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Chinese cookbooks?

Hello all, again:

I have been cooking a lot (lot lot lot!) of Thai food recently, and having a lot of luck with it. It's fun to cook, very fast from the fridge to the table, and it is, of course, delicious. I'm already thinking ahead to the next cuisine I want to tackle, though.

While I've already got a backlog of cookbooks to work through (I've also toyed with Bayless' Mexican Everyday a bit), I'm very interested in learning more about Chinese cuisine, specifically Cantonese and Sichuan.

I noticed that Fuchsia Dunlop's books have gotten generally good mentions: can anyone speak specifically to Land of Plenty? And what about Cantonese cooking?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Dunlop's Land of Plenty (Sichuan) and Revolutionary Chinese (Hunan) were COTM's earlier this year. I personally loved them both; lovely photos, wonderful stories about the recipes, pretty good pantry/techniques section. It is a challenging cuisine, but I think Dunlop makes it pretty accessible to an ambitious beginner (like me) without dumbing it down. Lots and lots of posts about them here:



    1 Reply
    1. re: The Dairy Queen

      I agree with TDQ. You can't go wrong with Dunlop! For Cantonese cuisine my favorites are:

      "The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen: Classic Family Recipes for Celebration and Healing" by Grace Young. Simon and Schuster; NY, 1999.

      "Chinese Kitchen" by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo. William Morrow & Co; NY, 1999.

      And if you are feeling really adventurous and want to take a stab at Fujian cooking:

      "Cooking from China's Fujian Province: One of China's Eight Great Cuisines" by Jacqueline M. Newman. Hippocrene Books; NY, 2008.

    2. Another really wonderful Chinese cookbook is "Breath of a Wok" by Grace Young.
      Simple, luscious dishes which bring the indigenous foods of China right into our kitchens.


      1. I do like Grace Young's and Eileen Lo's cookbooks. Another cookbook that I really like is Irene Kuo's They Key to Chinese Cooking. It really discusses cooking techniques in depth, and is a lot more comprehensive than any of Young's or Lo's cookbooks. Personally, I think this is the best first Chinese Cantonese cookbook to have. There are some Szechuan recipes in it -- however, for that, I prefer Dunlop has these recipes are not very authentic and tend to be the Szechuan food you would receive at a Cantonese restaurant.

        1. Very nice, thanks a lot! I'll grab all that I can from the library and see how they are... then, well, Xmas is coming. :D

          1. how difficult are the recipes in these books? do they require a lot of special ingredients?

            I'm looking for a couple chinese cookbooks that teach the basics of chinese cooking, but don't require me to run out to the asian market if i want to cook out of them

            my hope is to build up a stock of standard ingredients, and primarily buy the perishables from the local market, my asian, soon-to-be bride, thanks you in advance for the recommendations

            2 Replies
            1. re: turkob

              I needed several trips to my local Asian market to acquire the ingredients I needed to cook from Dunlop...so, yeah, they required a lot of "special" ingredients that you can't find at your standard grocery. But, yeah, if you built up a stock of standard spices, no problem.


              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                What Dairy Queen said. I had to buy several ingredients that would be used only for Chinese cooking, but I got so involved in the 2 Dunlop books (Hunan and Sichuan) that I didn't mind at all. Check out the month when the 2 Dunlop books were Cookbook of the Month. Lots of good tips and info about special ingredients.

                I'd check out the Dunlop books at my local library if I were you.

            2. since you are going to the library, please "check out" (ha!) one or two of susanna foo's books. may not be exactly what you are looking for recipe wise, but her innovation & technique is amazing-- you'll learn a lot.

              8 Replies
              1. re: soupkitten

                I was pretty convinced that I had all of the Chinese cookbooks I needed, but, now I have to go to the library (which I heartily recommend if you're trying to decide on a cookbook.) soupkitten, can you tell us a little more about Ms. Foo's books?


                1. re: soupkitten

                  Maybe Susannah Foo's earliest book(s) are good, I've never seen any, but I don't like the food in her restaurants, so I assume the book(s) would be based on her restaurants. Americanized, overly sweet asian-style cooking, not authentic, and I'd consider most other cookbook authors before Foo. Eileen Yin-Fei Lo's book on Cantonese cooking is excellent; Rhoda Yee's on Dim Sum is pretty good, Nina Simond's Asian Noodles is good; as well as others already mentioned.

                  1. re: janniecooks

                    i agree that s. foo does use american ingredients in her recipes, restaurants and cookbooks-- that is what many people find interesting-- i don't agree that her food is *americanized*-- though. since she also has classical french training, she sometimes applies some french techniques (stocks etc) to traditional chinese dishes, and uses lots of fresh produce, many times going for (i hate the word)--*fusion*--successfully. it may not be what the op is looking for, that is why i'd say to check it out of the library as a counterpoint to a more "authentic" type of chinese cookbook, but s. foo's techniques are still classically chinese. what i like about her recipes is that they are generally interesting (to me), very practical, and straightforwardly written. fwiw:

                    here's 4 earlier (traditional) recipes from 1989, when she won F&W best new chefs

                    and here's some more recent recipes:

                    tung an pheasant with artichoke hearts & wild mushrooms

                    chinese ratatouille

                    prawns with curry sauce and poached pears

                    1. re: soupkitten

                      Thank you for the links, soupkitten, and the additional info. I don't have a fundamental objection to *fusion*, as long as people know that's what's going on. Personally, when you're trying to eat "local" out of your CSA box as I have for the past several years, it's refreshing to see Chinese-inspired recipes that call for produce (corn? zucchini?) that actually grows in Minnesota that I might actually have. :)

                      On the topic of sweetness in Chinese cuisine in general, as a person who has to monitor her sugar intake carefully, I was astonished by how much sweetener Dunlop's recipes frequently called for. I had no idea.

                      I will definitely explore these more.


                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        oh. . . *crud*

                        LMAO-- guess what i just remembered, TDQ! uh, that i have an s. foo book which i checked out of the st paul library, and it's so overdue i probably own it by now & gotta pay the full replacement fee to the library. so if you go SPPL to try to get it, it's like, in my stuff. . . somewhere. gosh i'm a doofus, sorry. i did see a big stack of this book at the half price books on ford parkway recently, if that's a help:


                        1. re: soupkitten

                          HAHAHA! funny. I think my husband might fall over from fright if I brought another cookbook home right now... So so many cookbooks.


                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            Dairy Queen, sneak it in with the groceries, that's what I do :-). Or a big handbag always helps, too...

                          2. re: soupkitten

                            sk--where in the store did you see these books. I looked (despite my saying I wouldn't) all over that store and they did not leap out at me.


                  2. I'm a big fan of the pictorial recipes by Ah Leung that were originally posted on another cooking forum. You can download them from http://www.freewebs.com/hzrt8w/LeungP...

                    1. nickblesch, I started a thread some time ago in search of my favorite old Chinese Cookbook, and many people recommended it as well as many others... check it out at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/556036 !

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: ideabaker

                        This - the Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook - appears to have been rereleased in paperback recently - there was a big pile of them at the Strand bookstore (NYC) on Sunday.
                        My favorites are still Irene Kuo's The Key to Chinese Cooking (all techniques and recipes from various cuisines) , the Wei Chuan Chinese Cooking I and II also Chinese Snacks - books which I used when we lived in Taipei, and the Fuchsia Dunlop books which produce dishes with zhen wei (the real taste) with relatively little effort. As long as your Chinese pantry is stocked...

                        1. re: buttertart

                          I must agree.
                          Gloria Bley Miller's Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook is still the definitive tome on Chinese Cooking. Which is why it is still in print after all these years. She is sort of the Julia Child of the wok.

                          1. re: buttertart

                            How is the Thousand Recipe book compared to Irene Kuo's? Not that I need another cookbook ...

                            1. re: Miss Needle

                              I have looked at it several times but never bought it (and it's been out forever). Didn't seem to be that much more useful or comprehensive than what I already have.

                              1. re: buttertart

                                Thanks. My overstuffed bookshelf is breathing a sigh of relief. : )

                        2. Ive had my best Chinese results cooking with the Fuschia Dunlop and Wei Chuan series of books. By best, I mean tasty and authentic seeming flavors.
                          Breath of A Wok and the Irene Kuo basic book are also good.

                          1 Reply
                          1. I have been collecting Chinese cookbooks for many many years. I have two out of print books which are my favorites.

                            Johnny Kan's Eight Immortal Flavors, which contains a workable recipe for the famous Boneless Chicken Stuffed Rice, see susaninsf there is hope for you to make this dish.

                            Also Florence Lin's Noodle and Bread Cookbook, where you can learn to make hand pulled noodles and other Chinese breads. There is not enough rice to supply all of China. So a lot of the Chinese eat noodles, bread made of wheat and corn..

                            But for in print the ones already discuss here are just fine.

                            But old book have a wealth of knowledge and are real joy to read and cook from.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: yimster

                              The Florence Lin book is indeed excellent and covers things basically not otherwise available.

                              1. re: yimster

                                I have Florence Lin's Chinese Regional Cookbook, but haven't cooked much from it. Are you familiar with that one? Should I dust if off and take another look?

                                1. re: JoanN

                                  Yes, I have copies of all six of her cookbooks. Florence was a teacher of Chinese cooking at the New York City for years. I would take another look. She also supplied most of the recipes for the Time Life Cookbook (from the 60's) and has won a James Bread Award.

                                  My favorite is her hot pot cookbook. Which I use during the winter months. Her Regional Cookbook was her first cookbook and I think they got better as she wrote them.

                                2. re: yimster

                                  I highly recommend the Florence Lin noodle book, as well.

                                3. In the 70s, the Chinese American Woman's Club of Santa Clara County produced a "home grown" cookbook titled "Chinese Cooking Our Way".

                                  The CAWCof SCC produced a second cookbook in the late 90s, "Chinese Cooking, Our Legacy."

                                  Both cookbooks contain recipes that use local ingredients with commonly available Chinese ingredients. Homestyle cooking.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Alan408

                                    This is the best Chinese cookbook ever. Why is it out of print!?

                                    *How To Cook And Eat In Chinese* by Buwei Yang Chao