10/16/2012 01:15 EDT | Updated 12/16/2012 05:12 EST

Cookbook on Burma conjures up the dazzling cuisine of this faraway land

Naomi Duguid has travelled extensively, mainly in Asia, exploring food as an important part of culture.

The award-winning cookbook author and photographer has spent years visiting markets and sampling local foods while travelling throughout the Indian subcontinent, the outlying regions of China and the Mekong region.

In 1980, the Toronto resident ventured into Burma during the totalitarian period when the military ruled the country with an iron fist. It was the beginning of a journey that resulted in her sixth book (the five previous cookbooks were co-authored with her former husband Jeffrey Alford).

Over the past 32 years, Duguid, 62, has returned to Burma (renamed Myanmar by the military government) on several occasions to research the cuisine and the remarkable changes occurring as the country edged toward democracy in 2011.

The result is her extraordinary collection entitled “Burma: Rivers of Flavor” (Random House Canada, $39.95, hardcover).

During her early forays to the country, Duguid said that each time she went in, “I would say maybe next time I go they won't give me a visa because they think I am a journalist. I felt perched at the edge of a precipice.”

She added, “It was pretty intense like being behind the iron curtain although it wasn't a matter of someone following you.”

Duguid said she would draw people in to talk to her by visiting smaller towns or meeting with them behind closed doors because “no one was going to chat with me on the street.

“I did not want to harm people because they were so afraid and might be at risk,” she said of those earlier days.

Democracy has changed those fears, she said in an interview, with the result that her last visit “has been exhilarating.”

Travelling by bicycle, boat, bus and train, Duguid explored small market towns and ancient Buddhist ruins as well as meeting farmers, fishermen and home cooks.

She found that by putting in time to make people relax about having her around they opened up and she was able to learn much from her many acquaintances.

The book features a collection of vibrant recipes. Fabulous salads are dressed with pungent oils and include ingredients like fried shallots, red chilies, fresh lime juice, lemon grass and garlic.

“The Burmese food is a lighter cuisine,” said Duguid, who mainly memorized and photographed the dishes in preparation for the book.

In fact, all the location photographs are hers, while studio food images were captured by photographer Richard Jung of London, England.

Readers will find luscious recipes for noodles such as Mandalay Noodles With Chicken Curry, Street-Side Rice Crepes and Intense Ginger Salad to name a few.

“The ingredients are all available in Canada or online,” said Duguid.

To assist readers new to the cuisine, she has included a excellent glossary with photos depicting some of the ingredients used in the book.

Most helpful for those who are not familiar with Burma, Duguid has compiled a detailed history of this exotic country beginning 2,000 years ago up to today.

This is also a book for travellers and the author has included useful tips on the pros and cons of planning a trip to the region.

As Patricia Schultz, author of “1,000 Places to See Before You Die,” wrote in her review of the book, “With gorgeous photography and prose, this intoxicating book illustrates how everything in Burma is as delicate, spicy, unexpected, complex and exotic as its food.”

To learn more about Duguid, visit, which explores the concept of cultural immersion through food.