Booklist

“In this homage to Black barbershops, the author perfectly captures the meaning of this rite of passage for Black boys. And breathtaking visuals by the infinitely creative Gordon C. James match the energetic text. If the first three tomes are any indication, Denene Millner Books will continue to highlight the best talent and reads for an audience who truly deserves both.” —Essence

“The perfect gift for all the fly young black boys in your life.” —Blavity.com

Spilling the beans on French Press coffee

Happy International Coffee Day!


On this most cherished of days, we at Agate turn to the authority on all things beans and brews for guidance: Craft Coffee: A Manual: Brewing a Better Cup at Home by Jessica Easto with Andreas Willhoff. This essential manual, written by a coffee-enthusiast for coffee-enthusiasts, will teach you everything you need to know about making the best cup of coffee ever from the comfort of your own kitchen. Even Booklist thinks this book "belongs in every home barista’s tool kit,” and we have to agree!

So give yourself a gift on Coffee Day and PREORDER NOW!

Be sure to take advantage of our preorder giveaway. Place your order with any bookseller and email us at craftcoffeebook@gmail by November 1 for a chance to win a 3-month coffee subscription from Halfwit Coffee Roasters!

To tide you over until your book arrives, we're sharing two things: 

1. A chance to win CRAFT COFFEE: A MANUAL,


2. The method and madness behind at-home French Press coffee. Tweet us pictures while you're timing!


Happy brewing! Find Craft Coffee: A Manual on shelves on November 14.

The Eight-Minute French Press Method

Most coffee guides will tell you that to make French press coffee, you should pour water over the grounds and let them sit for four to five minutes. I used to make it that way, too. However, thanks to barista Nick Cho of Wrecking Ball in San Francisco, I’ve found that extremely coarse grounds and longer steep times (up to eight minutes) produce a more even, delicate cup. Because of this, Andreas and I have included specs for both the eight-minute method and the five-minute method here—shorter brewing times do have an early-morning appeal, after all.

The eight-minute method works best with a very coarse grind. Start with the coarsest setting on your grinder that still produces an even grind (the coarsest setting on our Virtuoso chews up the beans).

Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 10.07.50 AM.png

Base Specs

Grind: extra coarse (39 on Baratza Virtuoso)

Brew ratio: 1:14

Water temp: off boil

Total brewing time: 8 minutes


Makes 400 grams (13.5 fluid ounces)

28.5 grams (1/4 cup + 2 teaspoons) fresh whole coffee

400 grams (13.5 fluid ounces) water, plus more as needed


1. Pour the water into a kettle and set it over
medium-high heat. Bring to a boil.

2. While the water heats, set a timer for 8 minutes but don’t start it yet. Grind the coffee to an extra coarse size, transfer it to the brewing chamber of a French press, and gently shake the chamber to level the grounds. Set it on a kitchen scale and zero the scale.

3. When the water just starts to boil, remove the kettle from the heat. Start the timer and quickly but carefully add the water to the French press until the scale reads 400 grams.

4. After 30 to 45 seconds has elapsed on the timer, gently stir the water with a spoon until most of the grounds start to sink to the bottom (there will still be a froth with some grounds at the top). Place the plunger over the vessel, but do not depress it.

5. When the timer sounds, slowly and gently depress the plunger. It’s important to do this carefully. Forcefully depressing the plunger will result in an unwanted amount of agitation, and you’ll risk ruining your balanced cup by unleashing the bitter, astringent flavors that are still in the bean.

6. Serve immediately or transfer to a separate carafe. Use any extra hot water to rinse the device. Enjoy!

Brewing Tips

Most of the methods in this section call for a stopwatch. For this method (and the Five-Minute French Press Method), it’s easier to set a timer and wait for it to sound.

One of the best things about using a French press is that it’s quick and easy to make coffee for multiple people. But remember, there is still sediment in your brew, and the bulk of it has sunk to the bottom. If you serve multiple people by filling each cup one at a time, the first cup will contain very little sediment, and the last cup will contain a lot—and it won’t necessarily taste that good. To avoid this, pour each cup in waves to distribute the sediment evenly.


Bonus Street Food Content!

Colleen Taylor Sen and Bruce Kraig, noted culinary experts and editors of Street Food: Everything You Need to Know About Open-Air Stands, Carts & Food Trucks Across the Globe, have come together to produce some bonus information on Malaysia not included in the book! Read on to learn all about Malaysian street food, from the Iban specialty Manok Pansoh to the sweet shaved ice treat Chendul, not to mention all of the delicacies in between.


Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarchy in Southeast Asia, consisting of 13 states and 3 Federal territories, one of which is the capital Kuala Lumpur. It consists of two regions similar in size and terrain and separated by the South China Sea: Peninsular Malaysia, which has a land border with Thailand and is linked to Singapore by a causeway and a bridge, and East Malaysia on the island of Borneo, which Malaysia shares with Brunei and Indonesia.  The population is around 31 million, 80% of whom live on the Peninsula. Malaysia’s tropical climate produces a multitude of fruits and vegetables, while the long seacoast makes fish and seafood readily available.

Malaysia is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society, reflecting its geography and history. Waves of migration from the mainland over thousands of years brought settlers speaking a Malay language into the Philippines, the Indonesian Islands, including Borneo, and into Peninsular Malaysia. Because the region held a central position in the ancient spice route, traders and settlers from India started arriving in the first century CE, bringing Hinduism and Buddhism and exerting considerable influence on the region’s culture and politics. Islam was brought by Indian traders in the 12th century and gradually became the dominant religion. Today, Islam is the official religion of the state of Malaysia. Traders from China settled in large groups from the 15th century; others were brought by the British to work in the tin mines in the early 19th century.  

The Portuguese, the Dutch and the British established an early colonial presence but from the early 19th century the British took direct and indirect control over parts of the peninsula and Borneo. They brought in Indian and Chinese laborers to work on the rubber and palm plantations which they established. In 1948, the peninsular territories were united as the Federation of Malaya; in 1957 they achieved total independence from Britain. In 1963 Malaya united with North Borneo (Sabah), Sarawak and Singapore to become Malaysia. Singapore left the Federation in 1965 and became an independent country.

About two-thirds of the population consists of native ethnic groups, called bumiputra. The largest of these indigenous groups are Malays as well as various ethnic groups of Borneo,  smaller original populations (called orang asli), and ancient Thai- or Khmer-speaking settlers. Around a quarter of the total Malaysian population are of Chinese origin, mainly from Hokkien and Teochew, while 7% are South Asian, mainly Tamils.

Malaysia’s cuisine reflects this religious and ethnic diversity.  It shares much in common with the cuisines of Thailand, Indonesia, and other Southeast Asian countries, including the use of coconut, pandan leaves, palm sugar for sweetness, galangal, turmeric and other gingers for spiciness. Calamansi limes (limau kasturi), unripe mangoes, tamarind add the dimension of sour; fermented fish sauces add complexity and depth of flavor. Sambal is a thick paste made by grinding chiles in a mortar and pestle with many of the above basic ingredients in combinations depending on regional traditions or family preferences. It may be used as a condiment for cooking, but also as a fiery relish at table. No meal is complete without a side relish like the hot and pungent sambal belacan, made by pounding together chiles, lime, sometimes shallots, and the pressed and dried fermented shrimp paste called belacan.  

There are four main culinary heritages in Malaysia: Malay, Chinese, Indian, and Colonial European.  While the various communities have retained their distinctive dishes, they have also produced some delicious hybrids. Descendants of Chinese immigrants, called Peranakans, took Malay wives, affectionately called Nyonyas, who developed a distinct and celebrated cuisine called Nyonya or Peranakan cuisine. It combines Chinese recipes and taste sensibilities with Malay cooking techniques, and incorporated local ingredients including bitter petai beans, torch ginger flowers, candlenuts, and spices such as cardamom and mace. The fermented seeds of the keluak or pangi tree stars in the iconic Nyonya chicken stew called Ayam Buah Keluak.  A well-known Nyonya dish from Melaka is Curry Kapitan. (A Kapitan was a prominent member or leader of the Chinese community who served as an intermediary for Malay rulers). In this Nyonya version of Indian chicken curry, pieces of chicken are sautéed in an aromatic paste containing ginger, galangal, lemongrass, candlenuts and "Indian" spices, then simmered in coconut milk laced with a little tamarind for a touch of sourness.  

Malaysia’s street food life is one of the most vibrant in the world. Internationally, Kuala Lumpur and Penang are the best known meccas, constantly in the media limelight (CNN recently called Penang Asia's greatest street food city), their street food vendors passionately debated by enthusiasts on the internet. But other major cities such as Ipoh, Melaka, Johor Bahru and, on Borneo, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu also have thriving street food scenes and provide excellent opportunities to sample regional cuisine. Even smaller and less-visited cities offer local specialties such as fish grilled over charcoal in Kuala Perlis or Kelantanese nasi kerabu, rice tinted blue with the butterfly-pea flower (bunga telang) and served with fried chicken and salted fish in Kota Bharu. 

As in other parts of the world, gentrification and rising real estate values have led to the consolidation of street food vendors into permanent stalls in hawkers centers as well as food courts in air-conditioned shopping malls. This has drastically reduced the number of mobile peddlers and portable food carts operating on roadsides or other makeshift urban spaces. Ironically, a lot of Malaysian food as well as eating habits originated from and are still associated with streetside food peddlers. For instance, a standard meal of rice and a choice of two stews or side dishes is called nasi kandar after the shoulder pole (kandar) once used by the ambulant vendor to carry his rice and his curries.

We think of hawker centers as a series of regularly-spaced stalls, but there are also many small clusters of independent food vendors renting, or sharing space and facilities.

We think of hawker centers as a series of regularly-spaced stalls, but there are also many small clusters of independent food vendors renting, or sharing space and facilities.

Nevertheless, less formal open-air locales for street food still abound. Residential areas in every large town and city in Malaysia, as throughout Southeast Asia, have night markets (pasar malam) where vendors sell not only food but clothing and household goods at low prices in rows of tented stalls set up before nightfall. They are typically brightly-lit and attract big crowds. In the morning, shoppers visit pasar pagi (morning markets) to buy fresh produce for the day’s meals and enjoy breakfast or a snack. During the Ramadan month of fasting, so-called "Ramadan bazaars" pop-up throughout the country, offering a dizzying array of prepared food to eat on site or to take home for the fast-breaking iftar meal.  

In traditional neighborhoods, tiny storefront eateries open to the street and often with seating extending to the sidewalk offer a range of dishes, including many famous street food items. A kopitiam is a traditional coffee shop run by Chinese that in addition to tea, coffee and other beverages offers various noodle or rice dishes including nasi lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves, often served with boiled eggs and sambal). A classic breakfast of roti bakar (bread toasted over a charcoal fire), kaya (coconut custard), and thick black coffee (kopi-o) is also associated with kopitiams.

A unique Malaysian institution are the mamak stalls owned by Tamil Muslims. They are open 24 hours a day and feature a buffet called nasi kandar where guests select from a display of dishes to eat over rice. So-called "banana leaf restaurants" owned by Tamil Hindus offer South Indian vegetarian curries together with such South Indian dishes as idlis, dosas, sambars, and rasam. [See the entry on India.]

East Malaysia

The food in the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah on the island of Borneo reflects their proximity to the sea, rich jungle vegetation, and profusion of tribes and indigenous groups with their own cultures, some of which until recently were hunter-gatherers. Rice, cassava, sago and fish prepared in many different ways, are staples.  Rarer delicacies such as sago worms, different kinds of wild ferns or fern tips for salads or for stir-frying, a wild mango called bambangan used in cooking as a souring agent can be found in open-air wet markets (tamu) of big cities and small towns of these states.  

Many connoisseurs of street food consider the street food scene of Kuching (capital of Sarawak) and Kota Kinabalu (capital of Sabah) to rival those of the famous food cities on the peninsula. A vast range of nationally-recognized dishes associated with kopitiam or mamak stalls are available at open-air or streetside eateries in distinct and celebrated Sarawakian and Sabahan versions. These include various regional versions of Chinese and Nyonya noodle dishes such as Kuching's Kolo Mee Sarawak Laksa, Sarawakian O-a-chian and Sabahan yellow rice (Nasi Kuning). Heritage dishes of various indigenous peoples, including the Kadazan-Duzuns, the Dayaks and the Ibans can also be found at specialist hawker stalls.  An Iban specialty is Manok Pansoh, chicken spiced with lemongrass, galangal, ginger, shallots and then stuffed into a bamboo tube to cook on an open fire.    

The most famous street food market in Kota Kinabalu is the Filipino market, which has sections devoted to a large selection of dried and salted fish, handicrafts, fruit and vegetables and open-air food stalls. All the families who run the seafood grills at night are Tausugs from southern Philippines. Prepared foods include stunningly fresh fish and shellfish grilled to order, as well as sliced raw fish prepared in lime, onions, chiles and salt (a traditional preparation called hinava by the Kadazan-Dusun of Sabah and kinilaw by Filipinos). Also from the Philippine south seas are the Bajau-Laut, a sea-nomad people, represented by a few tables at the market. They offer "salads" of sliced green mangoes or different varieties of sea vegetables (agal-agal) mixed with chopped tomatoes, chiles, onions and lime. They also offer the emblematic latoh (another seaweed, usually called sea grapes or green caviar), mixed into one of those sour or sharp salads and served with putu, a word used for various types of rice cakes elsewhere in South and Southeast Asia but here referring to a dense roll of (grated cassava, steamed and eaten as a staple food.   

Major Street Foods

Fried noodles and noodle soups

Noodles make up one of the biggest categories of street food in Malaysia; there are countless versions of stir-fried or braised noodles or soups using round or wide, flat rice noodles, beehun (fine thread-like rice vermicelli), thick or thin wheat flour noodles (mee). Throughout the country, hawkers offer dozens of regional forms of noodle dishes within the narrow expanse of a small market stall, oreven from a bicycle-pulled cart. Portable charcoal stoves for woks and vats of boiling broth or sauces are organized economically in this tight space. A seemingly chaotic array of pots or bowls hold pork lard for cooking, as well as dozens of additional ingredients and accoutrements. There are bins for fried shallots or garlic, chopped cilantro or chives, and the different aromatic sambals and chile pastes to flavor or to dollop on top at the end as garnish.  

Traditional noodle soups brought long ago by Teochow or Hokkienese migrants have as a base a clear, sweet stock made by simmering pork bones or shrimp-heads and shells, or even a mix of the two. Combinations of traditionally-preferred as well as locally-available ingredients are incorporated or beautifully arranged on top.  Johor's famous kuay teow (flat rice noodle) soup feature such a light, clear broth and, variously, fish cake, shrimp, slices of pork liver and kidney, minced pork. In Kuala Lumpur and the greater Klang Valley area, pork ball noodle soups are famous, as well as "pork noodle soups" (zhu rou fen or zhu yuk fun) topped with tripe or thinly sliced intestines. Hawkers often become legendary for unique combinations or touches which might include local oysters, filleted sea bass, dried or fresh homemade sausages, puffed fish maw, abalone slices, greens like choy sum or kangkung (water spinach).  

In many Malaysian regional noodle soups, the traditional Chinese stock is completely transformed by the addition of different dried fishes, fermented fish or shrimp sauces, or with specially-prepared flavoring pastes (sambals). Such adaptations to local taste are often seen as examples of borrowing and hybridization in Nyonya cuiisine Penang  Hokkien Mee or Hae (prawn) Mee uses such a thick sambal-enriched broth, with egg noodles (mee) or fine rice vermicelli, or both together, topped with prawns, sliced pork belly or a pork rib, hard-boiled egg, sometimes also fried bean curd or cubes of congealed pig's blood. Also considered examples of Nyonya innovation are the various spicy or sour noodle soups, called laksa, flavored either with a souring agent like tamarind, or with coconut milk in addition to the flavoring paste. The latter, often described as a "coconut curry" is the base of a soup like Penang Curry Mee, also called Penang Curry Laksa, which might be topped with fish cake, bean curd puffs, cuttlefish, eggplant and the mangrove clams locally called si-ham or kerang, taken off their shells. Other cities, including Melaka and Kuala Lumpur have their own distinctive Curry Mee. But the universe of laksa is so extensive and complex, it is almost always treated as its own dish, or as a separate category, as we do below.   

There are many noodle "soups" that are served "dry" i.e. with only a little soup or a sauce poured over, or sprinkled with fragrant fermented fish sauce. The street stalls of Seremban and Ipoh are famous for Hakka Mee, egg noodles or rice noodles, served dry but napped with soy and fermented fish sauce and topped with minced pork or chicken. Kuching Kolo Mee has char siu (sliced barbecue pork), minced pork and a stalk of bok choy arranged beautifully on top. Then there are hawkers that offer noodles fried on a wok over a raging fire. Kuala Lumpur's Char Mee or Hokkien Mee is not a soup like Penang's, but thick egg noodles fried with pork, squid, prawns, fish cake, vegetables in a dark, thick sauce. Penang Char Kuay Teow, wide flat noodles stir-fried over high heat with shrimp, Chinese sausage, bean sprouts, si-ham clams, chives is today an item of fetish among visiting food tourists.    


Laksa is often called the "national dish" of Malaysia, nevertheless there are no two versions of laksa that are the same. This noodle soup differs not just from region to region but within towns. Ipoh, Kuala KangsarKuching all have celebrated laksas that radically different, but even with long-established local traditions, laksas are still not produced from set recipes or answer to standardized expectations. The Asam Laksa of Penang or Melaka Curry Mee differ considerably from one vendor or one family to the next. Differences extend to details including the types of aromatic herbs used as garnish, or even the side dishes (e.g. fried salted fish or rice cakes) that are served with it.   

Laksa does not just include those noodles in rich and spicy coconut curries. A large class of laksa are so-called asams (asam means sour), generally boiled fish soups, generally not containing coconut milk at all (there are exceptions), but flavored with sour fruits like tamarind or asam gelugor (dried Garcinia). Penang Asam Laksa, one of the most celebrated of these sour soups, is also a pinnacle of Southeast Asian fish cookery. Chub mackerel or ikan kembung is a popular choice for this soup and is cooked with tamarind and other aromatics, shredded off the bone to produce a thick, cloudy stock, which turns even more fragrant and pungent with the addition of a flavoring paste of chiles, lemongrass, galangal, shallots and belacan. It is usually garnished with bean sprouts, Polygonum leaves (daun kesom), julienned torch ginger flower (bunga kantan), sometimes a spoonful of a prawn paste called hae ko. In contrast, the laksa of northern states such as Kelantan or Terengganu (laksa utara) might prefer other types of fishes including eel or flatfishes, boiled with coconut milk to make a "white sauce" (kuoh putih) poured like a gravy over noodles, with mint or Polygonum leaves, raw sliced onions, chopped yardlong beans on top. Sometimes described as a Malay (i.e. not Nyonya) type of laksa, these northern laksa are often eaten with fingers.  The laksa of Perlis is served with either a grilled glutinous rice roll stuffed with dried shrimp (pulut udang) or turnovers stuffed with coconut flakes (kuih spera), either one meant to be broken, crushed and mixed into the laksa.


Marinated pieces of chicken, goat, pork, or other meats, strung on short skewers made of bamboo or of the midrib of coconut leaves are grilled on distinctive satay grills: long, narrow, rectangular grills which might be set on a work surface at waist level or even set low by a crouching vendor on the ground. Satay vendors can be spotted from far away as they tend their charcoal fire, fanning vigorously with a traditional palm-leaf fan and causing enticing aromas of burning fat to waft through the area.  Satay is typically served with cucumber, onions, bite-sized pieces of a rice cake wrapped in banana leaf called lontong. The sambal served with satay is made with chiles, belacan, various aromatics and spices, and ground roasted peanuts.  

Nasi Ayam (Hainanese Chicken Rice) and Nasi Ayam (Claypot Chicken Rice)

Nasi (rice) Ayam (chicken) in Bahasa Melayu (Malay language) refers to at least two very popular kinds of street food in Malaysia.  The first is the dish of Hainanese origin, beloved in Chinatowns throughout Southeast Asia. Hainanese chicken rice stalls (as well as stalls offering roasted or grilled chicken rice) are ubiquitous in Malaysia. These are almost always small specialist businesses that rent space in an alley, a hawker center, in front of a store, or that have an arrangement with a kopitiam or with fellow street food business owners to share facilities (e.g. simple tables and plastic stools for customers).  In Malaysia as in Singapore, the gently-poached "Hainanese" chicken is served with rice that has been sautéed in chicken fat before being simmered in chicken broth made fragrant with ginger, garlic, sometimes also a pandan leaf. In Melaka, following age-old local street food tradition, this rice is rolled into balls sometimes as big as a fist.  

A quite different kind of stall specializes in claypot chicken rice also called nasi ayam. Here, a broad table is required to hold rows of terracotta charcoal braziers-the primordial Southeast Asian cooking stove. Covered clay-and-sand pots are set on top of these portable stoves (a typical small business has about 12-15) to cook individual portions of rice topped with pieces of chicken cooked with soy sauce, ginger, salted fish, Chinese dried sausage, chopped green onions (variations might include dried shiitakes or a garnish of fried anchovies). Masters of claypot rice juggle multiple orders while ensuring that the rice is always fluffy but develops the prized charred crust at the bottom. To connoisseurs, the smokiness that develops with this crust and from the use of charcoal fire is an essential part of the dish! 

Roti Canai and Murtabak

Roti canai is a multilayered flatbread made from a simple dough of wheat flour and water, kneaded and oiled with clarified butter (ghee) and proofed overnight. For each order, a ball of this dough is flattened, stretched, repeatedly tossed and slapped against the working surface until paper-thin and translucent, then rolled into a flat round, or otherwise folded into a square to be griddled till golden and crispy. One of Malaysia's most iconic street foods, roti canai is specifically associated with mamak, i.e. Muslim eateries where it is always served with a gravy or a thin curry with a few tiny pieces of meat or vegetables to use as a dip. Upscale restaurants nowadays often alter that original focus on the delicious bread by piling on meat in the stew.  An egg is sometimes spread on the thin dough before the final folds to make roti telur. Or it could be sprinkled with sliced onions for roti bawang. There are also sweet versions with banana and coconut custard (kaya). Roti stuffed with a thick layer of  minced meat, beaten egg, vegetables or potatoes is called a murtabak.  

Bak Kut Teh (Pork Rib Tonic)

This rich and complex soup is regarded as a health tonic, being prepared by simmering pork ribs with dried medicinal roots and dried spices including star anise, cassia, cloves, fennel seeds and peppercorn. Depending on the individual recipe, the tonic ingredients might include such popular and traditional medicinal roots as those of dang gui (Chinese angelica) or chuan xiong (Sichuanese lovage). Goji berries and dried Chinese jujubes are also considered tonic elements and add sweetness.  

Although well-known throughout Southeast Asia among the Chinese diaspora, it was in Malaysia that bak kut teh gained special fame-in particular as a street food once served to laborers from humble stalls or from pushcarts by ambulant peddlers. Today, it is an iconic "hawker" dish in both Malaysia and Singapore, and can be found at specialists operating in rented stalls next to or inside traditional kopitiams, at food courts, and even from luxurious restaurant chains.  

Bak kwa (Hokkienese preserved meat) 

This savory-sweet dried meat (called bak kwa in Hokkienese, rou gan in Madarin), sold in pressed wafer-thin squares, is popular as a street snack and as a delicacy during the Chinese New Year period. The meat develops rich savoriness and the flavors of caramelized sugars through the slow process of drying, which even today is still often done over a charcoal fire. 

Fish head curry

Fish stews are popular throughout Malaysia. In particular, stews of the head of fishes such as kerapu (grouper) or ikan merah (snapper) are specially prized. Connoisseurs speak of the richly gelatinous flavor and texture of fish heads, and of the delicate fish cheek meat. There are countless recipes for fish head curries in Malaysia's different culinary traditions including many fascinating hybrids. Tamarind, green mango or another sour fruit might be added in different Malay or Nyonya traditions of asam pedas (sour and pungent fish cookery). Coconut milk might or might not be included to enrich. Many Chinese or Nyonya versions might be better described as fish head noodle soups. There are uncomplicated versions with just a few ingredients: ground fresh chiles, a few aromatics, perhaps ground candlenuts (buah keras) to thicken. But there are also recipes with elaborate combinations/pastes of herbs and spices (rempah). Malay recipes derived from different Tamil or Keralan traditions might include a rempah with spices such as fenugreek or mustard seeds, both spices not typically used in Malay cooking. At eateries run by Malaysians of Indian origin, these spices might be introduced into the dish through a different technique: by being "tempered" in hot oil and added at the end of cooking.  

A covered alley lined with different street food stalls. The stall in the forefront offers both bak kut teh and fish head soup.

A covered alley lined with different street food stalls. The stall in the forefront offers both bak kut teh and fish head soup.

O-a-chien or O-chian (Fried Oyster Omelet)   (second O-chian: capitalize) 

A famous street food of the Hokkienese diaspora throughout Southeast Asia, o-a-chian is also widely available in Malaysian cities such as Penang, from specialist pushcarts, usually manned by a single person. As in many other cities in the region, small tropical oysters are sautéed and folded to cook with eggs beaten with a little sweet potato or tapioca starch to add a desired gummy texture. The omelet is usually allowed to turn lightly brown and crisp on the outside as a contrast to the soft oysters. The o-chian of Kuching (Sarawak) is distinctly different, and unique. Here, a wet batter of flour, water and egg is fried, while constantly being pushed or swirled outwards from the center, until it has turned to a thin, crunchy, often slightly-concave disk. As the batter sets, oysters are added near the center to produce what is in effect a large round oyster fritter. Chopped cilantro leaves or scallions are sprinkled on top to finish the dish.  

Ikan bakar (Grilled fish and shellfish)

Because of all the charcoal smoke generated while grilling seafood, stalls offering ikan bakar (also called ikan panggang) tend to be businesses operating outdoors in the open air or under a tent at locales like the night market (pasar malam). Large ikan bakar restaurants, roofed, but open on all four sides are also often seen by major roadsides or highways. The range of seafood depends on what is freshest in the market of the region but national favorites include ikan pari (ray or skate) as well as different rich, oily fishes in the jack or mackerel family (e.g. ikan kembung or ikan cencaru, a type of scad), fishes that hold up to the powerful sambal (spice paste), often belacan-based, that is used to flavor or as marinade. Other vendors might specialize in a seabass like ikan siakap, a snapper (janahak), or fishes with fine, delicate flavor such as pomfret or farmed milkfish, grilled directly over fire, or sometimes protected by a wrapping of banana leaf. Large prawns (udang), cuttlefish (sotong) or in season, crab, are also proudly featured. The customer's selection is served with rice and the house's chile dip, but typically a range of vegetable dishes (sayur) is also available for families to construct a full meal from on a night out.  

Sweet Dishes and Fruit

Kueh (Kuih)

Kueh are small pastries or cakes which share the same Southeast Asian heritage as the family of sweetmeats called Kanom Thai or the traditional rice-and-coconut-based sweets of the Philippines called Kakanin. These are all quintessential Southeast Asian street food, steamed, griddled or fried right out on the street in olden days, to be eaten as a snack at all times of the day. Nowadays, in both Malaysia and Singapore, they might be served as part of afternoon tea (a tradition adopted from the British) or as an after-meal dessert.  

The word kueh comes from the Hokkienese word for cake, but today it has come to refer to a vast range of sweet and savory street snacks: fritters, dumpling, crepes, European-style wafers, puddings, custards, cookies, various Indian, Eurasian or Nyonya curry puffs, and even fried plantain (pisang goreng, kuih kodok. There are hundreds of varieties and regional forms of kueh, many of them very elaborate. 

The traditional repertory of kueh is based on very ancient Southeast Asian permutations on a handful of common ingredients: rice and glutinous rice, grated coconut or coconut milk, palm sugar, banana leaf to line or wrap, pandan as flavoring. 

  • Putu piring is steamed rice cake stuffed with palm sugar made with a batter of rice flour and water scented with pandan.  

  • Putu bambu is also stuffed with gula melaka and scented with pandan but steamed in a bamboo tube and then sprinkled with grated coconut.

  • In Penang, pushcart vendors sell Tamil putu mayong or mayam, thin rice flour noodles (string hoppers) often extruded right on the street to serve with grated palm sugar and coconut.  

  • Kueh lapis is a cake made of stacked layers of steamed pudding made of glutinous rice flour and sometimes tapioca flour and coconut milk in alternating flavors and colors.  

  •  Pulut tai tai, a Nyonya specialty, is steamed glutinous rice, tinted blue with the butterfly pea flower (bunga telang), pressed into a dense cake and served with coconut custard (kaya). 

One of the branches of a successful modern-day street food business (complete with Facebook contact!) offering traditional rice cakes steamed within bamboo tubes ( putu bambu ) on a pedestrian mall.

One of the branches of a successful modern-day street food business (complete with Facebook contact!) offering traditional rice cakes steamed within bamboo tubes (putu bambu) on a pedestrian mall.

There are various kueh baked inside a Dutch oven, a cast iron pot with live coals underneath and over the cover. There are many kinds of kueh that are steamed in banana leaf, stuffed with banana, or a peanut or sesame seed filling.  Kueh also encompasses many Chinese sweets made from either wheat or mung bean flour and used for New Year and other ceremonies by Chinese migrants from Hokkien or Teochew, as well as those influenced by Dutch or Portuguese culinary traditions. Kek lapis legit or Dutch spekkoek is another elaborately layered cake, but baked from a dough of wheat flour, butter and sugar, and flavored with spices such as nutmeg or cloves. Housewives offering Sarawak kek lapis with intricate and colorful criss-crossing patterns can be found selling in lobbies of shopping malls or other urban niches in Kuching and Kota Kinabalu.

Though today it is increasingly difficult to see kueh being prepared right on the street, they are still products of small-scale artisans, often specialists in one single type, made at home or in tiny bakeries or confectionaries in small quantities to be delivered to market as soon as done or to be distributed and peddled on foot, on pushcarts and even in baskets on the back of motorcycles!

Fresh fruits/Jeruk/Rojak

Fruits are a popular street food, sold fresh, pickled (jeruk), or in drinks.  Roadside fruit stalls display seasonal imported and tropical fruits including pomelo, mangosteen, salak, rambutan and durian. Many of these fruits are offered already peeled, sliced, attractively arranged and packed in clear plastic bags or Styrofoam trays with a bamboo skewer for easy snacking on the run. Tart or crunchy fruits including juicy wedges of rose apple (jambu air) or different varieties of ripe or unripe/green mango that might be sprinkled with salt, chile powder and even fermented shrimp sauce, according to customer's taste are popular. Vendors might also provide a prepared chile dip.

Rojak or buah rojak vendors are everywhere throughout Malaysia and specialize in chopped fruits including apple, pineapple, guava, jicama, cucumber which are mixed together to the customer's specification. Cubes of deep-fried tofu, prawn crackers, bean-sprouts, ground peanuts, julienned torch ginger flower (bunga kantan) are also often added to this salad before it is dressed with a spicy sauce, often a salty-sweet variation of sambal belacan. Jeruk stalls often offer two dozen varieties of pickled fruits including such local fruits as nutmeg fruit or belimbi. These are often mixed together sometimes even with salted/preserved fruits (buah kering) to take away! 


Popular in various incarnations throughout Southeast Asia, the basic ingredients of this shaved ice treat include coconut milk, palm sugar (gula melaka) and jelly noodles made from rice, mung bean or other flours and flavored with pandan leaf. Vendors might add their own special touches including sweet adzuki beans, sago pearls, bits of  fresh fruit and even a scoop of ice cream. In a period when many traditional street food items have been disappearing from public spaces, cendol remains one of the few that can still often found from pushcarts or stalls in pedestrian areas, offering relief from the tropical heat to passersby at all times of the day. 


Colleen Taylor Sen and Richard S. Tan