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Suggestions on great Chinese cookbooks?

I've been making a lot of stir-fry recently, and I'm looking for really good stir-fry brown sauce recipes that are not too salty.

I own one Chinese cookbook. It seems to be geared for the average American who doesn't mind using ketchup and whatever supermarket brand of soy sauce is on sale.

I'm looking for a cookbook that produces extraordinary Chinese dishes, even if I have to spend extra time making a brown sauce base from beef bones. The more detail, the better. I would really love to master the art of Chinese cooking, at least for a few dishes that I could make on a regular basis, so any cookbook that could help me on this quest would be greatly appreciated.

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  1. Land of Plenty by Fuchsia Dunlop
    Key to Chinese Cooking by Irene Kuo, this is good if you are not real familiar with Chinese cooking. The first half of the book teaches technique the second has recipes whic build on the techniques.

    Almost any book by Eileen Yin Fei Lo, Mai Leung, or Ken Hom. Another good book to have is Corinne Trang's Essentials of Asian Cooking. It is a great read and I like how she will start with a dish, say spring rolls and explores how the differing Asian regions and countries prepare the dish.

    1. The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking by Barbara Tropp. Great on technique and philosophy, tons of recipes. A great, great cookbook.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Tom M of Durham NC

        I had all of the Tropp books and donated them. I used them numerous times and found them tedious, especially the China Moon book.

        I should have added above to go to your library and check out any suggested that you can find and sit down and read them and see which suits your style. I have gotten much better about that in recent years and and have become moe discriminating in what I buy anymore. I had heard so many good things about the newest Susannah Foo book and borrowed it, it was too showedly restauranty (yeah 2 made up words). It might read pretty but my reaction to it was get real, almost no home cook is going to tackle much of this. I have been cooking Chinese and Vietnamese for quite awhile and am very comfortable with it so it was not a novice'sreaction to that book either.

        1. re: Tom M of Durham NC

          Since the OP wants "more details the better" _ I have to totally agree with you about Barbara Tropp's The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking. The length of the recipes can look daunting but if you're the type that wants details she's your author. The results are good and you'll get a good dose of background as well. Sorry but this was supposed to go with the post above yours. Tried to move it but no luck.

        2. I agree with the previous posts. I think two of the best book on Chinese cooking is Irene Kuo's The Key To Chinese Cooking and Barbara Tropp's The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking. Both are 'textbooks' on Chinese cooking, similar to Julia Child's Mastering Art and Marcella Hazan's The Classic Italian Cookbook. There is a lot of text on background and techniques as well as a large selection of classic recipes. If one just like to jump into cooking, several of Ken Hom's book are good (skip his fusion stuff). And Martin Yan's recipes always work although he takes some liberty on authenticity.

          1. I heartily agree with the reccomendation of Barbara Tropp's Modern Art of Chinese Cooking and the Irene Kuo book. True that Tropp's China Moon book wasn't as good, but Modern Art is great and impeccably thorough, the Beef with Silky Leeks (is that the name?) is a favourite. Fuschia Dunlop's Land of Plenty (Sichuan Cookery) is also a great book, good recipes for Gong Bao and Ma Po Do Fu as well as Red-oil Won Tons.

            1. I've also had a lot of luck cooking out of Yan-Kit's Classic Chinese Cooking--sweet corn soup, hot and sour soup, steampot chicken, chicken glazed in hoisin sauce, twice-cooked pork, etc. etc. Also, whenever I have or remember a dish I had at a Chinese restaurant that I want to reproduce, I've found that I can usually find a decent version of the dish in either The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook by Gloria Bley Miller or The Chinese Cookbook by Craig Claiborne and Virginia Lee.
              I agree with those who don't like China Moon nearly as much as Modern Art. I haven't cooked out of the former in 20 years. I remember it being overly fussy, the dishes often too busy. But again, it's been a long time--I should probably pull that one down and give it another try.

              1. Hello!

                My thoughts:
                Barbara Tropp: Could not agree more on Modern Art. China Moon had waaaaaayyyy too many sub-recipes and was not nearly as good.
                The New Classic Chinese Cookbook by Mai Leung: Oustanding, but a heavyy emphasis on deep frying.
                Martin Yan: Approachable and perhaps, as noted, less "authentic". I like the Chinatown cookbook he did very much. A couple of great Saqturday afternoon recipes (the seafood fried rice was excellent).
                Ken Hom: Totally approachable and very good. He had a BBC cookbook with a pressed ham recipe that was outstanding.
                Thousand Recipe: Reminds me of my aunt's cooking in the Seventies. Not a bad thing, but neither authentic or overly creative.
                Key to Chinese Cooking: Looks great. Got a copy at a used bookstore.
                Occidental Tourist: Worth it for chicken recipe alone. Brined in black tea. Amazing.
                Ming Tsai: Great stuff. Very, very good pot-stickers.

                1. The Breath of a Wok by Grace Young.

                  A great book about how to buy, season and use your wok. Good historical information and many authentic regional recipes are covered.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: bogie

                    Thanks for this recommendation. Grabbed a library copy and just made her salt-and-pepper shrimp (I subbed in squid) and chicken in garlic sauce. Both were very, very good--I'll be exploring this book further soon!

                    1. re: bogie

                      I really like the Breathe of a Wok. In addition to the recipes the wok seasoning instructions rock. I used them with a new wok and the results were outstanding.

                    2. Wei Chuan made some great authentic chinese cookbooks, don't know if they're still available.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: steinpilz

                        You can find lots of Wei Chuan cookbooks at your typical Asian grocer. Our local shop has a rack full of them.

                      2. Key to Chinese Cooking. We used it so much it fell apart and we had to get another copy. Great for technique.

                        1. Another vote for Land of Plenty. It's a wonderful book.

                          1. Florence Lin's 'Chinese Regional Cookbook' is a classic, but ingredients are hard to find unless you live in a city with a large chinese population. It's out of print, but i found my copy at auction. maybe ebay or amazon could help you out. an exquisite explanation of technique, an amazing glossary, and traditional recepies. get it if you can.

                            1. My two favorites are: Land of Plenty, by Fuschia Dunlop, which focuses on Sichuan recipes, and The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen, by Grace Young, focusing on Cantonese cooking.

                              Both are well written - unintimidating to the cook just beginning to explore Chinese cookery, but thorough - providing background information on techniques and ingredients, including glossaries, photos, and interesting history.

                              Either or both would be a great addition to any cook's library.

                              1. The Wei Chuan series, The Art of Chinese COoking, Art of CHinese Cooking II, chinese garnishes and chinese snacks are INDISPENSIBLE if you are serious about trying to learn about chinese food. Very few dishes are just stir fried. They have food from many regions (taiwanized but they're there) - they have a recipe for steampot chicken from yunnan. Some of the writing is a little awkward. Some of the substitutions in the translations are weak - most notably, whenever you see worcestershire sauce, it's a substitute for Zhejiang (Chekiang) black vinegar - which is about$1 a bottle or so at the LA 99 ranch markets and probably available near you at a Chinese market if there are some near you. (substitute cheap balsamic vinegar if you can't find the Chekiang/zhejiang black).

                                The recipes are bilingual there are plenty of photos and the results are quite good.

                                is a url for the garnish book. The author is listed as either
                                Huang Su-Huei or Su-Huei Huang.

                                Good luck.

                                also check out Huang Su-Huei's student Nina Simonds's book, Classic Chinese Cooking.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Jerome

                                  I find the wei chuan books to be an eyeopener on techniques - an awful lot of western books are oversymplified and in my experience you get results without the right taste and texture.

                                  Ive been very happy with Fuschia Dunlop's sichuan book as well.

                                2. The Breath of a Wok and Land of Plenty are two of my favorite Chinese cookbooks. However, there is a blog www.tigersandstrawberries.com run by Barbara Fisher in Ohio that has wonderful tutorials in her archive sections about chinese cooking (also Thai and Indian) which helps enormously in the explanations of techniques, ingredients, methods. She hasn't done a lot of Chinese cooking recently as she is expecting a baby but no doubt will get back to it soon as she has a deep love, understanding and respect for this type of cooking.