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Sep 9, 2010 12:45 PM

Grocery store-friendly Italian/Japanese/Chinese cookbooks?

I don't live near a whole foods (yet), and for the inevitable day I will move out of my parents' house, I realize if I want to eat the type of food I desire then I should get cookbooks. Not only do I like cooking, but I'm tired of eating TV-dinner lasagna and frozen Tai Pei pails which I thought might have been reminiscent to the 'real' food but I guess they are not after all. (not to be a food snob, since I don't know much about it anyways, or to exotify other cultures.)

I guess that a lot of 'ethnic' food might require food not found in grocery stores, which might make this a bit difficult for me... So like the title says, I am specifically looking for Italian, Japanese, and Chinese cookbooks that would make it easy for someone who only lives near chain grocery stores, to cook this food.

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  1. Where in the country do you (or do you plant to) live?

    1. i have the same problem. i want to try some Turkish food but i have to go really far to get the ingredients:(

      i often cook japanese food and here is something you might find helpful. (sorry it is not a cookbook. i find video recipes are easier to follow.)
      it is easy and delicious.

      pork and ginger saute.

      chicken rice in egg

      super easy teriyaki chicken

      1. Japanese and Chinese might be challenging to do, depending on how big the ethnic section is at your chain grocery. Here, some chains are much better than others with selections, but all have much higher prices than asian groceries on staple foods. I can fresh, excellent quality new crop California rice this time of year for half the price at a Korean grocery, for instance. That said, in some parts of the US, conventional groceries have entirely decent ethnic food sections. I'm fond of Hiroko Shimbo's and Harumi Kurihara's cookbooks, but both will have ingredients that might be difficult to source given your circumstances. There is a charming book with the goofy title Let's Cook Japanese Food! by Amy Kaneko that might be a bit easier on the shopping list. She includes a lot of Japanese takes on western dishes that might be appealing. I'm afraid I don't own any Chinese cookbooks, so can't help there, but will say that I've seen Eileen Yin-Fei Lo and Kylie Kwong cook on tv, and been impressed.

        For Italian, I'd recommend checking out any of Marcella Hazan's cookbooks, but especially Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. She's really the best place to start, IMO. Biba Caggiano also has some great, approachable cookbooks, if you need another reference. Lidia Bastianich is a great teacher on her PBS shows, if you can catch them. You might like her books, as well. As long as you can get good tomatoes, quality dried pasta, real parmigiano or pecorino, flavorful olive oil, fresh produce and proteins at your grocery, you can cook good Italian. Of course, the farmer's markets are a good idea, if you can go on the weekend? When I was in Rome in '90, everyone shopped daily in neighborhood markets, and I think freshness is key to cooking good Italian food.

        1. My local food store has more Japanese products than it used to 5+ years ago. Right now I can find soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, wasabi, miso (white and red), toasted sesame oil, nori, toasted sesame seeds,mirin, tofu, gari and beni shooga, dried shiitake, udon, soba, short grain Japanese rice and gyoza wrappers. I can find sake at the liquor store.This is not 100% comprehensive, but you make make quite a bit with those ingredients. The only ingredients I can't find are katsuo bushi and konbu which are important and a few other specialty items. If you don't have an Asian market, you can purchase them online. My mom (Japanese) lives in a very rural part of the US without access to an Asian market and makes Japanese food regularly with the limited number of ingredients available. As yumyumyum indicated there are a number of places on the web to find Japanese dishes. I really like Cooking with Dog. Here is a link to a recent discussion about authentic websites. There are a number of good Japanese cookbooks. I'd take a peek at a few and see the recipes and writing styles you like the best I'm partial to Shizuo Tsuji's Japanesed Cooking: A Simple Art, but it is a big book and has a number of recipes that may require more specialized ingredients.

          1. For Japanese food I like "Japanese Cooking, a Simple Art" There are not many photos but the explanations of the cooking techniques are the best I've seen for Japanese food. I'm not too fond of the way it is organized though. Generally Japanese cooking uses rather simple ingredients. The flavor bases are sugar, salt, vinegar, soy sauce, and miso. For Japanese cooking you need Japanese soy sauce, Kikoman is a good brand. Dashi is also used in just about everything and if you can't find it in the grocery you can get it on Amazon along with the miso and everything else, a lot of recipes will call for mirin or sake or two different kinds of miso and soy sauce but in general you don't need them. If a recipe calls for mirin and sugar, just cut out the mirin and use a bit more sugar. The basic food Japanese eat at home usually different from what you find in Japanese restaurants. Home food is rice, miso soup, some kind of simmered vegetable and some kind of protein, in my house it's usually tofu or fish and some pickles. The cook book I mentioned will cover pretty much everything you might want to do from fancy dishes to regular home cooking. I have Harumi Kurihara's cook book which is beautiful but I think some of the specifics on cooking techniques are lacking.