Between Harlem and Heaven : Afro-Asian-American Cooking for Big Nights, Weeknights, and Every Day
by Alexander Smalls and Jj Johnson and Veronica Chambers

Overview -

" Between Harlem and Heaven presents a captivatingly original cuisine. Afro-Asian-American cooking is packed with unique and delicious layers of flavor. These stories and recipes lay praise to the immense influence the African Diaspora has had on global cuisine."
-- Sean Brock

" This is more than just a cookbook. 

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More About Between Harlem and Heaven by Alexander Smalls; Jj Johnson; Veronica Chambers

"Between Harlem and Heaven presents a captivatingly original cuisine. Afro-Asian-American cooking is packed with unique and delicious layers of flavor. These stories and recipes lay praise to the immense influence the African Diaspora has had on global cuisine."
-- Sean Brock

"This is more than just a cookbook. Alexander and JJ take us on a culinary journey through space and time that started more than 400 years ago, on the shores of West Africa. Through inspiring recipes that have survived the Middle Passage to seamlessly embrace Asian influences, this book is a testimony to the fact that food transcends borders." -- Chef Pierre Thiam

In two of the most renowned and historic venues in Harlem, Alexander Smalls and JJ Johnson created a unique take on the Afro-Asian-American flavor profile. Their foundation was a collective three decades of traveling the African diaspora, meeting and eating with chefs of color, and researching the wide reach of a truly global cuisine; their inspiration was how African, Asian, and African-American influences criss-crossed cuisines all around the world. They present here for the first time over 100 recipes that go beyond just one place, taking you, as noted by The New Yorker, "somewhere between Harlem and heaven."

This book branches far beyond "soul food" to explore the melding of Asian, African, and American flavors. The Afro Asian flavor profile is a window into the intersection of the Asian diaspora and the African diaspora. An homage to this cultural culinary path and the grievances and triumphs along the way, Between Harlem and Heaven isn't fusion, but a glimpse into a cuisine that made its way into the thick of Harlem's cultural renaissance.

JJ Johnson and Alexander Smalls bring these flavors and rich cultural history into your home kitchen with recipes for...
- Grilled Watermelon Salad with Lime Mango Dressing and Cornbread Croutons,
- Feijoada with Black Beans and Spicy Lamb Sausage,
- Creamy Macaroni and Cheese Casserole with Rosemary and Caramelized Shallots,
- Festive punches and flavorful easy sides, sauces, and marinades to incorporate into your everyday cooking life.

Complete with essays on the history of Minton's Jazz Club, the melting pot that is Harlem, and the Afro-Asian flavor profile by bestselling coauthor Veronica Chambers, who just published the wildly successful Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson, this cookbook brings the rich history of the Harlem food scene back to the home cook.

  • ISBN-13: 9781250108715
  • ISBN-10: 1250108713
  • Publisher: Flatiron Books
  • Publish Date: February 2018
  • Page Count: 272
  • Dimensions: 10.6 x 7.7 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds

Related Categories

Books > Cooking > Regional & Ethnic - American - General
Books > Cooking > History

BookPage Reviews

Cooking: Simple sophistication

Everyone knows that pasta needs accompaniment, and just about everyone can make a quick sauce—or at least open a jar of the stuff. But when it comes to making a sauce to dress up a sautéed chicken breast or to add some zing to vegetable sides, all too many of us think it’s above our usual kitchen paygrade and better left to a trained chef. Lorilynn Bauer and Ramin Ganeshram’s The Art of the Perfect Sauce is a game changer, a reliable guide that can turn you into a super saucer. In it you’ll find 75 recipes, each with foolproof instructions, divided into sauces for poultry, fish, meat, veggies, dipping and dessert, plus a Sauce Table that shows you which sauces can do double or triple duty. A divine Coconut Cream and Turmeric Sauce pairs perfectly with chicken or can be spooned over a baked fish fillet. Miso Brown Butter Sauce is simple to make and enhances everything except dessert. Go forth and sauce—your meals will be a little lusher and a lot more vivid.

Hawker Fare is James Syhabout’s homage to his Isan Thai and Lao heritage, his immigrant parents and the food his mother cooked. Don’t know much about Isan (the northeastern region of Thailand) or Lao food? No worries. Syhabout, the chef and owner of the Michelin-starred restaurant Commis, takes us with him as he reflects on teaching himself to cook the food of his childhood by taking trips to the “motherland,” partaking in tutorials with his Thai mother and delving into his own memory. To dive into this intriguing cuisine, unaltered for American taste buds, Syhabout suggests that you build a pantry (a shopping list is included) and learn to make sticky rice and padaek, a Lao fish sauce, before you consider the recipes. I’d start with the more familiar, like redolent Fried Lemongrass Marinated Beefsteak or aromatic Fried Chicken with Charred Chile Jam, then onward to the more daring.

I was charmed by the title of JJ Johnson and Alexander Smalls’ debut cookbook, Between Harlem and Heaven, but a bit puzzled by its subtitle: “Afro-Asian-American Cooking for Big Nights, Weeknights, and Every Day.” Grits with bamboo shoots? No way—Johnson, a brilliant chef, and Smalls, a restaurateur and Tony and Grammy award-winning opera singer, are both stars of the flourishing Harlem culinary scene. In this book, they offer their fascinating take on the heritage food that reflects the extent of the African diaspora, intricately crisscrossed with a story of Asian influence. This is food with authentic soul, made with spices that can be traced from India to West Africa and Barbados to the American South, brushed with contemporary creativity and burnished with the finesse of a classically trained chef. Try the Cinnamon-Scented Fried Guinea Hen, put West African Peanut Sauce (aka the Mother Africa sauce) on everything, serve up elegant Curry-Crusted Cod with comforting Hominy Stew, and you’ll delight in dining on food with a rich cultural history.


This article was originally published in the February 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

BAM Customer Reviews