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Apr 8, 2002 05:14 PM

Definitive ethnic cookbooks

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I'm looking for a list of definitive ethnic cookbooks. Maybe this is too difficult, but I'd like to see us give it a try.

I suppose I have in mind something like Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a book that is broad in scope, and concentrates on the classic dishes of a given cuisine and detailed descriptions of the techniques involved in preparing them. Though I'm sure there are other French cookbooks with better or more creative recipes, but I don't see how anyone can go wrong starting with Julia, and I think a beginning cook can go very much right.

I'm not just interested in good cookbooks for varied cuisines-there are many of those, and I've seen them addressed in other threads. I think it would be interesting, though (and quite useful to me), to list as many cuisines as we can (and surely not all have such a guide-that would be worth noting, too) and attach an author and title (specific title, not just "anything by Marcella Hazan"). Sorry if I've labored this point a bit too much. And if this has been addressed previously, please someone direct me to the thread.


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  1. I've just started to dabble in 'authentic' Mexican cooking and ironically, my favorite cookbooks are by non-Mexicans - I love both books by Rick Bayless ("Rick Bayless Mexico : One Plate at a Time" and "Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen: Recipes and Techniques of a World-Class Cuisine"). I think Diana Kennedy's book "The Essential Cuisines of Mexico" is indispensable (It combines her first three books, "The Cuisines of Mexico", "The Tortilla Book", and "Mexican Regional Cooking", with over 300 recipes). Both authors have such a love of Mexico and its food, and the books not only contain wonderful recipes, but are very informative about the various regional dishes and authentic ingredients.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Rubee

      I would agree on Diana Kennedy...I enjoy Bayless, too (loved the PBS series), but if I had to choose between the two, well...that's not much of a contest.

      'The Essential Cuisines of Mexico' is, I agree, an excellent book as it provides the user access to 3 outstanding books under one cover. The only thing I take issue w/ is the print/look/style of the book...I think it's absolutely horrid and cannot stand to look at it, I end up instead grabbing for the originals. Oh well, that's just a personal thing, I guess.

      If I had to choose from one of her books, though, I think 'The Art of Mexican Cooking' provides the better recipes.

      When you've finished those, Kennedy's 'My Mexico' is a thoroughly engrossing travelogue/ it.
      Other notable companions would be:

      'The Taste of Mexico' - Patricia Quintana
      'The Food and Life of Oaxaca' - Zarela Martinez
      'Food From My Heart' - Zarela Martinez (the Oaxaca book is way better..but there are some good recipes/info here)
      'Mexico The Beautiful' - very, very good recipes, great coffee table book, wonderful pictures
      'The Mexican Gourmet' - Maria Dolores Yzabal
      'Frida's Fiestas' - Guadalupe Marin
      'Recipe of Memory' - Victor Valle
      'Seasons of My Heart' - Susana Trilling

      also, one other which I've not read but have been interested in checking out: 'Mexican Family Cooking' - Aida Gabilondo, who is, I believe, Zarela Martinez' mother.

      1. re: sladeums

        That's a great list! I love Victor Valle's book for history as well as food. Add a couple of my favorites -Jacquelyn Higuera McMahon "Rancho Cooking" for Northern Mexico and California land grant cooking and Elena Zelayeta although I'm not near my books and can't remember her titles...

        1. re: suzannapilaf

          I love The Border Cookbook by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison. It's available in both hardcover and paperback at Jessica's Biscuit (my favorite online cookbook site) and the hardcover is now on closeout for $14.98 -- a very good buy -- about half off. They describe the book as having "tantalizing recipes (with regional variations), history & anecdotes for exuberant home cooking of the American Southwest & Northern Mexico." I like this very comprehensive and large (512 pages) book and their other books (there's a complete list on this link) very much.

          Here's the link:


        2. re: sladeums

          You know, I just checked out Patricia Quintana's book from the library. It's quite lovely and the recipes sound great although I haven't tried any out yet. Only thing--the recipes look like they serve a hundred people each! Have you cooked from this book and do the recipes look as unwieldly as they read? I'm dying to try the mole poblano recipe, but I don't think I need 4 quarts of it. Do the recipes divide easily?

          1. re: raj1

            I've had a few things out of that book...scaling the recipes shouldn't be a problem at all - except for the baked goods, I'd leave those alone.

      2. "Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia" by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid is one of my favorites. It is the food of the Mekong River, as it winds its way through China, Laos, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. The writing goes well beyond just recipes and conveys the essence of the people, place and history. It is beautifully photographed, as well. I highly recommend it.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Terrie H.

          I saw this on some Thai threads, too--one of the cuisines I'm most interested in. I'll have to check it out.

          1. re: Aaron D
            Mary Shaposhnik

            I *love* this book. I am partial to this region, and the recipes are the closest thing I have gotten to the foods I miss from those parts. It does not go as deeply into Thai or Vietnamese food as a comprehensive book on either of those countries would, but it's not meant to. It gives fairly good warnings about whether a recipe is really complicated or not. It's beautiful, but by no means just a coffee table book.

        2. I just bought "Pleasure of the Vietnamese Table", by Mai Pham. It has all the recipes I've been looking for. For Korean, I've been using "The Korean Kitchen; Classic Recipes from the Land of the Morning calm", by Copeland Marks and Manjo Kim, for years.

          They are less flash, and more substance, than many of the coffe-table books that deal with Asian cuisines, that I have seen...

          8 Replies
          1. re: galleygirl

            I agree on "Pleasure of the Vietnamese Table", by Mai Pham. It's a great book.

            1. re: The Rogue

              Hey, Rogue, do you have "Best of Vietnamese and Thai Cooking", same author? I haven't had it in my hot little hands, but I've been tempted...Whaddyah think?

              1. re: galleygirl

                Hey GG... No I don't have it. Is it a Harper Collins book...? probably. I will have to make a call to my friend who works for HC and check it out. If it is by Mai Pham it's probably pretty good.

                1. re: The Rogue

                  Yup, same publisher...I've only lately become Thai obsessed..Miang kum started it...

                  1. re: galleygirl

                    You know it's weird. Out of all the cuisines in the world Thai is near the bottom of my personal fav list. I've tried a lot of places over the years... including several visits to Sripraphai in Queens (and ordering dishes that were raved about by hounds) and I just don't get it. Part of it may be that since I haven't had what I consider good Thai, I haven't put in the research towards it that I put into most other foods. I keep thinking I must be missing something here, but after 17 years since my first Thai meal I guess I either consistently pick the wrong dishes or just don't like Thai. (Which makes no sense since I love all the related cuisines from S.E. Asia, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc.) I guess I need to go to some great place, with someone who really knows Thai food. Not just someone who says they do, but how do you tell the difference? I figure I will have to give it another try or two after I do some more research.

                    1. re: The Rogue

                      I used to feel exactly the same way you do; Thai was always my last choice as a restaurant, very strange, since I love all things Asian...

                      It only changed last year, when I started going to a storefront Thai place in Brookline, Dok Bua, that had a lot of grilled fish or shrimp with typically Vietnamese flavoured dipping sauce, chilis in Fish sauce....Without the curry sauce and coconut milk mixed into everything, (typical in other places I had been to), I was more able to enjoy the clearer Asian flavors I am more fond of...

                      Another place has recently opened, and their "Native Specialties" (their words, not mine!) have carried the trend even further; searing clean flavors, without the goopy sauce...Fish covered with ground peppers and garlic; fish soups in broth only slightly richer than the Vietnamese ones..I still have friends who always vote for the "Choose one of three-colored curries" school of Thai restaurant, but I know there's better!

                      1. re: galleygirl

                        GG- Thank You. Your comments make me feel much better. I just spent the morning do research and like you hint I think I will change my ordering patterns to focus on non curry and coconut milk dishes. Maybe I will have to take a chow cruise up to your neck of the woods. Boston area isn't it? I keep hearing great thnigs on that board.

                        1. re: The Rogue

                          Yeah, yeah, yeah; you NY hounds are always threatening to come up ;) ...Our two great Thai places are within a mile of each other...And our banh mi scored higher than the NY version at the Chowhound social! Of course, that was before you started compiling your exhaustive database!

          2. Can anyone recommend a definitive/good Japanese cookbook??Thanks

            1 Reply
            1. re: ciaolette

              One of the usual suspects, but it's a great resource: "Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art" by Shizuo Tsuji (1980). Encyclopedic but easy to follow, and as the subtitle suggests it breaks down a sometimes daunting cuisine into a handful of principles, flavors and basic cooking techniques.

            2. Paula Wolferts' books on Mediteranean cooking are well researched,and have a lot of interesting techniques and ingredients;Some titles are 'Couscous','The Cooking of the Eastern Mediteranean','Mediteranean Grains and Greens',and "The Cooking of Southwestern France'.