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Book Review: Between Harlem and Heaven

April/May 2018 Issue
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Between Harlem and Heaven: 
Afro-Asian-American Cooking for Big Nights, Weeknights, and Every Day
by JJ Johnson and Alexander Smalls, with Veronica Chambers
Flatiron Books

On a quiet corner in Harlem, just a few blocks from my home, is a cozy restaurant and jazz club called Minton’s, where, until recently, the African diaspora met the Silk Road. The nightly menu, prepared by rising-star chef Joseph “JJ” Johnson, included such signature dishes as Udon Noodles with Edamame and West African Peanut Sauce, BBQ Brisket Egg Roll, and Collard Green Salad with Coconut Dressing. The neighborhood mourned last summer when Johnson left the restaurant owned by his mentor, chef Alexander Smalls (a Grammy- and Tony-award winning opera singer). But now, home cooks across the nation can rejoice, because the Afro- Asian-American comfort food that earned Minton’s near-constant praise and glowing reviews is once again on offer in this one-of-a-kind book. All you’ve got to do, writes Johnson, is “dive in with an open heart and a hungry belly.” And if you’re anything like me, that hungry belly will interrupt your reading of the authors’ compelling narratives and propel you into the kitchen to whip up something new.

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