A Celebration of Tropical Cooking—125 Recipes from the Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific Ocean Islands

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Pub Date 12 Mar 2024 | Archive Date 11 Mar 2024

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An intimate reflection on tropical island cooking's bold flavors and big stories, with 125 recipes, from celebrated food writer Von Diaz.

The islands spanning the Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans are remarkable places, sharing dozens of ingredients and cooking techniques, including marinating, pickling and fermentation, braising and stewing, frying, grilling and smoking, and steaming and in-ground roasting. Bold flavors drip from the edges of each dish with tastes that represent stories of resistance, persistence, and wisdom passed down from generation to generation.

This narrative cookbook by writer, documentary producer, and author Von Diaz travels across oceans and nations to uplift the shared ancestral cooking techniques of these islands in more than 125 recipes, including intimate profiles of the historical context of each technique, stories from islanders, and step-by-step guides for recreating them at home.

Recipes include:

  • Coco Bread from Jamaica
  • Arroz con Jueyes (Stewed Crab Rice) from Puerto Rico
  • Masikita (Papaya-Marinated Beef Skewers) from Madagascar
  • Bebek Betutu (Roasted Duck in Banana Leaf) from Indonesia
  • Lechon Kawali (Crispy Fried Pork Belly) from the Philippines

Bright citrus and vinegars, verdant herbs, slow-cooked and smoky grilled meats, fresh seafood, aromatic rice, and earthy root vegetables: These flavors, found in the meals and recipes across these island nations pair remarkably well together, despite distance and cultural differences. The ingredients and deep-rooted cooking techniques in each of these recipes typify the harmonious, synchronous spirit found in each culture's unique cuisines. Even amid environmental chaos and food insecurity, islanders cook in ways that are soul nourishing and flavorful.

Islas is about preserving the wisdom, values, and resilience of the people who live in some of the most volatile, vulnerable places on this planet. Each recipe, an archive of strategies for persistence, creativity, and ingenuity, provides a path for cooking delicious food. But above all, these stories and recipes acknowledge that cooking delicious food for others is always a selfless act.

An intimate reflection on tropical island cooking's bold flavors and big stories, with 125 recipes, from celebrated food writer Von Diaz.

The islands spanning the Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific...

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EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9781797215242
PRICE $35.00 (USD)

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Average rating from 43 members

Featured Reviews

I want to thank Netgalley and the author for gifting me the ebook.
Beautiful photos of islands etc. There is not really any photos of the food. I wish they would have done that. These recipes absolutely sound delicious and fresh. The book is stuffed full with instructions that I didn't know before. So I cannot wait to study more and try some of these recipes.

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GORGEOUS. Excited to make every single recipe. The images, the descriptions, the amazing individuals. Truly fantastic and beautiful.

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I loved the whole idea of this cookbook!

Presenting recipes and dishes from "a way of life" (rather than by county/region) is very fresh and innovative. I also liked that recipes are sectioned by the manner of cooking or preparation and not by main ingredients - again, very innovative!

I just wish that there are more variations to sweets/snacks/dessert recipes, like steamed, fried or grilled rice cakes or fruit.

Nevertheless, I am going to place a pre-order for this cookbook! It is my first time to come across such an original cookbook, both in terms of subject, recipes and recipe presentation.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the e-ARC!

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This is an absolutely beautiful cookbook. The recipes in it are right up my alley too. They ate beautiful, healthy and vibrant. I also love how unique and original the ideas in this cookbook are. I feel like a lot of cookbooks have very similar recipes but this one definitely takes on recipes that I havent come across in other books.

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Interesting recipes. Lots of good information. I only wish there was a picture of each dish. That always inspires me to make a dish after I’ve seen a beautiful photo of the meal.

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I love the visuals and information in this book! It’s packed with recipes and history. Some sections look harder or more expensive then others to make which might make it hard for the average person to make or have access to some ingredients, but its awesome addition to any cookbook collection!

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This book is a 10/10 not oy because of the delicious recipes, but because the gorgeous photographs! I felt like I took a vacation while flipping through.
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC.

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Von Diaz remains one of the foremost authorities on Puerto Rican and Caribbean cooking. But this cookbook, in particular, is a warm blast of island color, making me reminisce of a time when I lived in an eternal summer with tropical bounty all around me. Those photos!

And the stories! Most cookbooks have forgettable author remembrances or lectures on food. Diaz has interviewed women from islands around the world, like a girl-empowerment leader in Guam, a conservationist in the Seychelles, a fisherwoman in Madagascar, a restauranteur in Curaçao, her own bohemian cousin in Puerto Rico. Reading about these women was as good as the recipes — and that’s high praise, indeed. (There’s a male Haitian environmentalist, as well.)

In the interest of full disclosure, I received this cookbook from NetGalley and Chronicle Books in exchange for an honest review.

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As soon as I saw this book I was excited to have the opportunity to take a peek inside of it. Tropical cooking, yet providing more than just Latin flavor? Yes, please! The book has beautiful pictures and a history of the techniques used on the islands for cooking. I was so excited to see so much Puerto Rican food (even ones that I hadn't seen before!), yet I could also see recipes from the Philippines and St. Lucia, among other islands. The book was informative and beautiful, and I can't wait to do some of its recipes.

Thank you, NetGalley, Von Diaz, and Chronicle Books for providing me with this eARC.

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This is a fantastic cookbook! I was expecting something that was focused on the Spanish speaking Caribbean islands since the book is titled Islas, but instead the book offers a much wider focus. I love that it includes recipes from all of the different island regions of the world. The photography was gorgeous and all of the recipes were easy to understand and follow. As a professional chef, I rarely consider actually buying cookbooks, but this is one that I'd love to add to my collection.

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Wow this is a very interesting collection of detailed recipes that includes comprehensive instructions on how to make authentic island cuisine. There is plenty of detail regarding what equipment to use, and how to do certain cooking techniques like cooking in the ground. Very useful for real-world situations and understanding the different ways that ingredients can be utilized.

I also appreciated the fact that the author highlights members of island communities who make a difference by providing support through various channels, be it to support women and girls exposed to dangerous conditions or to highlight efforts to maintain the biodiversity of an area. As a studying scientist, I appreciated this context very much.

The sections included are:

Marinating (Guam)
Pickling + Fermentation (Seychelles)
Braising + Stewing (Madagascar)
Frying (Curacao)
Grilling, Roasting + Smoking (Puerto Rico)
Steaming + In-Ground Cooking (Vanuatu)

This cookbook is very well put together with plenty of reference pictures and additional pictures to enjoy throughout. I definitely recommend this for seasoned chefs and those interested in expanding their knowledge of island cuisine.

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I was not expecting how gorgeous this book was going to be! The vibrant cover caught my eye, but wow! The photos in the book are awesome! So colorful and pretty. I really like how the recipes are organized. The author provides so much information on various tropical islands, incorporating their culture, history, and cuisine. Truly a beautiful cookbook chock full of culture, recipes, and striking photography.

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I come from a Caribbean household so a lot of this food is nostalgic to me. A lot of old favorites. Beautiful book! Loved how they labeled the country the recipe comes from. Wish there were more pictures for the recipes. I like to know and see what I’m cooking.

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Isla is full of delicious sounding recipes and photos that made my mouth water. Easy recipe is described briefly and identifies the island on which it originated. Throughout the book are photos and stories of the contributors. I felt like there were a lot of meatless recipes which i appreciate and will make.

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I truly love this book. I flipped through the virtual pages and the concept of connecting the cuisines of the various island nations it covers is new and fresh. I made the sazón marinated chicken immediately and I believe it will make it to my meal prep going forward. I can’t WAIT to try the Jamaican inspired dishes, as this is where my family hails from. Can’t wait for this book to go out into the world and hope to chat with the author!

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Islas is a beautiful cookbook. It is laid out in a way that is visually enjoyable. I loved that the regions are identified in the main table of contents and the table of contents in each recipe section. I tried the Chamoru Barbecue Chicken and it was delicious. Most, if not all, recipes contain items that are commonly found in a well stocked kitchen. If you're drawn to the allure of tropical and Caribbean cooking, "Islas" is a must-explore culinary adventure.

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"Islas" is a vibrant culinary journey that immerses readers in the rich tapestry of tropical island cooking. This treasure trove of recipes tells a story of resilience and wisdom passed down through generations. While not every recipe is accompanied by a photo, the book compensates with captivating visuals that complement the fascinating historical context provided for each culinary technique. A captivating blend of flavors, history, and island tales, making it a delightful and enriching read.

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Wow, what an informative book! There are so many delicious recipes in this book.. I’m excited to implement the recipes in the future.

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Islas is a beautiful cookbook full of great information and recipes from tropical islands. Format in six categories: Marinating, fermentation, stewing, frying, grilling and steaming. Loved all the detail and highlights of local business owners and cooks. Particularly loved the grilled recipes but also so interested to try all the rice dishes. Author includes 18 sample tropical menus with a mix of recipes from different islands. Kudos on the book and Yum!

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The best way to describe this cookbook is vibrant: the imagery, the recipes, the cultural context. Not only are the recipes in this cookbook delicious, but the information provided outside of the recipes is such great reading. My favorite recipe to make was the arroz con jueyes. When this book is published I plan to make it my go to gift for friends and family.

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Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for letting me review this book. There were some great recipes along with photos that pop. I like each chapter recipe index has what country a certain recipe comes from. I also like that each chapter has a bit of history along with a bit about residents from each area.

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𝘐𝘴𝘭𝘢𝘴: 𝘈 𝘊𝘦𝘭𝘦𝘣𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘰𝘧 𝘛𝘳𝘰𝘱𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘭 𝘊𝘰𝘰𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 is a stunning collection of recipes from the Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific Ocean Islands. It contains not only appealing photos and detailed instructions of a variety of dishes, but also gorgeous images of the regions, technique descriptions, and discussions of essential ingredients and tools.

My main complaint is the organization of the book. The recipes are divided into the following categories: Marinating; Frying; Pickling & Fermentation; Grilling, Roasting & Smoking; Braising & Stewing; and Steaming & In-Ground Cooking. While I can understand the thought process behind these sections and think it’s interesting, I do miss the practicality of categories like Appetizers and Desserts.

Overall, this is a wonderfully immersive kind of cookbook. I appreciated the level of detail as well as the representation of countries that I feel do not get recognized enough in the culinary world. I’m inspired to try many of these recipes. Thank you to Chronicle Books for the advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Islas is A Celebration of Tropical Cooking—125 Recipes from the Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific Ocean Islands. This narrative cookbook by writer, documentary producer, and author Von Diaz travels across oceans and nations to uplift the shared ancestral cooking techniques of these islands in more than 125 recipes, including intimate profiles of the historical context of each technique, stories from islanders, and step-by-step guides for recreating them at home.
I like that this cookbook includes recipes different island regions around the world.
The author provides very detailed information on the various islands their history and culture and communities of the recipes represented by those islands. We also get in depth detail on different cooking techniques such as cooking in the ground. I found that super interesting. The cookbook is broken into six parts. My personal favorite was Pickling and Fermentation. I also liked how towards the end we are given menu pairings. The cookbook is well put together educational with wonderful stories of the island communities. It is visually beautiful although I do wish there were more pictures of specific recipes. The added photos were gorgeous. A truly immersive cookbook.

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Islas combines culture, cuisine and a combination of cooking styles.

The organization by cooking styles laid out against the locations from where recipes come from show the contrast and similarities in what is cooked and how it is cooked. My favorite recipes are from the grilling, roasting and smoking (i.e. Sugarcane Smoked Chicken from Martinique) and in ground cooking sections.

The author includes recipes and cooking styles but the local stories and insight into how the people of the islands live and how food and preparation is an important aspect of everyday life. The book transcends just being a cookbook with pictures of each recipe by showing the people, place, ingredients, and inputs to make the dishes included.

If you want a cookbook that brings the local flavors, customs, perceptions into play along with recipes, Islas is a good choice.

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This book has a lot of appeal factors. The cover (and photography within) is gorgeous and sets an atmosphere casual readers will enjoy paging through. The organizational structure of the book is new to me, but I think it works for this cuisine, as I can quickly see which types of recipes I'll most easily be able to jump into (i.e., braising and stewing is doable, but in-ground cooking would take a little work to figure out the logistics of in my apartment). The 'Essential Tools' section doesn't have anything too task-specific, so you probably won't need to hit up a store to get started. The same may not be necessarily true of some of the ingredients you'll see within the book (depending on where you live), but there are more readily found substitutions if you're willing to google.

The recipes include a small description of the dish, its background in the context of where the dish comes from (which is also shared), and snippets of advice. While there are longer essays throughout the cookbook, those interested in a more bite-sized read won't be disappointed as they go through each recipe.

I like to try 1-2 of the simpler recipes in a cookbook to test it out, so for this book, I opted to make the Cucumber Chow and the Mango Chow, which have a large overlap in the ingredients used (bonus points for how easy this shopping trip was). The only substitutions I needed to make were the habanero peppers in place of the scotch bonnet peppers, and extra cilantro in place of culantro for the Cucumber Chow. I personally liked the Mango Chow best, as it hit a good balance of sweet/spicy/sour/salty, while the Cucumber Chow was a little over the top with the salt for me. However, my partner adored the Cucumber Chow over the Mango Chow, so overall I think we had two winners here.

Perhaps most importantly, making these two recipes made me want to try out other recipes in the book! I can definitely see it finding a place on my cookbook shelf when it hits the market.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Chronicle Books for providing an advanced copy to review

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This is a gorgeous cookbook, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading through the recipes. They are clear, easy to follow, and sound delicious. I have already marked several that I'd like to try. The photos of the recipes make you want to be on a tropical vacation, eating this amazing food and drinking something with a tiny umbrella.

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Thank you to NetGalley and Chronicle books for the opportunity to read this ARC. I really enjoyed everything about this book. It is so much more than just a cookbook. The pictures and stories about these islands. I can’t wait to try these recipes.

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What an amazing and creative concept for a cookbook! New York Times Cooking contributor Von Diaz wrote a cookbook that covers islands in the Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans. The book is beautifully photographed, clearly written, and full of creative and unexpected ideas for meals and feasts.

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"Islas" by von Diaz is a visually stunning cookbook that doubles as a work of art. The vibrant pictures captivate, adding to the overall appeal. As a proud Puerto Rican, I appreciated the diverse array of recipes not only from my homeland but also from other islands like the Philippines, Guam, and Cuba just to name a few. The inclusion of spice recipes, such as adobo and sazon impressed me. I’m always trying find alternatives to store brought spices that have unnecessary additives. Thanks to NetGalley and Chronicle Books for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion. A flavorful journey through island cuisines awaits within these pages.

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Absolutely Gorgeous Photographs. The cover makes you want to grab the book, the photos inside make you drool.

The book contains information on the techniques of the islands, the pantry and tools suggested, and recipes for sauces, condiments, and spice blends. A few pages are spent describing rices, another couple for coconut. However, there isn’t always a photograph for each recipe.

The author provides recipes from multiple island locations in the world. At the top of each page, the location is clearly identified. For instance, the Chamoru Barbeque Port Ribs recipe comes from Guam and the OkaI’a (coconut cucumber fish ceviche) come from American Somoa.

The author provides guidance on some of the ingredients, for instance where you might find Calamansi juice or what makes a good substitute. Most ingredients should not be a problem to find in a typical North American kitchen or grocery store.

One of the recipes that I’m going to try right away is Ginger Beer. I do love it and the recipe sounds easy.

If you want to try a variety of new dishes and flavors, this is a great book to try. It’s 306 pages of great meal ideas.

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Not only was this a beautiful cover, Von Diaz wrote an extremely thorough book. It is part cook book and anthropology treasure guide. It worked at making me feel like I was invited to these Islas and partake in a beautiful and colorful ceremony of people, history, culture, food and Isla beauty.

What I’m Loving
The history, the Island pictures. Islas offers such a detailed description of culinary history, instructions on how to prepare different kids of rice, sauces and the uses for each.

What I especially found helpful:
The rice instructions! I’m terrible at preparing brown rice.
The Essentials list: I stick to the same spices and herbs so I pick up books like this to remind me of the rest of my options!!

Annnnd The tool section is so descriptive and instructive for people who use few tools in the kitchen!

This is the first cookbook with vibrant staple lists, sauces and each contains a short history of their uses.

I really can’t wait to get the physical copy of the book because it’s really useful and become part of me.

I want to try the following:

Pg. 67 Citrus Marinated Shrimp with Coconut

Pg. 96 Lemon Lasary (pickled lemons and Chile)

Pg. 112 cucumber, mango, pineapple salad

The only thing I would add is more food photography of the recipes in the book.

Thank you to NetGalley for this gift of culture and recipes!

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Tropical islands...

Beautifully put together, lovely recipes, this book takes you on a staycation of islands and yummy treats. Very world-centric, recipes from the tropics abound.

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February was not only a short month but also a busy one, so we didn’t get to make as many recipes from Islas as I wanted. But what we did make was all fantastic. I’ll definitely be buying my own copy when this is out so I can cook from it in the future. Here is what we made -

Mofongo with Shrimp and Lemongrass: I adore plantains so this was a hit. The broth was clearer than I expected but packed with seafood flavor. The shrimp cooking method resulted in perfect poaching. And the plantains reminded me of fries - they were deceptively filling and delightfully starchy

Lemongrass Adobo Grilled Chicken with Pineapple: the marinade was very tasty and herbaceous (we also used the recipe for homemade adobo seasoning). We only marinated it for about an hour but it really permeated the meat. I especially liked the sweetness of the pineapple when I got a bite of it with the chicken. This was a good easy weeknight meal

Stewed Oxtail: the oxtail was tender and rich. I loved the mouthfeel of the butter beans. The marinade was deep and rich, and the dish gets more flavorful and spicier as leftovers. As a bonus - cooking this makes your house smell amazing. I’ll definitely be making this again!

Giambo (Okra Fish Soup): I don’t know how to describe this other than it’s delightfully stringy. This is another dish that gets better the longer it sits because the okra breaks down even more. The oysters were a nice touch, and I loved the polenta cake/funchi. I will warn that I made this a bit too salty overall so be careful when seasoning. If I make this again, I think I’d likely add more additional veggies

Pates (Fried Meat Turnover): while this recipe didn’t make as many as predicted (we couldn’t roll the dough any thinner or it would rip) and it took a longer time to cook than it said (probably due to said thickness), these were my favorite dish we made. The filling was coarser than pates I’ve had before and I loved that, especially the peppers. We also got creative with dipping sauces, which was a lot of fun.

Thank you to Chronicle Books and Netgalley for this ARC. Islas is out on 3/12!

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This is a wonderful cookbook! I love the stories before each section: Condiments, sauces, stewing, frying, grilling, steaming and in ground cooking, and all the photographs are beautiful! Most importantly are the authentic recipes from each represented island like Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica, just to name a few! The recipes are so easy to follow because of the detailed instructions. Dive into the recipes and experience each region thru its cuisine!

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Absolutely stunning cookbook. I was able to test 5 recipes and all of them were easy to execute and very tasty. I’m excited to try more in the future. Items were easily sourced and didn’t require too many specialty items or equipment.

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