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authentic asian cookbooks?

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
i was at an asian market today.
saw all sorts of things i've never seen before.
salted snake heads in a jar, all sorts of different rice papers, soy bean pastes, dried and picked fish parts, pickled quail eggs in a jar, etc.

are there any good books dealing with authentic asian cooking? utilizing some of this stuff is a mystery to me at this point, and i need some guidence.
post #2 of 26
You might also have stumbled into the homeopathic aisle which can be fairly odd.

But for cooking, books by these authors are quite good.

Grace Young,
Eileen Yin Fei Lo
Yan Kit So
Kenneth Lo, mostly out of print now but used book sites on line have quite a selection at reasonable prices.
Bruce Cost wrote a guide to pan-Asian ingredients that too is out of print but readily available used.

Mai pham ( I think was the author, I'll have to check my notes on another PC) Yes, but it's only one book, Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table.

Martin Yan has written many books on this region. The newer ones tend to be using the odder ingredients but he also simplifies a lot which is reasonable for many cooks with still good results.

These authors produce food rather unlike what we see in Chinese restaurants for example as that food tends to be fairly hybridized to US palates

I don't cook much Korean or Japanese. I have a few Thai cookbooks, but nothing I consider exceptional.
post #3 of 26
I echo loudly the Chinese authors recommended and would add Fuschia Dunlop to the list.

I just purchased Bruce Cost's book "Asian Ingredients" so I assume it is available again. Good thing too.
post #4 of 26
There are many people at this forum that can help you with your questions as well.

And I particularly enjoy a food blog about Asian food, Rasa Malaysia: Asian Recipes and Cooking Great photography and recipes as well as guest bloggers.
post #5 of 26
For vietnamese, I have several from Mai Pham. I try to find authors that are of that origin. For chinese, martin yan. For Thai, I have the beautiful book thailand.
post #6 of 26
Try asking the sellers at the market - you may get great recipes that are hard to find in books. If you do it enough you can publish your own!
post #7 of 26

Thai Cookbook Suggestions

Hi there. I have two suggestions if you want to learn more about Thai cooking. The first is a wonderful book called Thai Food by David Thompson, an Australian who fell in love with Thai cooking when he visited the country. This book is great not only for the very authentic, although labor-intensive, recipes, but for the beautiful photography and the mini-history at the beginning of the book on the Thai kingdom, its various regions, and how the history and geography of the country shaped the cuisine. This book contains pretty much every Thai recipe you've ever heard of and then some. The only things working against it are these: first, the recipes are a little more difficult for the North American home cook because they require lots of obscure ingredients and often work-intensive techniques. This makes the food itself a bit inaccessible, and means that cooking a meal out of this book is more of a fun weekend-long project and less of an everyday practice--which is a shame, because Thai cooking can (and I think should) be enjoyed often and with little fuss.

Luckily, Nancie McDermott--who learned to cook Thai food when she served there in the Peace Corps--wrote Quick and Easy Thai in order to accomplish exactly that. She skillfully adapts Thai food to Western home kitchens without sacrificing authenticity, and the recipes are delicious and wonderfully simple to make. She emphasizes the street food and the food most Thai people cook at home, where Thompson's book emphasizes palace- and restaurant-style cuisine.

These books complement each other perfectly and (I believe) constitute the only cookbooks you'll need to learn all about Thai cooking and food, so I would suggest getting your hands on both of them. Thompson's is quite a chunk of change (~$50), but it's fairly easy to find used, while McDermott's is less than $20 and worth every cent.

Hope this helped and good luck!
post #8 of 26

>i was at an asian market today.
saw all sorts of things i've never seen before.
salted snake heads in a jar, all sorts of different rice papers, soy bean pastes, dried and picked fish parts, pickled quail eggs in a jar, etc.

are there any good books dealing with authentic asian cooking? utilizing some of this stuff is a mystery to me at this point, and i need some guidence.<


I am in a quandry about replying to this post. I do not want to offend by breaking the rule about advertising, but we have just published an "Authentic" Laos cookbook, which has has a 27 page, fully illustrated chapter on ingredients, their names in English, Lao and 'phonetic' Lao, their use, and possible substitutes. Also featured are 88 recipes, recorded in Northern Laos, a chapter on Lao cooking methods and equipment, a chapter on different ethnic groups in Laos, and a 17 page alphabetic index in both English and Lao.


I would like to put the title and link in this forum, but will not do so until I am clear if that is allowed.


If there are any members on this forum of Lao descent who would be willing to review this book, we would be happy to make available a copy for review on this forum.


I noted that next to the 5 main categories of Asian cookbooks on this forum, there is no category "Asian - Other". As such, there is no mention of some superb recent books such as "hsa*ba", the excellent recent Burmese cookbook by Tin Cho Chaw, or "Cooking from the Heart", -the Hmong Kitchen in America" by Sam Scripter and Sheng Yang.

post #9 of 26

Kees5: Check your private messages.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #10 of 26

I grew up only learning Southern cooking, mostly from watching, seldom from cookbooks. Over the years I have collected a lot of cookbooks, learned recipes and techniques for a variety of foods, but asian foods have always been a bit intimidating.


Personally, I like using Jaden Hair's The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook: 101 Asian Recipes Simple Enough for Tonight's Dinner. Like phatch, I subscribe to the Rasa Malaysia blog and find their photography, stories and recipes inspiring.


To add to what jesse1211 offered, David Thompson just published Thai Street Food, which might offer simpler fare than his original Thai Food, and you can purchase it for less than $40.


Enjoy your adventure in asian cuisine!

post #11 of 26

I have to endorse the wei chuan cookbooks ('Chinese Cuisine' in particular). 
These have been around forever, and look sorta cheap, mass produced.  They are made by a cooking school in Taiwan, and all the recipes have been vetted in the schools kitchens.  The ingredients are decipetvly simple, which for a long time for me was a turn-off; I wanted weird recipes using hard-to-find ingredients.  But after using a number of recipes from them (and having people comment on the great results) I gotta say that they are the only chinese cookbooks I'll be giving as gifts.


There are some they published for regions other than china, can't comment on those since I'm not that interested in a chinese cooking school's take on other cuisines.

post #12 of 26

Wei Chuan is a mass producer of condiments and ingredients.  Not a cooking school.


I've got a few of their cookbooks too. If you know how to cook, particularly chinese techniques, they're fine.  But they don't contain much in the way of how to. Nor are they very deep into the cuisine or regional aspects.

post #13 of 26

So the Wei-Chuan Cultural-Educational Foundation and the Wei-Chuan Cooking school are some kind of hoax and don't really exist?


post #14 of 26

That they exist doesn't mean that's Wei-Chuan's purpose. It's like saying Pilsbury exists primarily in order to run their bake-off. 


Their books make poor textbooks at that.  The Foundation seems to be publishing arm? But I don't read Chinese so I may have got that wrong.

post #15 of 26

For Chinese cooking (and yes, I know China has so many regional cuisines), I like Pei Mei's 3 volume series with Chinese/English parallel text. Beautiful photographs. Although out of print, these books do come up from time to time in second-hand stores and online. Pei Mei has an interesting history - she started a Chinese Cooking School in Taipei in the 1960s and hosted TV cooking show, among other things.

For Japanese cooking, I like Japanese Cooking, a Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji. It's written for a non-Japanese audience but appears to have authentic recipes and methods.

post #16 of 26

Are you interested in Chinese/Asian or Indian/Bangladeshi/Pakistani 'Asian'.


If the latte try anything by Madhur Jaffrey or an amazing British-based chef, Atul Kokkchar.

post #17 of 26

I agree with trying Maddhur Jaffrey for Indian cooking, and with asking the vendors.


Susanna Foo and Martin Yan are good for Chinese. 


The Culinaria series is good.


Any time you are in a used book shop. look for the Time-Life Foods of the World series published in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They are carefully edited, their contents authentic and they are good bout explaining ingredients and suggesting substitutes for use in the US. (BTW, if you know where I might acquire any to complete my treasured and much-used collection, pls contact me!)


Another approach is to approach somebody who looks like a possible native of the country you think the food is from and who is buying it. Ask what it is and about cooking approaches. I've found this highly successful, and that often others will join and put in their two cents.


Go to a big bookstore and explore the books that feature lots of color plates of ingredients and descriptions of their uses.


When you have that, check out books produced by Hippocrene Press. These books are inexpensive and rarely or never have any pictures, but the recipes are known for being very authentic. I have traveled three continents, and a cousin of mine has visited all but Antarctica. We both pay a lot of attention to food, and have been in local homes where we have been shown how to cook various local dishes. We have been able to do this the way all serious cooks do, by watching and taking notes then tasting; no shared language necessary! While many books that look like coffee table beauties are full of bastardized recipes, we have both found Hippocrene books to be responsibly edited and to reflect recipes and ingredients as we have found them in the many countries in question. Borders carries the Hippocrene books and will order any that you want if they are not on the shelf in the store.



post #18 of 26

What is it you find good about the Culinaria series?


I've found them lacking in direction for actual cooking but pretty to look at.

post #19 of 26

I like the brief discussions of foods and ingredients, and like them especially for international cuisines where the ingredients may be mysteries in ethnic market. I have never found directions in the recipes to be at all inadequate. They seem complete enough to me. I've always cooked successfully from them. 

post #20 of 26

We have different expectations of a cookbook it seems.


I've been disappointed in the Culinariia series from a cooking perspective. Not enough actual cooking content for my taste.

post #21 of 26

I was looking through my Chinese cookbooks again the other evening. and rediscovered one by Yan-Kit So that is well suited to the beginner. Lots of good pictures of how to do things and worthwhile recipes that reflect a range of Chinese cuisine beyond just stirfrying. It looks like it's been published three times, the first about 1982, again in 1995 (my copy) and again in 2006.


Yan-Kit's Classic Chinese Cookbook



post #22 of 26

On request  of KYHeirloomer, I have sent in a copy of "Food from Northern Laos" for review by ChefTalk. Also on his request, we will publish a recipe from the book as a sample in the recipe section.


Here, I'd like to place FYI a page on the ingredient section, since mention was made of this earlier in thread.

We were aware of the fact that many Lao ingredients are often hard to source outside SE Asia, and have tried wherever possible to suggest alternatives.Flipping bookguttedt_Page_13.jpg

post #23 of 26

I just heard this is hard to read. Right click the image, and open in new tab or new page, it reads OK. I'll try tomorrow to repost a higher definition image. I wanted to reproduce a book page, because the discussion here is about authentic Asian cookbooks, and I wanted to show the actual lay-out and content. I keep on learning about IT issues.

post #24 of 26

You mean in number of recipes?

post #25 of 26

Having recently had a good look at this book, I would recommend it if you are interested in asian food.

post #26 of 26

hiroko shimbo for japanese cuisine, really good!!!!!!! good luck.

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