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Can anyone recommend good Asian cookbooks?

Zoralda Jan 24, 2007 07:30 AM

I'm looking for something good and authentic, but with reasonably straightforward recipes - like Mark Bittman but Asian. I've got Madhur Jaffrey's East Asian cookbook, which is good, but there are only a few recipes per cuisine. I have access to Asian markets but often am not familiar with most of what is there. Any advice? Chinese, Korean and Thai food is what I most like to try at home...I'm a reasonably confident and experienced cook but less so when it comes to non-Western stuff - but I love it and would love not to have to only get out for it!


  1. ballulah Jan 24, 2007 07:35 AM

    I really love 'True Thai' by Victor Sodsook. At first read it looks ridiculously complicated, but on the second read it makes absolute sense. And the recipes are clear, well written and calibrated, and easy to follow. The trick is having the pantry ingredients, and a good wok.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ballulah
      Chocolatechipkt Jan 24, 2007 08:56 AM

      I like this one too.

    2. f
      FlavoursGal Jan 24, 2007 07:38 AM

      All of the books written by Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford are amazing. Might not be what you're looking for exactly (these are cultural/anthropological studies in addition to being cookbooks), but they are beautiful, authentic, and the recipes work.

      Here's a link to their website: http://www.hotsoursaltysweet.com/

      7 Replies
      1. re: FlavoursGal
        Chocolatechipkt Jan 24, 2007 08:56 AM

        This is my favorite recent cookbook purchase! It's fun to read, and the recipes are delicious.

        1. re: FlavoursGal
          rob133 Jan 24, 2007 09:10 AM

          Have to agree these books are by far the best I've found. Great recipe's and full of good information.

          1. re: FlavoursGal
            ballulah Jan 24, 2007 09:12 AM

            I love "Flatbreads & Flavors" by these two, I believe it won the James Beard Award the year it came out. It's not a simple cookbook by any definition, but definitely worthy of an honored place on the cookbook shelf.

            1. re: FlavoursGal
              beetlebug Jan 24, 2007 10:20 AM

              As an added bonus, this cookbook is the February cookbook of the month. And, if you aren't willing to commit to any of the cookbooks, test drive them from your local library.

              1. re: beetlebug
                Chocolatechipkt Jan 24, 2007 10:25 AM

                Which one is?

                1. re: Chocolatechipkt
                  Rubee Jan 24, 2007 10:36 AM

                  Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet is the February book.

                  1. re: Rubee
                    Chocolatechipkt Jan 24, 2007 06:18 PM

                    Great ... thanks!

            2. Candy Jan 24, 2007 08:53 AM

              Corinne Trang's Essential's of Asian Cuisine, Kuo;s Key to Chinese Cooking, Cracking the Coconut, Land of Plenty, of course Hot Sour Salty Sweet, Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table, Authentic Vietnamese Cooking are all books i use with regularity.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Candy
                Alicia Jan 24, 2007 03:32 PM

                I second Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table. I recieved it for Christmas and everything that I've tried has turned out really well. Many ingredients, but straightforward instructions. Delicious food.

              2. c
                Captain Jan 24, 2007 09:16 AM

                Charmain Solomon's Complete Asian Cookbook for a former roommate, as part of a wdding gift. I had cooked on numerous occasions for him and his wife, and my gift was a collection of my favorite cookbooks. Except, I did not have any Asian or Chinese books that I loved, so I bought hers. Let's just say that it took my months for me to give them the gift after I bought it, and that this book was read and cooked from in the interim. It covers too many different Asian cuinsines for me to remember, Indian, Thai, Malysian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc. and it does a great job of doing almost all of them. When i cooked Indian from it, I began with making my own garam masala, and it was good. I had to make more for a friend who wanted the mixture. And I also used it too cook a Thai curry that a woman I dated loved. If I was allowed to have one Asian cookbook, this would be it.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Captain
                  candace Jan 24, 2007 06:34 PM

                  I totally agree. What a fabulous cookbook. Particularly like the Inidan chapter.

                2. j
                  jeanki Jan 24, 2007 09:22 AM

                  For Korean, I think Dok Suni's is a good beginner book although it isn't always comprehensive/detailed enough and is somewhat watered down. The Korean Kitchen by Copeland Marks is, despite the non Asian author, a good basic compilation of Korean recipes (although again, not super detailed). Growing up in a Korean Kitchen by hesook hepinstall is good as well, more detailed, but sometimes a little too elaborate and doesn't include all the more basic recipes.

                  I also like the Weichuan cookbook series which has pictures, and reasonably authentic renditions of every Asian cuisine. Hope this helps.

                  1. s
                    slynnkiino Jan 24, 2007 09:22 AM

                    "The Breath of a Wok" by Grace Young. A fabulous introduction to wok-cooking and stir-frying as it should be done. Recipes are user-friendly and not terribly complicated.


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: slynnkiino
                      ctl98 Jan 25, 2007 07:37 PM

                      I totally agree with this rec. This book made me fall in love with wok cooking and the recipes are simple but very good. I like that it emphasizes on technique and tools and that it's almost like a memoir/history/cultural lesson all in one.

                    2. l
                      Leper Jan 24, 2007 09:27 AM

                      Zoralda, "Bruce Cost's Guide to Asian Ingredients" is outstanding as both a cookbook and a resource for all Asian ingredients--even the most obscure. It's out of print, but easily ordered through www.abebooks.com

                      1. AmandaEd Jan 24, 2007 09:30 AM

                        Wandee Young brought Thai food to Canada, and her simply named "Simply Thai" cookbook highlights all of the standard faves. I highly recommend it.

                        1. sonofoodie Jan 24, 2007 09:50 AM

                          May I recommend "The Best of Vietnamese & Thai Cooking: Favorite Recipes from Lemon Grass Restaurant and Cafes" by Mai Pham. This is a great cookbook. Recipes are uncomplicated and ingredients pretty easy to find. For beginners, as well as experienced cooks. I've made the Salad Rolls (also know as Summer Rolls), Spring Rolls., soups, etc. All quite delicious.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: sonofoodie
                            pitu Jan 24, 2007 10:33 AM

                            Mai Pham's Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table is fantastic. Several of the recipes are standbys for us now -- steamed ginger fish, grilled lemongrass shrimp, Hanoi shrimp cakes
                            (those *might* not be the exact names in the book...)

                            1. re: pitu
                              amyzan Jan 28, 2007 11:10 AM

                              I second this rec. It's a fantastic cookbook, with great info on ingredients unfamiliar to many Americans. Fantastic intro to Vietnamese food, and a keeper for years to come.

                          2. z
                            Zoralda Jan 24, 2007 10:38 AM

                            Thank you so much everyone! I will check these all out! And keep the suggestions flowing!

                            1. c
                              cyberroo Jan 24, 2007 12:08 PM

                              We use "Chopstickes, Cleaver and Wok" by Jennie Lowe. I'm sure it's not especially authentic, but we've always gotten a great response when we've made our Chinese feasts from the book. (of course, the bride-to-be was fairly traumatized when her fiance described it as the best home-cooked meal he'd ever had!)

                              One thing that's really nice about it, is that it includes descriptions of the ingredients that you'll need and recommendations of brand names.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: cyberroo
                                akk Jan 24, 2007 03:13 PM

                                I love this one too - straight forward, easy to follow, not trying to be too sophisticated recipes. I make the chicken and broccoli and the beef or shrimp with asparagus all the time (although I have a hard time finding salted black beans outside of Chinatown.)

                              2. pitu Jan 24, 2007 12:30 PM

                                There's another excellent resource book . . .
                                The Asian Grocery Store Demystified
                                there's a few recipes, but more importantly there's very useful ingredient (and brand) info

                                1. m
                                  MakingSense Jan 24, 2007 02:46 PM

                                  At the risk of sending some of the frequent contributors to these boards into fits, there are some old books, probably now out of print, that are easy intoductions to the genre.
                                  The Classic Chinese Cook Book by Mai Leung (1976) has simple, non-intimidating recipes that allowed me to learn the basics 30 years ago.
                                  The late Craig Claiborne co-authored an excellent book, The Chinese Cookbook, with Virginia Lee.
                                  Both books provide the basics that I still use to produce simple Chinese meals or to add "fusion" touches to American menus. The ingredients are far from exotic, although they certainly were when the books were published. Now you can probably find the things in most large groceries.
                                  When I want elaborate, authentic Chinese food, I let Chinese restaurants fix it for me.

                                  I do enjoy reading some of the following especially if I'm travelling:
                                  Time-Life's Foods of the World series has volumes for China, Japan and Pacific/Southeast Asia that are terrific. Although they certainly don't cover every dish you are likely to hear mentioned, the explanations of food culture are a delight to read and the recipes are excellent.
                                  Saveur magazine seems to have at least one Asian food culture article per issue although their recipes are pretty esoteric.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: MakingSense
                                    candace Jan 24, 2007 06:38 PM

                                    Of this ilk, I like Barbara Tropp's The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking (1982), and blurbed by both James Beard and Craig Claiborne, a lot. While not, I suspect, particularly authentic, the recipes work and produce amazing taste memories... mostly of the early, great Chinese-American food you ate.

                                    1. re: candace
                                      Tom M of Durham NC Jan 25, 2007 03:39 PM

                                      I like Tropp's Modern Art too, although it is so detailed that it can be intimidating. Recently I picked up a used copy of Irene Kuo's Key to Chinese Cooking and it is fast becoming my favorite Chinese cookbook. Plenty of used copies available for cheap online, so it's easy enough to find even though it's out of print.

                                      For Korean, I have had surprising success preparing recipes from this website:


                                      It's a good place to start, I think.

                                      1. re: candace
                                        soypower Jan 25, 2007 03:55 PM

                                        i have tropp's china moon book which i absolutely love. wonderful section on dimsum with very detailed recipes.

                                    2. SanseiDesigns Jan 24, 2007 06:27 PM

                                      If you can find books written by Rhoda Yee, I highly recommend getting them. Rhoda focuses on fundamentals for authentic regional Chinese cuisine. She is not a celebrity chef, nor a restaurateur. She is a culinary instructor and teaches both the cultural and culinary aspects of Chinese cuisine. Through her books and cooking you will be able to tour China from your kitchen. She is one of a handful of modest Asian chefs in the San Francisco area who quietly ply their trade and make incredible food. Also try Chef Chu's. He has one of the best dry saute string bean recipes - simple, authentic and delicious. (Fortunately, he has a restaurant in the Bay Area, so I don't have to make it myself too often!).

                                      1. n
                                        Night Owl Jan 25, 2007 05:28 AM

                                        Out of print, but fairly easy to fine on Ebay, etc... is Florence Lin's Chinese cookbooks. In addition to her own cookbooks, she was the lead consultant on the Time Life Chinese cookbooks, well-respected by Craig Claibourne and Julie Child.

                                        Look for Chinese Regional Cuisine, One Dish Meals, one on vegetarian, another one just on noodles and dumplings, another just on Chinese firepots. Her recipes are very easy to follow, classic and true to the culture.

                                        1. h
                                          houdini Jan 25, 2007 01:55 PM

                                          Cradle of Flavor by James Osland

                                          1. AnneInMpls Jan 25, 2007 04:40 PM

                                            If you like Bittman's massive How To Cook Everything, you'd probably also enjoy The Thousand Recipe Cookbook by Gloria Bley Miller. (Another oldie that's easy to find used.)

                                            This is my favorite Chinese cookbook because it's huge and the recipes remind me of the food that I ate when I was in China (Beijing/Xian/Guelin/Shanghai).


                                            1. s
                                              sidwich Jan 26, 2007 01:04 PM

                                              Out of Print now, but my favorite by far is Ken Hom's "Easy Recipes from a Chinese-American Childhood." Very straightforward and doable recipes that are extremely similar to what I remember eating growing up. He has some other good books (I think one is geared toward total beginners with copious step-by-step photos), but that is the one I always turn to.

                                              1. l
                                                Linda Mac Jan 28, 2007 08:21 AM

                                                Puleeese Chowhounds! How can you omit Nancie McDermott's incredible asian recipe cookbooks:
                                                Real Thai, The Best of Thailand's Regional Cooking; Real Vegetarian Thai; Quick and Easy Vietnamese; The Curry Book, A Celebration of Irresistable Flavors; etc. She lived in Thailand for years and writes beautifully about the food cultures as well as the recipes and ingredients. Check her out on Amazon or her website: www.nanciemcdermott.com/

                                                1. chef chicklet Jan 28, 2007 07:28 PM

                                                  I think that Sunset puts out some excellent and right on cookbooks, I have used many many of their recipes and they have never failed. They are tasty, and give great variations, and the instructions are clear, concise, and easy to follow. My books pages are stained and splattered. A good indication.

                                                  1. k
                                                    Kaisgraham Jan 28, 2007 07:39 PM

                                                    Forget cookbooks. Go online to Epicurious or Food TV websites or just Google what you want. Cookbooks are now obsolete.

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