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What do you think is the best Chinese Cookbook?

I'm looking for a great traditional chinese cookbook. I'd love suggestions.

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  1. Irene Kuo's "Key to Chinese Cooking" (ISBN: 0394496388) is probably still the best introduction. It is available used, and I believe that it has been re-issued.

    This is a Cantonese "view" of Chinese cuisine, so you may want to explore other books later. On the other hand, if you want to cook really good Chinese food at home this is a great place to start.


    1 Reply
    1. re: Big Bunny

      I second the Kuo book, but be prepared, Knopf did a lousy job wth binding and the book is just glued together and tends to fall apart.

      Another excellent book is Fuchsia Dunlop's Lan of Plenty a Sichuan book and then Elileen Yin Fei Lo has published a number of good books as has Mei Lung

    2. Hard to go wrong with the following:

      Occidental Tourist. A little fusion-y, but great

      Barbara Tropp's New Chinese. Very good - encyclopedic, really. Avoid her China Moon cookbook at all costs.
      New Classic Chinese Cookbook by Mai Leung. Good, if a little heavy on frying.
      Ken Hom's BBC book is very good. Straightforward cuisine.
      Of all people, Craig Claiborne did a great Chinese cookbook a while back. Foolproof recipes.
      Hot Breath of a Wok is a better in idea than in execution.


      4 Replies
      1. re: Westy

        I disagree about the Craig Claiborne book. He did it with a Chinese woman chef and I finally gave it away after years of watching it gather dust on the shelf. There may be good recipes in this book, but I didn't find any of them.

        I agree about Ken Hom. Really good East Meets West (first fusion cookbook? - published years ago).

        I have Barbara Tropp's China Moon Cookbook which is very good once you get past making all the flavored oils and spice mixes she calls for.

        I have some others that are pretty good, Bruce Cost has a good book with recipes and spice/herb descriptions.

        1. re: Westy

          I chuckled at your reference to China Moon. I attended a cooking class that Barbara gave around the time the book came out, and acquired the autographed copy. So, back at home, I made the chili-orange oil and all the other spices and flavorings and set out to cook some of the recipes. My husband pronounced the food tasteless! It seemed to us that the recipes contained so many flavorings that they canceled each other out. I think some of those flavorings, like the chili-orange oil, would be good additives on their own, but I'm afraid the book has been collecting dust ever since.

          Sarah C

          1. re: Westy

            This cookbook New Chinese by Barbara Tropp, I am quite curious to know where you found this book. I've recently looked her up on wikipedia and according to them she only wrote Modern Art of Chinese Cooking and China Moon Cookbook. I find her dedication to make Chinese food with the approach of a perfectionist while pushing the envelope on uniqueness is just fantastic. Do you know where I might find this cookbook that you've mentioned?

          2. I have "The Food of China", and I'm very happy with that book.


            1. I agree with Westy about Breath of a Wok-- I like it for history and technique. It helped me get my flat-bottomed carbon/steel wok into good working order, but the recipes have been a little disappointing. It should be used in tandem with another cookbook.

              1. Wasn't there a long thread on this subject not very long ago?

                1 Reply
                1. I really like the Wei-Chuan series of books. They are harder to find and not especially helpful with techniques, but they are *the* most authentic Chinese cookbooks I've ever seen. They also have all recipes and ingredients listed in both English and Chinese, side-by-side, so that I've been able to take the book with me to Chinatown and ask someone for an ingredient by pointing to the Chinese line.

                  I used to have a friend from China who was trying to learn to cook, and her mother had given her one of the Wei-Chuan books I had, so I feel pretty good about them being very authentic.

                  I don't know if it's in print, but my favorite's ISBN is 0-941676-08-0 and it's called "Chinese Cuisine" by Huang Su-Huei. I actually found my copy at the Salvation Army for $5. :-)

                  By the way, even though the directions are not very verbose, everything I've made from these books has been great.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: bdumes

                    I second the Weichuan suggestion (they're on amazon). They really represent the typical home chinese cooking, with classics that almost all Chinese can identify with. Almost all the Chinese I know that own cookbooks has this. Also, all their recipes come with pictures, and are easy to moderately easy to make.
                    Dunlop is also very good if you are looking for Sichuan cooking.
                    Many others, such as Ken Hom, I feel has too much focus on Cantonese cooking, which is fine if you like that, but it's not as good a representation as weichuan series.
                    Barbara tropp - i know people like her, but I really don't. Her chat goes on forever, and plus, sometimes she messes with the classics (I know, I know, I'm a purist...)

                    1. re: zorgclyde

                      My favorites by far are the Wei-Chuan cookbooks. Authentic. My mother cooked from her 1960s edition in Taiwan and later when we immigrated to the U.S., and even though I am now using current, bilingual editions, I am able to cook the same dishes she did. If I were stuck on a desert island and could have only one cookbook, it would be Wei-Chuan's _Chinese Cuisine_ by Huang Su-Huei. If I were allowed a second cookbook, it would be Wei-Chuan's _Chinese Snacks_.

                      1. re: browniebaker

                        I have Wei-Chuan's "Chinese Snacks' too, but would find it hard to think of as filling a basic need. Unless you're the kind of person that can put away four mooncakes in one day, of course...

                        1. re: Gary Soup

                          Ha-ha, Gary! Oh, did I say "desert" island? You know I meant dessert! Did you have your obligatory one-quarter of a mooncake last week?

                    2. re: bdumes

                      That is funny you mention that you got your Chinese Cuisine book from the Salvation Army. My sistr has an old copy of the same book that we found at a good will on a road trip to Canada a few years ago.

                    3. Not an answer, to be sure, (I don't cook and my Chinese wife eschews cookbooks) but here's an interesting read that puts some perspective on some classic Chinese cookbooks in English.



                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Gary Soup

                        I haven't finished reading Gary's reading but it's totally fascinating (once one gets past the overblown language, common in "academic" texts to make them seem more "authentic"? ;+) at the beginning). I had to get back to more mundane tasks and will finish later. Thanks Gary.

                      2. Land of Plenty by Fuschia Dunlop has been on my wishlist for a while! :)


                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Dommy

                          Land of Plenty is a very fine book, with some unique and delicious recipes.

                          I am not sure that is is a good first Chinese cookbook, though. It is really about Sichuan.

                          Besides being familiar, the Cantonese favorites are so well documented that they are usually the best place to start learning basic techniques.


                        2. I love Fuschia Dunlop's Land of Plenty, I find it a very enjoyable read for background info on Sichuan cusine and a source of mostly great recipes when I don't want to drive an hour+ for good Chinese restaurants. It is my most used Chinese cookbook.

                          You may want to add F. Dunlop's new book to your wish list, although it won't be available in the U.S. for a while.


                          5 Replies
                          1. re: sel

                            i bought it last spring remaindered at as book out ley in Indiana.

                            1. re: sel

                              GAHH!!! Thank you for the notice!! I'll be keeping an eye out for it... Hunan... YUMMMMMMM....


                              1. re: Dommy

                                It may not be authentic, but I love the China Moon Cookbook. Everything I've ever cooked from it has turned out perfectly. It is a bit fussy, but an experienced home cook can make the recipes even without the special oils and spice mixes she calls for. On the other hand, it really does only take a sunday afternoon in the kitchen to make the most frequently used oils and vinegars in the book. In fact, I'm cooking from it tonight!

                                My Chinese friend heartily recommends both Tropp cookbooks.

                                1. re: antrobin

                                  Besides, who would expect a "Chinese" cookbook to have such a great selection of tarts?

                                  Barbara Tropp was wonderful and unique.


                                  1. re: antrobin

                                    There are recipes in Barbara Tropp's China Moon cookbook that my family loved, including the Pork Wonton in Roasted Garlic Broth. The stocks are rich and deeply flavored.

                                    It is very sad that Barbara passed away far too young. When I look at the cookbook, I think of what she accomplished in a short lifetime.

                              2. Many references here to the fundamental simplicty of Ken Hom.

                                He has written many books, but here is the one that goes back to the early days with his BBC series. Title: "Ken Hom's Chinese Cookery". I have 2 copies and sometimes use both at the same time. Tons of pics, especially of ingredients.

                                Cheap. You can get it used for almost the cost of shipping.


                                1. I like Ken Hom, but I love Jennie Lowe's "Chopsticks, Cleaver and Wok."

                                  She has a couple of restaurants in the SF Bay Area, but the cookbook is great in that she gives very clear instructions, and reviews the retail product available - recommending brands of soy, oyster and other sauces. It's a bit out of date, but we've never gone wrong with it.

                                  1. IMHO, it depends on what you're looking for. That having been said...

                                    I have used DIM SUM by Rhoda Yee since.. 1980??

                                    And.. nothing can beat The Classic 1000 Chinese Recipes... edited by Wendy Hobson and published by Foulsham, copyright 1993 Strathearn Publishing Ltd.

                                    1. The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen by Grace Young. I love that she has pics and descriptions of ingredients so you know what to buy at the store!

                                      The recipe for Sandpot Braised Lamb is wonderful, and I love the wisdom that is imparted about each type of food.

                                      1. i have several chinese cookbooks at home.The Wei Chuan's Chinese Cooking for Beginers,nad lucy Ho's Chinese Cooking from Dover Publications,which is no longer in print.
                                        Don't make much chinese food anymore.But I swear,am going to make some home made egg rolls some time.

                                          1. I only have a few, but this is my favorite...
                                            AWW Australian Womens Weekly Chinese Cooking Class Cookbook

                                            1. Hello I know this is coming late, but I want to add a book that I purchased about a year ago and I find the book to be very in depth in the way it shows you everything such as cooking techniques great recipes and certain material to get you started this is a great book to me. It is called "Mastering The Art of Chinese Cooking by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo" this link shows the book, but my book has a different cover, but it still the same bookhttp://www.amazon.com/Mastering-Chinese-Cook...

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Linuxpatriot

                                                I just got a copy of that and it does look interesting. I also found the original edition of Yan-Kit's Classic Chinese Cookbook (which is the one to get--the recent reprint is much less usable) and that one certainly seems like it's also quite interesting.

                                              2. Without a doubt, I love The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking by Barbara Tropp because it covers a wide range of topics.

                                                Many of the other authors mentioned here are great too.



                                                1. Any thoughts on Ching-He Huang's books? I have _Key to Chinese Cooking_ and some others, but wondered about Ching's.

                                                  1. The Very Best Chinese Cookbooks are Pei Meis Vol 1,2 and 3 cookbook . these really are the best for pure MANDARIN . Cuisine hope this helps if you need any more help let me know, my wife is chinese and we have a fantastic range of chinese cookery books,,also i am a classical french trained chef [ ex SAVOY HOTEL ] so if anybody needs french recipes or books drop me a message . regards Chef collett