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Looking for recommendations for a Great Asian cookbook (I use Asian as a general term; Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Thailand..etc..)  I am really just looking to get a better grasp on techniques and a better understanding of ingredients.  Thank you.

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There is a range of techniques and some overlap of course.

The cuisines I'm weakest on are Korean, Japanese and Thai.

The Kimchi Chronicles by Marja Vongerichten (Jean Georges wife). The PBS series for this book was also quite good. Funny to see Hugh Jackman, and the Vongericthens cooking together, but they live in the same building.

China, you should look at these authors:

Grace Young

Eileen Yin Fei Lo-- Many books, none of them bad. Some overlapping content here and there, but plenty of knowledge.

Barbara Tropp--The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking has a good section on technique. Much less so her China Moon which should be skipped.

Bruce Cost-- Most of these are out of print, but he's quite an expert.
  • Asian Ingredients--not as comprehensive as you could hope, but still useful
  • Ginger East to West
  • I like his "Big Bowl" as well, but it's not on topic so much.
Fuschia Dunlop is slowly writing excellent regional cookbooks for China. Her Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper is not for cooking.

Nina Simonds, more her earlier books than her more recent.

Kenneth Lo has written a great many Chinese cookbooks over the decades; these can be found used. Skip his books from the early 70s. These are mostly highly adapted to the limited ingredients available then. Interesting in their own right, but not what you're looking for.
  • New Chinese Cooking School--pretty good intro to technique and ingredients
  • Chinese Regional Cooking is taken mostly from restaurants in China and is full of things I've never seen anywhere else. This was written during the start of the transition to modern pinyin (When Peking became Beijing for example) so the transliterations are different than you might be used to now.
Phaidon recently released their China:The Cookbook. I've been pretty impressed with it. --this blogger author has also released a worthwhile cookbook or two.

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8 Lee. Not a cookbook. More a look at Chinese American cuisine and it's facade. Very interesting.


Charles Phan Vietnamese Home Cooking

Andrea Nguyen writes the blog and has a few cookbooks. I was quite impressed with her Banh Mi book

Mai Pham, particularly Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table

Corrine Trang


I've never found a cookbook for Thailand that really helped me grok the cuisine, flavor and ethos so I could cook it more intutively. I'm still looking


I've read a couple of good ones, but own nothing and I don't recall specific ones to recommend. But there are some out there. Bee Yin Low does some from her heritage, often with some streamlining and other asian cuisine at Expect lots of streamlining in the recipes.

Just for my personal definition if nothing else, I don't include India as Asian cooking. It's rather different though there is some cross pollination.

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Some thoughts on Asian Technique and food philosophy

Knife skills are very similar across the cuisines to my thinking and limited experience. The cleavers of Asia are really more chef knives in thickness and cutting ability, with other knives for hacking bones and such. The cleaver style offers some advantages for cuts more common in Asian food than Western food. The high sides help with thin planking cuts and batons/batonnet. Chinese cuisine takes this a step further with cuts referenced as "hair". I've seen this for a presentation platter of chicken and ham, but can't find this Martin Yan video right now. Similarly, Grace Young talks about this with ginger. 

Baking, as in the West, was communal originally You didn't bake at home, but there was a communal oven or business that everyone used. An oven and it's fueling required a fair amount of infrastructure.  In the west, this became a more personal household thing with wealth and more readily available fuel. In Asia, it stayed with the community.  So roasted meats, baked goods were purchased. Even today in the US, most Asian grocers serving a big enough community offer roasted fowl and pork for purchase 

Steaming and boiling have a greater use. They could steam a course or two over the cooking rice. This was efficient in both time and fuel use. While Americans go to a Chinese restaurant and order a stream of stir fried dishes, the meal is designed rather differently in China.  Figure on a separate cooked dish for each guest you'll have. Each guest will eat a small amount from each of the different dishes, including soup and rice. And soup is more often the beverage for the meal in China rather than tea or wine, though things are changing as China becomes wealthier.  You couldn't stir fry that many dishes and serve them at once. So boiled, fried, steaming, braising, cold dishes all enter in the meal. It's the only practical way to achieve it. 

Rather than cooking for a long time to develop flavors (though there are these dishes too), food is combined with dried, aged and  fermented ingredients to build complexity quickly in the pan. Vietnam has a broad and difficult to find range of fresh herbs common to the meal as well. Some dishes harmonize, others contrast with themselves. Texture is far more important than in the west, often revering slipperyness and things that are offputting to westerners. 

There is a holistic philosophy of food and health that is used to build the ingredients and cooking methods into the final meal. This is not a simple thing to grasp, but becomes intuitive to those who live in the culture. Ingredients and dishes and methods are considered yin and yang. Similarly, these same concepts are broken down into five "humours" or elements that reflect aspects of health and balanced living. There is also a whole traditional medical practice based on this philosophy.  Hot and Sour soup is more medicine as a meal than a side dish. 
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