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Jun 13, 2012 05:53 PM

New to wok cooking--book recommendations?

After combing through the threads, I purchased and seasoned a hand-hammered iron wok from I love it! You all are so helpful! I've got a good start on my patina and I've made fried rice and pad Thai so far. I'd like to learn more about wok cooking. If you had to choose between "Breath of a Wok"'or "stir-frying to sky's edge" which would you choose? Or is it good to have both? Any other recommendations, like Fuschia Dunlop?

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  1. All four books have been Cookbook of the Month selections. It might be of interest to you to peruse the reviews and see which book most appeals to you.

    I have all four and wouldn’t part with one of them. Each has some excellent recipes. If forced at cleaver-point to choose one author, it would be Dunlop. If forced to choose which title, I’d probably be dead before I could decide.

    1 Reply
    1. re: JoanN

      That's some hearty praise for Dunlop! Thanks for the links--I'll check them out!

    2. Breath of a Wok covers all the different ways you can use a wok - steaming, braising, deep frying, stir frying, etc. SFTTSE is only stir frying. SFTTSE is also a lower level of difficulty, with more one-dish meals, but less classicly Chinese and more adapted to American tastes and ingredients. They're the best for wok use and care though. Dunlop is super authentic, sometimes impossibly so, at least for me. But her dishes also have a punchy flavor and wow-factor that Grace Young's dishes can't compete with. The latest Dunlop book, which I only just got, seems to be much more suited to the home cook than her previous books.

      8 Replies
      1. re: sarahcooks

        Thanks for the info! It's super helpful. I want to get my wok super seasoned, so I'm trying to stir fry as much as I can. The latest Dunlop book sounds interesting; I'll have to check it out. I know what you mean about recipes that are exhaustingly authentic. One that's more suited for the home cook is about where I'm at right now.

        1. re: citizenc3

          This is the thread of us early adopters cooking from the new book.

          It might give you an idea if the food appeals.

          1. re: lilham

            Awesome! Thanks for pointing out the link. I just had to spend some time catching up on the threads to see what Dunlop's latest book is. Looks like it is from UK only for now? Perhaps an order is in my future...

          2. re: citizenc3

            Surprised to read sarahcooks "impossibly so" comment. I cooked from the Dunlop books long before I acquired the Youngs and didn't find Young's recipes more accessible with regard either to technique or ingredients. But I've been cooking from all four for so long now I may have lost perspective.

            If you want to see what people are posting about the new Dunlop, take a look here:


            1. re: JoanN

              It depends on where you live and what ingredients you have available in your community. You can buy soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and oyster sauce at any grocery store, but szechuan peppercorns, chili bean paste, preserved vegetables and so on require a trip to an asian grocery, and some of her ingredients I haven't even been able to find there. There are more recipes in Young that don't require those specialty ingredients, probably in large part to the fact that they're more Cantonese and that has a much longer history in the US.

              1. re: sarahcooks

                I will add that there are definitely plenty of challenging recipes in Breath of a Wok, especially in regard to technique. I'd love to make those braised omelets but I think they would turn out to be just a big mess, especially as my wok isn't as non-stick as I'd like yet.

                1. re: sarahcooks

                  Okay. I understand. And that definitely makes sense. Since I live in NYC and shop in Chinatown fairly often anyway, locating ingredients--at least once I knew what I was looking for--wasn't much of a problem. And since I already had a well-stocked Asian pantry when I acquired the Young books, I wasn't even aware that her recipes require fewer Asian ingredients.

              2. re: citizenc3

                I say go with SFTTSE for your first book then. The recipes are very detailed in terms of how to stir fry them. It tells you when to add each ingredient and how long to cook it before adding the next, as well as what to watch for. There's a blog group just getting starting that is cooking every recipe in the book by making one every other Wednesday

            2. I think you should get both of Young's books and the new Dunlop too!

              Sarahcooks is correct that Breath of a Wok covers all kinds of wok cooking, while Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge is just about stir-fries. However, I disagree that the latter book is more "Americanized". It is specifically about the food of the Chinese diaspora. As such, it has "Chinese" recipes from all over the world, wherever Chinese people have settled. So there are stir-fries from places like Trinidad and India, and yes, America, and many other countries. That is the point of the book, and it is fascinating, but you might not want it to be your only wok book. It makes a great addition to a collection. Breath of a Wok is more of a primer on woks and wok cooking techniques.

              Dunlop's books are great, and I'm sure the new one is too. But what no one has bothered to mention yet is that it is only out in the UK right now. Of course you can always order it from Amazon UK, like several people here have done. Just didn't want you to be disappointed when you go to the US Amazon site and it is only available for pre-order.

              2 Replies
              1. re: MelMM

                It has more recipes that are made by Chinese-Americans, not sure how else to explain that. There were complaints during the Young COTM that the recipes had too many carrots, broccoli, and other American vegetables in them. I like that, because it means I don't need to make a special trip to the Asian grocery store. I didn't mean Americanized as a criticism, I love the book.

                1. re: sarahcooks

                  Wow--thanks for all the input! I think I'll start with Young's stir fry book and the new Dunlop as I try to get a feel for the wok. I've got a ways to go with the wok finish, so maybe someday I'll be able to graduate to braised omelettes!

                  Thanks again for your help!