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Looking for a Chinese Cookbook for a Beginner

Chinese Cookbook

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26 replies to this topic

#1 A Patric

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Posted 26 June 2007 - 07:37 PM

Hi all,

I'd like some recommendations for a cookbook that deals with the most common Chinese cooking techniques, spice combinations, and types of dishes. I know that no single cookbook can cover everything, or even most things, Chinese, but I assume that there is something that does a very good job of covering the basics in a fairly detailed way. That is what I'm looking for. I would rather have a higher percentage of information and explanation than glossy photos, though I'm not opposed to photos.

Also, if there is a particular cookbook writer that is respected more than many others, then it would be nice to have her/his name.

Best,

Alan

#2 takadi

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 12:05 AM

Well if you want the holy grail to all beginner wok cooking, you should invest in "Breath of a Wok" by Grace Young.

#3 weinoo

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 04:03 AM

I taught myself to cook Chinese food a long time ago - and took Chinese cooking classes back in the late 70's.

One of the earliest books I owned, and one which covers a wide range of techniques, is The Key to Chinese Cooking by Irene Kuo, published by Knopf in 1977.

Fuchsia Dunlop nowadays has published two recent cookbooks, one on Szechuan cuisine and the other on Hunanese cooking, and is very highly respected as well.

Edited by weinoo, 27 June 2007 - 04:04 AM.

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#4 Big Bunny

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 06:21 AM

One of the earliest books I owned, and one which covers a wide range of techniques, is The Key to Chinese Cooking by Irene Kuo, published by Knopf in 1977.

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This book is excellent and has been reprinted. I would add Ken Hom's Chinese Technique for a good pictorial overview of the methods. It is out of print but available used.

BB
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#5 C. sapidus

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 06:28 AM

You may wish to peruse this thread: Chinese cookbooks, what's your favorite? Many have recommended Barbara Tropp's Modern Art of Chinese Cooking. If you get this book, try to avoid using the term "velvet." Don't ask. :rolleyes: :laugh:

#6 Dejah

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 06:53 AM

You may wish to peruse this thread: Chinese cookbooks, what's your favorite? Many have recommended Barbara Tropp's Modern Art of Chinese Cooking. If you get this book, try to avoid using the term "velvet." Don't ask. :rolleyes:  :laugh:

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:angry: :laugh: :laugh:

One of the earliest cookbooks in my cabinet is Gloria Bley Miller's The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook. It's not one that I use the most, but I refer to it often if I need to know basics.
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#7 Gastro888

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 06:55 AM

Try to get a hold of the old Time-Life Foods of the World Series and get the book, "The Cooking of China". It's an excellent primer and it's very well written. I love those books!

Of course anything by Grace Young is a good addition.

Edited by Gastro888, 27 June 2007 - 06:55 AM.


#8 muichoi

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 08:39 AM

I second the recommendation for Irene Kuo, and i think the wei-Chuan books make sense even for beginners. It's not an easy cuisine to learn except by lots of eating and experience, in contrast to most South-east asian food which just needs good recipes. Pei-Mei is irreplaceable, but the Grace Young books I find poor, a gushing style and clearly the kind of books that are written as a research project rather as a distillation of a lifetimes knowledge.

#9 A Patric

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 09:29 AM

I second the recommendation for Irene Kuo, and i think the wei-Chuan books make sense even for beginners. It's not an easy cuisine to learn except by lots of eating and experience, in contrast to most South-east asian food which just needs good recipes. Pei-Mei is irreplaceable, but the Grace Young books I find poor, a gushing style and clearly the kind of books that are written as a research project rather as a distillation of a lifetimes knowledge.

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Any books by Irene Kuo, Wei-Chuan publishing, or Pei-Mei that really stand out in your mind?

Best,

Alan

#10 Gastro888

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 10:05 AM

... but the Grace Young books I find poor, a gushing style and clearly the kind of books that are written as a research project rather as a distillation of a lifetimes knowledge.

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Ouch! :unsure:
:laugh:

#11 jo-mel

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 10:24 AM

I have to go with Tropp's Modern Art of Chinese Cooking, also. She seems to be standing right behind you, instructing you on every move. A tribute to her explanations was given by a chef who said if you want to know how to steam, just read her instructions. She is a bit wordy, but that is what makes her instructions so clear. Not as many recipes as in many other books, but the book is a classic.

Also, I'm with Dejah ------for recipes, substitutions, menus, how-to, soaking information, and every possible way to make a dish,--------that wonderful stand-by "The Thousand Recipe Cookbook" (Bley Miller). The new editions seem to have edited out some of the sections, but even then, it is a good basic Chinese cookbook. One of the first in my collection and I still refer to it.

#12 Big Bunny

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 10:49 AM

Any books by Irene Kuo, Wei-Chuan publishing, or Pei-Mei that really stand out in your mind?

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There is only the one book by Kuo.

The main work by Pei Mei, out of print (I think) is a trilogy. The first volume - by region, and the second - by ingredient are most useful. The third volume is banquets by region and rather hard to follow. By the way, all recipes are given in Chinese and English, and all are illustrated with a photo.

There are zillions of Wei-Chuan books. They are also illustrated and bilingual. One of them, which I don't have, is a general Chinese cookbook. The others cover all sorts of specialities - some by region some by style. They are relatively inexpensive and readily available at book stores and some Chinese groceries.

BB
Food is all about history and geography.

#13 barbhealy

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 11:43 AM

I have Irene Kuo's 'The Key to Chinese Cooking', Tropp's 'The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking', and the Time Life series' 'The Cooking of China'.

Of these, the one I use the most is Tropp's. I also love her 'China Moon Cookbook' which is her restaurant's variations on classic Chinese cooking.

The biggest problem, for me, with both the Kuo and Tropp, is that there are next to no pictures. Tropp's descriptions are excellent but I still like to see pictures. The Time Life Series books have many pictures but their recipes not as extensive as the other two.

The Costco in our area (outside Chicao) just started carrying the Culinaria series which have more pictures than any other book I've seen and they are FASCINATNG reading, giving you an in-depth insider's view of the country's culinary scene. There are a few on Amazon at the moment, but none on China.

#14 AzianBrewer

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 11:43 AM

My mother has couple of cookbooks from Pei-Mei. She's like the Julia Child of Taiwan!
Leave the gun, take the canoli

#15 A Patric

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 05:17 PM

Hi all,

Thank you for the recommendations so far. Please don't hesitate to recommend other options, or to throw your weight behind options that have already been suggested. Soon, I'll take a good long look at what I can find out about these different choices on-line, and I'll probably have a few more questions.

However, so far I'm really happy with all of the feedback.

Best,

Alan

#16 Ben Hong

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 06:55 PM

I have a whole library of cookbooks and I could recommend any one of a hundred which would probably be OK. But I would instead recommend my own favourite :" How to Cook and Eat in Chinese" by Buwei Yang Chao. It is a charmingly instructive primer and as such you won't find many so-called banquet style dishes in it, just good wholesome home cooking using some basic cooking methods and styles. It's a great book for tyros and veterans alike.

#17 saluki

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 10:07 PM

Alan,
Like Ben I have many books I like. I'm perpetually trying to weed them down but find I can't part with them.

If I had to pick ones that I continually come back to .
at the top of the list would be the Irene Kuo --The Key to Chinese Cooking
and the Modern Art of Chinese Cooking by Barbara Tropp (careful because there is another book with the same title but different authors)

An oddball one that I like very much but is not an all round basic one is called
The People's Republic of China Cookbook by Nobuko Sakamoto. Some of the dishes are real keepers.


Also, one that I used to use was by Nina Simonds called Chinese Seasons.
It was before she started trying to make healthier dishes in a shorter amount of time.
I know that the book was reprinted so I don't know if its true to the early addition
which is the one I'm referring to.

I have many that I enjoy as much for reading as for the recipes like the
Fuchsia Dunlop ones I have.

I'll have to take another look to see which ones are really dog eared.

#18 Big Bunny

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Posted 28 June 2007 - 05:28 AM

An oddball one that I like very much but is not an all round basic one is called
The People's Republic of China Cookbook by Nobuko Sakamoto.  Some of the dishes are  real keepers.

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This is a wonderful book: a great second book. The recipes are well written, and mostly quite good. It is not a good first book, because, as saluki says, it doesn't have the basics you need to build on. On the other hand, it will quickly give you some great, out-of-the-ordinary company fare.

BB
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#19 A Patric

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Posted 28 June 2007 - 08:28 AM

I have a whole library of cookbooks and I could recommend any one of a hundred which would probably be OK. But I would instead recommend my own favourite :" How to Cook and Eat in Chinese" by Buwei Yang Chao. It is a charmingly instructive primer and as such you won't find many so-called banquet style dishes in it, just good wholesome home cooking using some basic cooking methods and styles. It's a great book for tyros and veterans alike.

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I just found a "Very Good" used copy of the Buwei Yang Chao book on Amazon for $1.80, so I ordered it. I also was able to request the Tropp book from my library. I am also keeping my eyes on the Kuo book and the first two Pei-Mei books.

I guess that should probably get me started.

Thank you to everyone for all the suggestions and help.

Very Best,

Alan

#20 saluki

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Posted 28 June 2007 - 02:57 PM

I have a whole library of cookbooks and I could recommend any one of a hundred which would probably be OK. But I would instead recommend my own favourite :" How to Cook and Eat in Chinese" by Buwei Yang Chao. It is a charmingly instructive primer and as such you won't find many so-called banquet style dishes in it, just good wholesome home cooking using some basic cooking methods and styles. It's a great book for tyros and veterans alike.

View Post



I just found a "Very Good" used copy of the Buwei Yang Chao book on Amazon for $1.80, so I ordered it. I also was able to request the Tropp book from my library. I am also keeping my eyes on the Kuo book and the first two Pei-Mei books.

I guess that should probably get me started.

Thank you to everyone for all the suggestions and help.

Very Best,

Alan

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I have to laugh. After Ben mentioned the Buwei Yang Chao I remembered I lost my copy when I moved---It was a small paperback and I spent days looking for it.
So, I too ordered a copy last night. Mine from Ebay. Book was about 1.50 but the shipping was almost 4.00. Half.com has it too from about 1.80 to 44.00

#21 jo-mel

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Posted 29 June 2007 - 08:00 AM

About pictures -- they are nice when you are just starting out, ----IF they are instructional: Ingredient identification, proper techniques, steps in how to cook, etc.

But when it comes to a completed dish, I have a jaundiced eye. It seems to me that some photographers value the picture's beauty for color and balance rather than reality. I am really cynical when it comes to this when I saw the same picture --- in two different books for a spiced leg of lamb dish. Two different books, 2 different authors, 2 different recipes --- SAME picture.

I treasure my extensive cookbook collection. Each book for different reasons and I don't think I could weed it down even if I wished --- or had to!

Ben -- I think the only book I DON'T have is Buwei Yang Chows!

#22 FlourPower

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Posted 29 June 2007 - 09:23 AM

I really liked Yan Kit-So's Classic Chinese Cooking. It's from DK publishing and is loaded with pictures, including how to correctly chop vegetables and other prep tasks. Great book.

#23 XiaoLing

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Posted 29 June 2007 - 01:40 PM

I love Yan Kit-So's Classic Chinese Cooking!!

It's one of the best beginners book. It's loaded with pictures and explanations. It's great!

#24 jo-mel

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Posted 29 June 2007 - 08:25 PM

I have Yan Kit Martin's (married name ) "Chinese Cooking - Step-by-Step Techniques". It was published by Random House in NY and the credits say it was published in different form in Great Britian as "Yan-Kit's Classic Chinese Cookbook" ----- so I think we are talking about te same book.

Now there is a book where most of the pictures have meaning -- especially on ingredients and techniques.

Also -- this is a book that goes beyond broccoli as a vegetable. She uses Red in Snow, Pickled Mustard Green, ham hocks, etc.

An excellent book.

#25 A Patric

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Posted 05 July 2007 - 06:52 PM

Just received the Tropp book today from the library. So far it looks great.

I have realized that some of my favorite dishes ar the spicy ones from Szechuan province. Is this the area in China with the spiciest food, or is Hunan?

Also, for someone who likes spicy food, would this books be a good choice:
http://www.amazon.co...83686436&sr=8-1

It seems to have very good reviews.

Best,

Alan

#26 C. sapidus

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Posted 05 July 2007 - 07:58 PM

Also, for someone who likes spicy food, would this books be a good choice:
http://www.amazon.co...83686436&sr=8-1

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Fuchsia Dunop's Land of Plenty is an awesome cookbook, and one of my favorites. I prefer it slightly to her Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook, although you can't go wrong with either one. The deciding factor would be whether you like the mouth-numbing (and to my taste, mouth-watering) flavor of Sichuan peppercorns.

#27 HKDave

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Posted 05 July 2007 - 09:50 PM

Try to get a hold of the old Time-Life Foods of the World Series and get the book, "The Cooking of China".  It's an excellent primer and it's very well written.

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I'd second that; not just well-written but also great photography. It's a good 'about' book in addition to being a 'how-to' book. You can often find old Time-Life cookbooks in Salvation Army stores and there are copies of "The Cooking of China" on eBay (at the moment) for under $2. If you can get it with the companion spiral-bound recipe booklet, even better.

I second or third the recommendation of Dunlop's "Land of Plenty"; it's the standard on Sichuan cooking.
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