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Chinese cookbooks

Chinese Cookbook

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#1 eatingwitheddie

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Posted 17 June 2003 - 11:20 AM

What Chinese cookbooks are your favorites? Most helpful? Least helpful? Why?

#2 MatthewB

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Posted 17 June 2003 - 11:36 AM

Barbara Tropp's The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking.

#3 trillium

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Posted 17 June 2003 - 11:41 AM

For pure Chinese (not Nonya)

Yan Kit So's _Classic Chinese Cookbook_ because it has most of the classics from many regions and isn't too watered down (but her best are the HK/Cantonese recipes).

regards,
trillium

Edited by trillium, 17 June 2003 - 11:41 AM.


#4 jackal10

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Posted 17 June 2003 - 12:07 PM

Florence Lin's Complete Book of Chinese Noodles, Dumplings and Breads

Now sadly out of print, and amazingly expensive on the secondhand market.

#5 torakris

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Posted 17 June 2003 - 04:02 PM

I am a big fan of Nina Simonds stuff, I have 3 of her books.

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#6 tonkichi

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Posted 17 June 2003 - 07:41 PM

For pure Chinese (not Nonya)

Yan Kit So's _Classic Chinese Cookbook_ because it has most of  the classics from many regions and isn't too watered down (but her best are the HK/Cantonese recipes).

regards,
trillium

I would second that. I learnt to cook from this book when I was a homesick student in London.

#7 ecr

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Posted 17 June 2003 - 08:00 PM

Ken Hom's Taste of China. Dishes taste like they came out of a humble home kitchen in China (and the pictures aren't staged). Mrs. Chiang's Szechwan Cookbook (Ellen Schrecker), very authentic.

#8 browniebaker

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Posted 18 June 2003 - 07:40 AM

The most utterly authentic Chinese cookbooks I have found in the English language are the series published by Wei-Chuan Publishing (related to the Wei-Chuan culinary school in Taiwan). Of the series, my personal favorites (bibles in my kitchen, really, and the only Chinese cookbooks I use) are the following:

Chinese Cuisine
Chinese Snacks
Chinese Dim Sum
Chinese Cuisine Szechuan Style
Chinese Cuisine Taiwanese Style
Chinese One Dish Meals
Chinese Cooking for Beginners
Traditional Rice Cooking
Home-style Rice Cooking

Besides that these are completely authentic recipes, the appeal for me lies in that (1) the books are bilingual in Chinese and in English; (2) they have color photographs of the completed dish and of the various steps of preparation; (3) there is a section with color photographs of, and Chinese characters for, the ingredients, which is helpful when I (not a speaker of Mandarin or Cantonese) shop for ingredients in Asian grocery stores; and (4) my mother cooked from the early editions of Chinese Cuisine and Chinese Snacks when I was little in Taiwan, so these recipes let me re-create the tastes of my childhood -- this alone is priceless to me.

The Wei-Chuan books are the only Chinese cookbooks I recommend if someone wants authentically Chinese recipes. I have looked at the other books that people have recommended on this and other threads and, I hate to say it, but a lot of the recipes in them just are not right. (But if you don't know that the recipe is not authentic and you don't care as long as the taste is to your liking, then there is not really any problem, is there? This recalls the issue of whether it matters that a dish be authentic to the cuisine in order to be "good" . . . .)

#9 snowangel

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Posted 18 June 2003 - 08:42 AM

I have 3 of the Wei Chuan cookbooks (snacks, volume 1 and volume 2) and the three Pei Mei cookbooks, purchased in Taiwan in the late 70's.

I also have Tropps Modern Art of Chinese cooking, and one of the things I like in her cookbook is the ingredient lists -- the suggested substitutions were important a few years ago before everything was so readily available in Minneapolis.

I most often, however, do turn to the Wei Chuan cookbooks. They have been very well used. I think they were the first cookbooks I bought for myself when I was a freshman in college and spent several weeks in Taiwan.
Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

#10 MsRamsey

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Posted 18 June 2003 - 08:56 AM

Least helpful: China Moon Cookbook. I finally gave it away. It's necessary to make several subrecipes before making any of the main recipes.
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#11 snowangel

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Posted 18 June 2003 - 12:12 PM

Least helpful:  China Moon Cookbook.  I finally gave it away.  It's necessary to make several subrecipes before making any of the main recipes.

I agree. Nothing like her first cookbook.

I tried selling my copy at a used book store, and they said no because they get so many copies in, and told me that some of the copies they get to sell are copies they sold!

I did copy out a couple of the cookie recipes before giving it to the library. A couple of them were quite good.
Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

#12 trillium

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Posted 18 June 2003 - 12:51 PM

The Wei-Chuan books are the only Chinese cookbooks I recommend if someone wants authentically Chinese recipes. I have looked at the other books that people have recommended on this and other threads and, I hate to say it, but a lot of the recipes in them just are not right. (But if you don't know that the recipe is not authentic and you don't care as long as the taste is to your liking, then there is not really any problem, is there? This recalls the issue of whether it matters that a dish be authentic to the cuisine in order to be "good" . . . .)

Hang on a sec. Not right to you maybe. There is a ton of interpertation that gets done on even classics from region to region. The ethnic Chinese person at my house happens to not like the Wei-Chuan books because he says food made from them is too "Taiwanese" for his taste. But he admits that it's his tastes, with his regional biases. When his unit did some training in Taiwan, he hated the rice because "it smelled funny". There are huge differences in taste between people from a country that huge and with a diaspora that big. I once made some classic Cantonese-style choy yuk bao that a Taiwanese guy couldn't eat because he thought they weren't "authentic" ...I learned how to make 'em from my friend's Cantonese speaking no English granny. One person's authentic might be drastically different from another person's. That's regional variation for you.

regards,
trillium

#13 ecr

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Posted 18 June 2003 - 09:54 PM

Agree with Trillium. Sounds like "right" to you means "the way it tastes in Taiwan" or, "the way it tastes if a graduate of the Wei Chuan culinary school prepared it."

This whole thing about "authenticity" --- a yuxiang rousi (shredded pork in fish-taste sauce) in Sichuan is quite different from a yuxiang rousi in Shanghai (more vinegar-y in Shanghai). So which version is "authentic"? How does one even know when one has had the "authentic" version of a dish? Mapo dofu made in a home kitchen in Chengdu tastes different than the version at that city's famous (and old) mapo dofu restaurant --- which is "authentic"? Can I even eat "authentic" Cantonese-style dim sum in Beijing?

I'm guilty of using the "A" word in my original post too, and I'm gonna take it back bec. *especially* when one is talking about a country with as many regional variations as China has, debating "authenticity" is, IMO, a huge waste of time.

So --- to clarify my first post: when I cook Chinese I'm looking to reproduce fragrances, tastes and textures that I remember from my meals (primarily in small, casual eateries, in pple's homes, or on the street .... food that is quite different from true restaurant food) in China. The two books I recommended fulfill *that* particular agenda. And both are user-friendly.

#14 Jon Tseng

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Posted 20 June 2003 - 04:53 PM

pei mei #1 and #2 (pei mei #3 looked deathly dull the one time i saw it in the shop)

fuchsia dunlop on sichuan... hopefully she will write more (last I heard she was off to hunan researching her next oeuvre)

apart from that the cupboard embarrassingly bare :-(

J
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#15 bao

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Posted 21 July 2003 - 07:41 AM

MMMmm. Many have already mentioned some of the ones I favor...
any Fu Pei-Mei cookbook
any Ken Hom cookbook
the Wei-Chuan series
Florence Lin's Complete Book of Chinese Noodles, Dumplings and Breads

... let me also add...
any Cecilia J. Au-Yang cookbook
Chinese Immigrant Cooking by Mary Tsui Ping Yee
The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen by Grace Young
The Chinese Kitchen by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo (her Dim Sum & Dumpling books are equally good)
Chinese DimSum Recipes by Madame Tuan-Hsi Shou
Dim Sum and Other Chinese Street Food by Mai Leung
Dim Sum by Ellen Leong Blonder

Regional differences aside, it's difficult to find a really bad Chinese cookbook unless it's written by an American or the-like trying to replicate something they clearly have no experience with. Fusion books are a whole other animal. Pictures, no pictures, drawings, no drawings really don't matter to me, but will to some folks. When it comes to cookbooks, to me, it's all about the recipes.

Edited by Kristina Motyka, 21 July 2003 - 07:52 AM.


#16 Rhea_S

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Posted 21 July 2003 - 08:13 AM

My favourites are Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen and the Wei Chuan books. I like the latter because most recipes fit on a single page, ingredients are grouped in order of incorporation into the dish and the resulting dish is always good. I like Wisdom because it produces the Cantonese dishes that taste the most similar to those I've had at Cantonese restaurants in Vancouver and at friends' homes.

#17 trillium

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Posted 21 July 2003 - 04:03 PM

oh yeah... I forgot about Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen. I loved that book so much I gave it as gifts to 3 different 2nd G Cantonese friends. One of them liked it so much that she bought it for her sister. It's great for its homestyle dishes, things you don't really find in restaurants. The things I make out of it have the partner sighing wistfully about his dearly departed Hokkian granny.

regards,
trillium

#18 Rhea_S

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Posted 22 July 2003 - 09:34 AM

I forgot one more that I use quite often: The Chinese Gourmet - William Mark. I almost always have very good results and the book is informative and a good read.

I also have Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook, but I don't think I've ever made anything from the book. The size of the book is intimidating while the actual recipes don't look all that exciting. I much prefer cookbooks with photos.

#19 skchai

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Posted 22 July 2003 - 01:26 PM

Some of the deepest insights into Chinese cookery are found not in cookbooks, but in essay collections. The aesthetics of Chinese cookery were covered extremely well in three books that were published quite a while ago (they also contain a recipe or two):

Buwei Yang Chao, How to Cook and Eat in Chinese (London: Faber and Faber, 1956).

F. T. Cheng, Musings of a Chinese Gourmet (London: Hutchinson, 1962).

Hsiang Ju Lin and Tsuifeng Lin, Chinese Gastronomy (London: Thomas Nelson, 1969).

I also strongly recommend two ethnographic / historical reviews of Chinese cookery:

K. C. Chang (ed.), Food in Chinese Culture: Anthropological and Historical Perspectives (Yale University Press, 1977)

E. N. Anderson (ed.), The Food of China (Yale University Press, 1988).

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#20 trillium

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Posted 22 July 2003 - 01:54 PM

For books in that vein, I really enjoy A. Zee's Swallowing Clouds: A Playful Journey Through Chinese Culture, Language, and Cuisine (ISBN: 0295981911).

regards,
trillium

#21 helenas

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Posted 22 July 2003 - 01:59 PM

trillium, just checked the book on amazon: sounds fascinating! Could you tell a bit more about it: especially about the language part. Thank you.

#22 Creeper

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Posted 22 July 2003 - 02:40 PM

The Pei Mei books are great, but I'll also second Nina Simonds books, esp because of their widespread availability. Another wonderful book is The Food of China. I'm not sure who the authors are, but it used to be available on Amazon. Great pictures, recipes, and stories.

#23 trillium

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Posted 22 July 2003 - 06:09 PM

trillium, just checked the book on amazon: sounds fascinating! Could you tell a bit more about it: especially about the language part. Thank you.

Well, he tells stories/folklore about the characters (to help you remember them) and dishes with cool names (like A Delicacy for Aging Men or No
Contest Between Fish and a Bear With Eight Legs) and tries to teach you the characters you need to read Chinese menus. He is really witty and not boring. The book is kind of a blend of philosophy, food, fables and language (even some poetry about food).

To tell you the truth, I need to replace my copy, my friend went to Hong Kong to visit her grandmother and stole my copy because she wanted to bone up on stuff. I noticed they've come out with a second printing, which was great because it was out of print for quite a while. Anyway, I remember that he said he would consider the book a success if it confounded librarians and booksellers when it came to catagorize it. I was surprised to find it in the China section instead of the culinary section at Powell's here in Portland.

regards,
trillium

#24 cwyc

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Posted 31 July 2003 - 07:30 AM

I like Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen by Grace Young and Every Grain of Rice by aunt and neice team, Ellen Blonder and Annabel Low. Both books are not just cookbooks, but rather a history and story of Chinese life in America. The recipes are family style, home cooking. There are also sections on special occasion foods and dishes, but both focuses more on how food plays a central role in the life of Chinese families.

#25 Ruth

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Posted 31 July 2003 - 08:10 AM

I am surprised no-one has mentioned Ken Hom, a prolific cook book author. One of his best is "Fragrant Harbor Taste" featuring the modern Hong Kong dishes. As in French cuisine, some Chinese dishes are codified and few cook book authors deviate from tradition, but, in the majority of cases, every chef has his own distinctive style and when I am looking for a recipe I generally check through half a dozen or so and choose the one that suits my mood of the moment and the ingredients in my refrigerator.
Ruth Friedman

#26 Jon Tseng

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Posted 31 July 2003 - 08:38 AM

Yes, I have that book. It is very good - an interesting glimpse into modern HK cooking, taking, adapting lightening from traditional cuisine.

His other books are also very accessible. Probably prefer them to Ken Lo

J
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#27 Flocko

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Posted 31 July 2003 - 08:59 AM

For books in that vein, I really enjoy A. Zee's Swallowing Clouds: A Playful Journey Through Chinese Culture, Language, and Cuisine (ISBN: 0295981911). 

regards,
trillium

A great, fun, and educational book. I, likewise am glad to see it in print again.
Bill Benge
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#28 mukki

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Posted 02 August 2003 - 01:32 PM

Florence Lin's Complete Book of Chinese Noodles, Dumplings and Breads

Now sadly out of print, and amazingly expensive on the secondhand market.

I have this book, as well; in fact, I just made Shao Bing from it this morning to stuff with spiced beef shank and cilantro.

Other favorites include Chinese Cuisine and Chinese Snacks by Huang Su-Huei.

#29 chengdude

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Posted 06 August 2003 - 11:02 PM

Some notable selections from the shelves:

Coffee-Table/Picture Books:

Mark THE CHINESE GOURMET
CHINA THE BEAUTIFUL COOKBOOK
Chong THE HERITAGE OF CHINESE COOKING
International Culinary Society THE GREAT BOOK OF CHINESE COOKING
Hom THE TASTE OF CHINA
Tiger/Wolf/Yin CHINA'S FOOD

All of these have great photos, CHINA'S FOOD is especially artful with ingredient and culture shots (Eileen Yin Fei Lo is also a reliable source for recipes, but that is not the true emphasis of the book), Ken Hom's book is great for cultural anecdotes and photos (good recipes too), and Elizabeth Chong's book gets special mention for incorporating a lot of history, culture, and fine art in a food context.


Dim Sum:

Lin THE COMPLETE BOOK OF CHINESE NOODLES DUMPLINGS AND BREADS
Yin THE DIM SUM BOOK
Wei Chuan Editions CHINESE SNACKS
Various CLASSIC DEEM SUM

These 4 give the best foundation for frying, steaming, and baking up buns, noodles, flatbreads, dumplings, etc. I have a number of others but these are the best. Get the latest edition of CHINESE SNACKS; the early Wei Chuan books (hardcovers, usually) are disasters.


Sichuan:

Dunlop LAND OF PLENTY (SICHUAN COOKERY outside the USA)

The last word, so far, for all things Sichuan. Good to see, however, that Sichuan hotpot remains as mysterious as ever...her treatment is woefully inadequate and simplistic, so you still have to go to Sichuan to enjoy the special alchemy that goes into making a great vat of huoguo.


General:

So THE CLASSIC FOOD OF CHINA
China Pictorial, eds. CLASSIC CUISINE FROM THE MASTER CHEFS OF CHINA
Tropp THE MODERN ART OF CHINESE COOKING

Yan-Kit So adds a lot of history and explanatory notes to her recipes and CLASSIC CUISINE has an unbeatable section devoted to ingredients and preparation (characters and Pinyin included). The recipes lean toward banquet fare, however. The late Barbara Tropp was the first Western author to really tackle and demystify Chinese food while thoroughly explaining preparation and techniques. For that, MODERN ART gets a mention, despite the fact that the recipes don't always work and can be a bit fussy (but nowhere near the fussiness of her next effort, THE CHINA MOON COOKBOOK, which has been panned by others already).


History/Culture:

Anderson THE FOOD OF CHINA
Chang, ed FOOD IN CHINESE CULTURE
Zee SWALLOWING CLOUDS
Simoons FOOD IN CHINA
Vol 6 Number 5 of SCIENCE AND CIVILISATION OF CHINA

These 5 books are about all the layperson needs to become well-versed in the history and culture of food in China. The Simoons book can get rather dry and technical, but is massive and well-researched. Speaking of massive and technical, the SCIENCE AND CIVILISATION volume (from the Joseph Needham series published by Cambridge) requires a lot of effort to slog through, especially for the academic use of Wade-Giles transliteration, but is pretty much the one-volume reference for the origins of many foodstuffs in China.


Eating Out:

McCawley THE EATER's GUIDE TO CHINESE CHARACTERS

Amazingly expensive for what is essentially a pocket-sized paperback. An idiosyncratic classification system as well, but certainly a thorough guide to recognizing and learning (Traditional) characters on restaurant menus.


And one from my Wish List:

Hu CHINESE NEW YEAR FACT AND FANTASY

Frighteningly rare and exhorbitantly expensive when found, William Hu writes about a lot more than just food, but his explanations of the symbolism and traditions of foods during the Spring Festival make this one a long-term goal. Until then, the library will have to suffice.

#30 trillium

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Posted 07 August 2003 - 10:52 AM

Does the Lin book actually tell you how to make noodles or just how to cook them? We're gearing up to try and perfect Cantonese mein, I have a bottle of kan sui (I think it's just potassium carbonate) that we're going to play around with to get a nice firm texture, but a head start from a book would be great.

regards,
trillium





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