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What is the most essential cookbook for your favorite cuisine/s? Who is, say, the Marcella Hazan of Korea? Who's the Diana Kennedy of Lebanon?

I am a cookbook addict and am trying to focus on buying the classic, authoritative, most-loved, most comprehensive books on particular cuisines.

I would guess there is probably a general consensus about Hazan and Kennedy for Italian and Mexican, for example, and probably Jaffrey for Indian (or Sahni?). But I'm wondering what the equivalents are for other cuisines.

What about, say, eastern Mediterranean, north African, west African, eastern European, Brazilian, Bahian, Peruvian, Korean, Portuguese, Japanese, Provencal... And lesser-known categories--Bulgaria? Cambodia?

Help me channel my addiction in a sane and productive way--thank you!

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  1. I love this post! Hopefully I'll be able to uncover some hidden treasures of world cuisines, as well. Here are a couple that come to mind, please feel free to add....

    Morrocan, Eastern Mediterranean: Paula Wolfert, "Couscous and other Good Food from Morocco", "The cooking of the Eastern Meditteranean"
    Middle Eastern: Claudia Roden, "The New Book of Middle Eastern Food"
    Thai: David Thompson, "Thai Food"
    Japanese: Shizuo Tsuji, "Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art"
    Chinese: Barbara Tropp, "The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking"

    What about Central American? I need a good one to add to my collection.

    1. Cambodian - Longteine de Monteiro, "The Elephant Walk Cookbook" (my favorite, at least).
      Chinese - Irene Kuo, "The Key to Chinese Cooking"
      EXCELLENT thread idea.

      1. thanks allegra and buttertart! these all look amazing!

        1. Nepal - Jyoti Pathak "Taste of Nepal"

          Sichuan - Fuchsia Dunlop "Land of Plenty"

          Georgia - Darra Goldstein "The Georgian Feast: The Vibrant Culture and Savory Food of the Republic of Georgia"

          And more faves from Mr. Jonathan Gold:

          1 Reply
          1. re: Joe MacBu

            Hunan - Fuchsia Dunlop "Revolutionary Chinese Cooking" - love this book to bits, even more than the Sichuan one since more unusual, but both are great accomplishments.

          2. How To Cook Without A Book by Pam Anderson, food writer (not the one from Bay Watch). I mainly use it for suggestions because I wear an apron while experimenting in the kitchen that bears the statement, "I don't need a recipe...I'm Italian." In reality I'm IBM, Italian By Marriage.

            1. Southern: John T. Edge
              New Orleans: John Besh
              Lebanese: Madeline Farh
              Filipino: Nora Daza would be the old-school choice, but Reynaldo Alejandro has a good book for the American kitchen

              1. Spain - Penelope Casas

                Her books were COTM during May 2008.... La Cocina de Mam√°, Paella!, ¬°Delicioso!, Discovering Spain, and The Foods and Wines of Spain.

                She is, probably, the most prolific author about Spanish fo

                9 Replies
                1. re: Gio

                  Agree, and looking forward to the Roden Spain coming out next month.

                  1. re: buttertart

                    I'm really excited about Roden's book as well! With over 600 pages, it looks like it will be a pretty comprehensive tome.

                    1. re: Allegra_K

                      She is wonderful, really can't wait for that book.

                    2. re: buttertart

                      I know lots of people loved this cookbook,but I didn't. I have many Spanish cookbooks and there was nothing new in Roden's. I read an interview with her and she said she'd make a wonderful Catalan noodle dish (at least I think it was that dish) but she didn't put it in the cookbook because it was too complicated.

                      I want complicated!

                    3. re: Gio

                      That's Spanish food, folks...

                      1. re: Gio

                        Janet Mendel's cookbooks are also excellent and more in line with Spanish food as it is made here in Spain (Casas adapts recipes more to US ingredients--not that that is a bad thing--a lot of Spanish staples are very hard, or impossible to find in the US--especially fish and pork products).

                        1. re: butterfly

                          Interesting. I have a few of Mendel's books in my Amazon cart. Do you recommend one of her books above the others?

                          1. re: emily


                            Her Cooking in Spain book has a great intro to Spanish ingredients and vocabulary. Cooking from the Heart of Spain is her take on food in the lower meseta (Castilla-La Mancha). I believe Traditional Spanish Cooking might be a reworking of Cooking in Spain... Her recipes aren't sexy (and neither is the layout of her books--at least the editions that I have), but the recipes work, use US measurements, and are very everyday-home-cooking friendly. And she writes and researches like a journalist, which means you won't find the folksy misinformation and cultural generalizations that plague so many other cookbooks.

                            She has a blog:

                            Of the Casas books, I like the The Foods and Wines of Spain--I used to use it quite a bit--but I lost my copy eight years ago when I shipped it to Spain (someone in customs lifted it!).

                      2. Also Bayless for Mexican.
                        Provence--Patricia Wells.
                        Thai--Su-Mei Yu for traditional.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: cocktailhour

                          Not at ALL a fan of Bayless; prefer Diana Kennedy.

                          1. re: jmckee

                            Truly Mexican by Roberto Santibanez looks like a promising alternative (with an emphasis on basic sauces and techniques).


                          2. re: cocktailhour

                            Also a fan of Rick Bayless for Mexican.

                          3. Admittedly, not a cookbook, but because no one has mentioned Korean in the first 14 replies, if I wanted to cook Korean, I would search this site for "hannaone".

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Joebob

                              Me Too. Invaluable information.

                              In fact, try this on for size:

                              1. re: Gio

                                Agreed! I also posted some info on my favorite Korean cookbooks in this thread:

                            2. I am so excited to try these--and by these I do mean all, though hopefully I'll be able to restrain myself from getting more than one at a time!!

                              1. The Marcella Hazan of my favorite cuisine is, of course, Marcella Hazan. But I enjoy Giuliano Bugialli's books just as much, and I've used both equally over the years. I prefer making pasta the Bugialli way, with XL eggs (which are usually what I buy) and EVOO.


                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Jay F

                                  I make my pasta Giuliano's way as well. I think Giuliano is wonderful, but he seems to get much less attention on CH than Marcella. I used to have a great video of him making pasta.

                                    1. re: Jay F

                                      Ours were vhs, of course, so they must have reissued them in cd. Do you have the set, Jay F? Don't you love it when he says that if you don't make pasta his way you will wind up with "lousy, horrible homemade-a fresh pasta." Ever since I saw that, I always say that we are having "lousy, horrible homemade-a fresh pasta" for dinner when I make and serve pasta.

                                      1. re: roxlet

                                        I don't have it, actually, Roxlet. But I think I ought to.

                                2. Do people from outside the USA come here, collect recipes from New England, "Dixie", the prairie states etc. in America and go home to write cookbooks for Chinese, Indian, etc. home cooks?

                                  21 Replies
                                  1. re: blue room

                                    Funny idea, blue room! Who knows what cookbooks there are in India for people who want to cook American food? My thought is that there would be very little interest in anything other than their indigenous food for anyone other than a very elite strata of society. Even Italians eat Italian food for the most part. I never heard of anyone being interested in Southern fried chicken!

                                    1. re: roxlet

                                      "Even Italians eat Italian food for the most part. I never heard of anyone being interested in Southern fried chicken!" Really? Surely Europeans aren't letting themselves miss out on barbecue and fried chicken etc. ! Almost every dish started from outside the US, but many have changed enough to be unique, yes?
                                      I've wondered this before, as a serious question. Patricia Wells is from Wisconsin, Julia Child was of course American--there are probably many examples. So I figure the opposite case to be true too.

                                      1. re: roxlet

                                        " never heard of anyone being interested in Southern fried chicken!"

                                        Wow. And yet, every non-American I've ever known who gets a taste can't get enough of it.

                                        1. re: jmckee

                                          You're right, and whenever I have foreign visitors, we make them a fried chicken dinner, and they all love it. Peanut soup to start, fried chicken, squash casserole, greens, corn bread, etc.

                                          1. re: roxlet

                                            yummm, I want to come to your house for dinner.

                                      2. re: blue room

                                        There are a lot of cookbooks in Chinese for Western food - usually somewhat Sinicized.
                                        Japanese too - and amazing baking and patisserie books in Japanese that make me really wish I'd studied the language.
                                        Haven't seen one that's specifically American yet.

                                        1. re: buttertart

                                          Ah, I thought there must be *some* turnabout! And thanks for "Sinicized", a new word for me. I do that to chicken & rice once in a while :-)

                                          1. re: blue room

                                            Come to think about it, Wei-Chuan (the big Taiwan food company) has a Mexican cookbook that I think is dual-language - or was originally issued in Chinese. Interesting line of pursuit, I'll check next time I see these books. Lots of possibilities for Sinification! ;-)

                                        2. re: blue room

                                          When I lived with a French family as a student in the 1980s, my hostess had a copy, in English, of the Joy of Cooking.

                                          1. re: Isolda

                                            I wonder though, if there are books in French, written by French authors who deliberately compiled American recipes for French home cooks -- like the opposite of what Julia Child did.

                                            1. re: blue room

                                              I very much doubt it - my experience is that most French people eat French food pretty much exclusively.

                                              1. re: greedygirl

                                                I've been in cookbook shops in Paris and have never seen such a critter. My best-ever French trainee loves Good Housekeeping cookbooks but she would have been just as happy (or happier) staying here as going back to France.

                                                1. re: greedygirl

                                                  Don't know whether to think that's an odd oversight or a little arrogant.

                                                  1. re: blue room

                                                    Insular, I think, not arrogant. France really is a thing onto itself.

                                                  2. re: greedygirl

                                                    Surely it is a given that most populations eat their own cuisine most of the time?

                                                    French people eat French food. Germans eat German. Britons eat British. Chinese eat Chinese. Etc

                                                    I do have one cookbook not written in English. Actually a book of Mallorcan dishes written in German. I shoulda realised why it was so cheap - English cover, German inside. Shoulda gone to Specsa

                                                    1. re: Harters

                                                      I wouldn't say that British people eat British food most of the time.

                                                      1. re: greedygirl

                                                        I've been buying a lot of UK published international cookbooks, mainly the picture books published by Hermes House. They are cheap at clearance tables, and generally quite useful.

                                                        Bonechi is an Italian publisher with a series of international cookbooks, available in a variety of languages.

                                                        1. re: greedygirl

                                                          If I look at lists of best selling cookbooks in the UK, the top sellers are consistently folk like Jamie Oliver, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Dave Myers & Si King, Delia Smith and Nigel Slater. All folk who generally cook British style food.

                                                          Again, the best selling magazines, like BBC Good Food, are all heavily slanted towards generally British style recipes.

                                                          1. re: Harters

                                                            They don't though - they're heavily influenced by Mediterranean/Italian and for want of a better word, "Asian" food.

                                                            1. re: greedygirl

                                                              By that standard, you'd be saying there has been no "uninfluenced" British food since some time before Hannah Glasse's recipe book in 1747. The very essence of British cooking, to me, is that we've always taken the influences of being a trading nation and, indeed, one with a large and diverse empire.

                                                2. re: blue room

                                                  'West USA' is a Mexican travel/cooking show about western USA.

                                                3. For Vietnamese, Andrea Nguyen. Not that I have anything to compare her to. But her results, as well as instructions, are great.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                      I agree one of my new favorite cookbooks. Her Asian Dumplings book is really great as well. She is so clear that I feel comfortable tackling recipes I normally wouldn't. The only problem is with either book I always want to make like 5 recipes at a time and then we eat at midnight....

                                                    2. Food of Portugal--Jean Anderson
                                                      Catalonian Cuisine--Coleman Andrews
                                                      La Bouche Creole--Leon Soniot (New Orleans)
                                                      The Encyclopedia of Cajun and Creole Cuisine--John Folse
                                                      The Book of Latin American Cooking--Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz
                                                      The Basque Table--Teresa Barrenachea

                                                      1. For Indian, Madhur Jaffrey rather than Sahni, definitely. French Provincial Cooking by Elizabeth David is hard to beat.

                                                        20 Replies
                                                        1. re: greedygirl

                                                          Wouldn't you say Elizabeth David for English cooking too?

                                                            1. re: greedygirl

                                                              I'd take Jane Grigson over ED, most of the time. More accessible. The source of my tweaked cold tomato soup with tangerine (recipe calls for orange) for last night's dinner (her Vegetable Book).
                                                              Of ED's I particularly love "Spices, Salt, and Aromatics in the English Kitchen" and "English bread and Yeast Cookery".

                                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                                I don't have any Grigson, and although I know that ED is beloved, I have not fallen in love with her myself. I'll have to check JG out. Which book do you recommend?

                                                                1. re: roxlet

                                                                  "Good Things" is a good introduction to her style and cooking esthetic - I also love "The Mushroom Feast" and the "Fruit" and "Vegetable" books. Her British and European cookbooks are great, too, as is "Food with the Famous". The only two I haven't found as appealing are her charcuterie and fish books, primarily because I don't do much along those lines.

                                                                  1. re: roxlet

                                                                    Been making Grigson's Bergundian walnut onion bread forever but never read one of her books. Maybe it's time. I made a decision some time ago to get rid of all my cookbooks. Mostly I used one to three recipes, if that many, out of each one. When I looked up those recipes online, I found that invariably they were available that way. But yes, there's nothing as enjoyable as reading a new cookbook.

                                                                    1. re: emu48

                                                                      She was a fantastic writer, and very erudite. Her books read more like novels.

                                                                  2. re: buttertart

                                                                    Absolutely Jane Grigson. "English Food" and "Good Things" are go-to books at my house.

                                                                    However, Elizabeth David's magisterial "English Bread & Yeast Cookery" is a definitive tome.

                                                                      1. re: jmckee

                                                                        English Bread and Yeast Cookery is the only ED I have. I don't love it a lot.

                                                                        1. re: roxlet

                                                                          It's a pretty shouldery kind of book. I was really into it when I first got it.

                                                                            1. re: jmckee

                                                                              I'm not sure if that means "having noteable shoulders" (able to push through a crowd of lesser cookbooks), or "not impressed, it made me shrug my shoulders".

                                                                              1. re: blue room

                                                                                To me it means standoffish. Mental image of someone standing with shoulders back and held rigid. Not terribly approachable and not cuddly.
                                                                                But it's a wonderful book with tons of historical information and recipes not seen elsewhere in my experience (the Scots buttery rowies - yum -, the rice bread, etc).
                                                                                (It was the first one I got from overseas, my then-boss brought it back from Bradford, Yorks. for me - it was only out in the US much later and I HADt o have it.)

                                                                    1. re: greedygirl

                                                                      Constance Spry remains my favorite for traditional English cookery.

                                                                    2. re: roxlet

                                                                      For English baking, I always seem to turn to my very old, passed down Be-Ro recipe book. I've also had great success baking and cooking w Delia Smith & Gary Rhodes recipes

                                                                      1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                        That's a real classic! My Mum has a copy that's literally falling apart.

                                                                    3. re: greedygirl

                                                                      As far as ED, I hate, hate, hate the layout of the recipes with no ingredient list.

                                                                      1. re: NanH

                                                                        I 100% agree with you, NanH. It makes cooking a chore since you're always trying to find your place in the paragraph.

                                                                    4. "The Cuisine of California" by Diane Worthington is one I use more than "The Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook" by Alice Waters.

                                                                      For French or just plain good cooking, I like many of Julia Child's cookbooks and I really, really like Jacques Pepin's "The Art of Cooking" Volume I and II.

                                                                      French Bistro - Patricia Wells.

                                                                      Cooking Science - "The Curious Cook" by Harold McGee.

                                                                      I hear raves about Marcella Hazan, but I have "Marcella's Italian Kitchen" which I am not crazy about. I also hear raves about Rick Bayless, but I'm not too crazy about "Authentic Mexican". Anyway, that's why I tried to specify titles here. You probably have all of these already.

                                                                      1. Canada? Madame Benoit (or the Canadian Living books, for a more contemporary view).

                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                        1. re: buttertart

                                                                          Agreed buttertart. I also like Anita Stewart

                                                                          1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                            She's from after my time in the land of the brave. Any particular book?

                                                                            1. re: buttertart

                                                                              She has a few that cover Canada as a whole however my very favourite has to be The Ontario Harvest Cookbook. I've likely baked/cooked half the recipes in that book and don't ever recall being disappointed. In most cases we've absolutely loved the recipes.

                                                                              1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                That one's got this London girl's name all over it! ABEbooks, USD 9.01 with shipping. Thanks, Breadcrumbs!

                                                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                                                  Off the top of my head, The Hearty Steak, Mushroom and Sausage Pie w Dark Ale, Jump-Fried Chicken w Summer Vegetables and Peanuts, Sour-Cream Hazelnut Coffeecake and the Blueberry Coffee Cake are all wonderful.

                                                                                  There are tons of stories about farms, Mom & Pop operations, shops and businesses around the province in the book that are a joy to read as well.

                                                                                  1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                    Fantastic, can't wait to see it. Thanks again!

                                                                        2. Italian - Antonio Carluccio

                                                                          Spanish (and North African) - Sam & Sam Clark

                                                                          Eastern Mediterranean (generic) - Claudia Roden

                                                                          Lebanese - Anissa Helou
                                                                          Old-fashioned British - Jane Grigson
                                                                          Modern British - Nigel Sla

                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Harters

                                                                            Interesting, Harters. I have never even heard of Antonio Carluccio. I guess the US and England are two countries separated by a common love of Italian food!

                                                                            1. re: roxlet

                                                                              Celeb chef (before the phrase was invented) - used to own a decent restaurant in London and, later, a chain of more casual places. They still exist although he no longer has a business interest.

                                                                              He's just finished a TV series with another UK-based Italian chef, Gennaro Contaldo, who used to own my one-time favourite London restaurant, Passione.

                                                                              I reckon Italian food is the world's cuisine. Everywhere you go, you can find pizza & pasta.

                                                                              1. re: Harters

                                                                                Do you have any books by Marcella Hazan or Giuliano Bugiali? They're my go-to writers for Italian recipes. Their books might be more comprehensive than Carlucci's from what I have been able to glean from the Amazon blurb on Carlucci.

                                                                            2. re: Harters

                                                                              Nice idea "Modern English." I like his books very much. I have a few of Simon Hopkinson's work is great reading, but less likely to use it. I do think River Cottage's books are quite good, but yet I never seem to cook from them.

                                                                            3. For French cooking from Nice and Provence, I really like CUISINE OF THE SUN: CLASSICAL FRENCH COOKING FROM NICE AND PROVENCE by Mireille Johnston.

                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                              1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                                                Isn't that the book with the gorgeous cat in the author's arms in her pic on the back flap? Sorry, couldn't help myself.

                                                                                1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                                                  She only ever did one series for the BBC. It was in the early 90s by which time French influences on British food had already heavily decreased.

                                                                                  1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                                                    LOVE the Mireille Johnston! Used to cook from it all the time, but haven't cracked it open in years. Must revisit.

                                                                                  2. For Iranian food, Najmieh Batmanglij - specifically The New Food of Life. It's wonderful. But in my opinion, she's the only name in the game. We need some new, modern takes. I really wanted to love Louisa Shafia's The New Persian Kitchen, but I worry about newcomers to Persian cuisine using her instructions for rice, for example...I will say that the book is very innovative.

                                                                                    1. I swore by Bill Neal for a long time for southern food, and while I don't have a bad word to say about him, I recently discovered Nathalie Dupree's Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking, and it's fantastic.

                                                                                      1. These are old school, but are among my most often used cookbooks:
                                                                                        -The German Cookbook by Mimi Sheraton
                                                                                        -The Hungarian Cookbook by Susan Derecskey
                                                                                        -Please to the Table: The Russian Cookbook by Anya von Bremzen and John Welchman