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Chinese cookbook recommendations?

Hi all!

I was hoping someone here might be able to recommend some good Chinese cookbooks. Are there any texts that are considered the "Julia Childs" on the subject or anything like that? Difficult-to-find ingredients are not much of a problem since I live right near one of Toronto's Chinatowns and they have fantastic availability. I also wouldn't mind hearing some suggestions for easy Chinese recipes, as I don't always feel like making an elaborate meal but would still love to enjoy the cuisine.

Thanks so much!

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  1. I have two that I love:

    --The Good Food of Szechwan, by Robert A. Delfs - amazing recipes
    --An Encyclopedia of Chinese Food and Cooking -- Wonona Chang and Austin Kutscher

    Both are somewhat old and great.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Barbara

      Those two are my hands-down favorites as well. They are older books, yes, but if I had to have only one or two books on Chinese cooking, it would be these two.

      1. re: The Professor

        Reposting my appeal from another thread focused on Wonona Chang's Encyclopedia of Chinese Food and Cooking:

        To any chowhounds who own this book and are members of Eat Your Books: Please include the book in your EYB bookshelf and request that EYB index it. It's not yet on enough members' bookshelves yet to rise to the top of the indexing queue, and contains way too many recipes for any volunteer/member indexer to take it on.

        The Chang book is one of the few cookbooks here that aren't yet indexed, and it's at the top of my wishlist of the remaining ones. Thanks in advance for your help.

    2. If you like Sichuan food, I highly recommend Fuschia Dunlop's cookbook, "Land of Plenty". The dishes are authentic and not very difficult to make. Sometimes I'll make an occasional adjustment to accomodate my palate (more or less salty, vegetarian version (sometimes she'll provide one) ). One of the nicest things about this cookbook is Dunlop's gracious and engaging writing style. As a former student of the Sichuan provincial cooking school, she really understands the cuisine and the culture. I can't wait to purchase and try her Hunan cookbook. Easy recipe? Try her "Pock-marked Mother Chen's" tofu AKA mapo dofu. I make it without meat and I've got it down to a science - really delicious.

      It's hard to identify a "classic" ala Julia Childs. One that I like very much to read, although I've tried few recipes from it, is Buwei Yangchao's "How to Cook and Eat in Chinese," published in 1945. The recipes seem straightforward and were also geared to a time when many ingredients were difficult to find on this side of the Pacific.

      Kenneth Lo's "The Top One Hundred Chinese Dishes" is very good. The recipes are authentic, not very difficult, and reflect everyday eating habits.

      Hope this helps and happy cooking!

      Pei Mei is one of the gurus of the Taiwanese kitchen and I *think* she has some stuff in English. I would start with Dunlop and Kenneth Lo though. Kenneth Lo also has some other cookbooks you might look into. I don't know what they are called.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Cattus

        I was lead to Miss Fu Pei-Mei's three cookbooks (dear Lord it was ) thirty-five years ago by the lady who had the Chinese grocery store in Knoxville Tennessee. She told me that "She teach cooking on Taiwan TV" My three books are loosing their covers, but are still the go to cookbooks. Mine were imported from Taiwan, and the Chinese is on the left page, and the English on the right page. (Warning: Cut back on the frying of dried red peppers, her chicken with red peppers can drive you out of your apartment, from the pepper oil that volatizes in the air.)

        1. re: Cattus

          Seconding Dunlop's "Land of Plenty" (Sichuan) as well as her "Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook" (Hunan), and probably the new one that's coming up soon as well. Usually, you're lucky if you get one or two good recipes out of most cookbooks, but these all have a ton of things I'd actually want to eat (and they're not even vegetarian cookbooks).

          You could also try "The Food and Cooking of South China" by Terry Tan. It has some Hakka and Chaozhou recipes, but is mostly more straight-ahead Cantonese style cooking.

        2. The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen by Grace Young published in 1999. Ms. Young is of Cantonese ancestry so the ingredients will be in that language instead of Mandarin as well as English. Ms. Young is a food writer.

          1. Do a search of Wei-chuan cookbooks on amazon. They are the most authentic and easy to follow. Every page is bilingual, which is helpful for me since it's hard to know what some of the Chinese ingredients are called in English. Each page also has pictures of the final product, which helps me decide whether or not I want to try to make it or not.

            1. For the beginner Chinese cook, I'd suggest "Every Grain of Rice." It's basic but gives good information on the dishes and their origins and is pretty authentic for a beginner's cookbook. The recipes are from the authors' families and are ones they grew up eating. My husband said it was a good book to start learning how to cook Chinese food from.

              3 Replies
              1. re: VirgoBlue

                I have used The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking, by the late Barbara Tropp, for years.

                I also second Land of Plenty.

                1. re: zataar

                  Modern Art is really a fantastic book. It is big and the recipes are extremely detailed so it serves as a very good teaching book. You can find very simple recipes, like Orchid's Cool and Tangy noodles, which I make all the time, and more elaborate but still easy preparations like a whole chicken poached in Master Sauce (heaven and you can freeze the sauce for the next time.) There are plenty of simple snacks, but also more elaborate dishes that you can work up to. The detail is reassuring.

                2. re: VirgoBlue

                  Every Grain of Rice is really very good for home cooking with a slight emphasis on Chinese-American cooking.

                  I really like the book and many of the recipes are close to what my mom cooks so that is a big plus.

                3. Pei-mei is kind of like Julia Child of chinese cooking, at least to my grandmothers.
                  Her books have English translation. The main concern I have is that a good number of recipes are banquet-style dishes - aka time consuming and pain in the neck. However, it's very comprehensive.
                  My favorite is weichuan's home style cooking, provided that you already know the basic techniques. It's the one that taught my mother's generation.
                  Land of Plenty is excellent for Sichuan, I third it if you like the cuisine.
                  Both weichuan and land of plenty focus mostly on everyday dishes.
                  Also, if you live in toronto, I'd encourage youto visit a good Chinese bookstore. The selection even in a small store outnumber any large chain, and many of the modern cookbooks have excellent photography as well as English translation. The categories are numerous: regional, modern, diabetic, medicinal/herbal, etc. I love shopping in those type of stores because the breadth of topics covered is amazing, and they go far beyond the typical stir-fry treatment chinese cuisine gets outside of e. asia.
                  have fun shopping!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: zorgclyde

                    I'll be in Toronto this year, what bookshop(s) do you recommend?
                    For me, Fu Pei-mei, Wei-Chuan (the hardbacks), Irene Kuo, Nina Simonds, primarily.

                  2. +1 vote for Thousand Recipe for a good starter book for Westerners, and a classic. There's good lecture material on Chinese cooking, in the early chapters, that helps clarify the basics.

                    1. I like Irene Kuo's _Key to Chinese Cooking_. It seems to be hard to find new these days. Also, Jeff Smith's _Three Ancient Cuisines_ has some very good Chinese stuff.

                      I got some Amazon gift cards for Christmas and _Land of Plenty_ is #1 on my wish list...

                      1. Susanna Foo's "Chinese Cuisine" is filled with easy but elegant recipes: highly recommended. Books by Nina Simonds will add to the "specialty" repetoire listed above.

                          1. re: zony

                            My favorite is "Potsticker Chronicles" by Stuart Chang Berman. It contains his familys favorite recipes. Many recipes are like those served in Chinese Restaurants. The real deal. He is a chef and restuarant owner. If I only could have 1 book it would be this one!!!!! :) :) :)