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Ethnic cookbooks that don't try to be "accessible"


Shalmanese
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Often, ethnic cookbooks will make substitutions for ingredients, techniques or equipment because the traditional way of doing things is unavailable or rare in english speaking countries. But by doing so, they often lose out on valuable information about how the recipe is prepared traditionally. Additionally, the rapid changes in the food world mean that what was previously difficult to find 2 or 3 years ago is now feasible to accomplish today, rapidly dating those cookbooks (I find it easier to find Shaoxing wine than sherry around here nowadays, I don't know why authors still persist in a substitution that makes little sense).

What I would much prefer is for the author to provide some general guidelines and tips for possible substitutions and approaches but to then present the traditional version so I can decide for myself how to adapt it for my local circumstances.

What are some cookbooks that make no attempt to make foreign recipes "accessible" for me and let me decide for myself?

PS: I am a guy.

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David Thompson's Thai Food is probably in this category. Some of the high-end kaiseki cookbooks don't bother with substitutions (I'm thinking of the Kikunoi book, for example; if you can't find kinome, that's your problem), though these are usually highly selected recipes, not a comprehensive look at a cuisine.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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A Drizzle of Honey : The Lives and Recipes of Spain's Secret Jews is on my long list as an interesting read, but probably highly impractical. It looks at the recipes and culinary traditions of Jews in Spain during the Inquisitions.

"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea." --Pythagoras.

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I have The Cooking Of Southwest France by Paula Wolfert. Some of these recipes take days to complete. Some ingredients are hard to find. I made the trout with prosciutto. My husband preferred his trout breaded and pan fried like the kind you cook over a camp fire. I have not tried another recipe yet.

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I'm not sure it quite counts, as I would consider it accessible due to the ready availability of Chinese ingredients in my area (and she does have some suggestions for substitutions), but Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty seems to present a non-dumbed down look at Sichuan cuisine.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thai Food by David Thompson is basically the book your describing in your post.

'What promoters of vegetarianism maybe don't realize is that much of the world already is living a vegetarian lifestyle, and they ain't too fucking happy about it.'

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I'm not sure it quite counts, as I would consider it accessible due to the ready availability of Chinese ingredients in my area (and she does have some suggestions for substitutions), but Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty seems to present a non-dumbed down look at Sichuan cuisine.

She's just released a new book, "every grain of rice", which sounds as though it's designed to be simpler and more accessible. I was just reading an article by her and found it an odd coincidence to see her mentioned in this thread!

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David Thompson,Thai Food - definitely agree. Also one of the best cookbooks I own.

Diana Kennedy, The Essential Cuisines of Mexico. Just try making those tamales without some basic prior understanding of masa.

Najmieh Batmanglij, The Food Of Life (Persian cookbook). Another book that does not compromise at all, and is all the better for it.

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I'd also add the massive, mulitauthour Cocina del Ecuador. Not only do the authors assume that you know your way around the ingredients, but that your kitchen is equipped with a number of tools that are definitely non-standard for westerners (ie - how many of you have hand-cranked mills for grinding fresh corn kernels? And if you do, do you also have the myriad hand tools for processing manioc roots?)

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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  • 4 weeks later...

Not counting my foreign-language cookbooks (unfortunately, this is usually the best way to get a no-holds-barred approach to local cuisine), I'd add the following, in addition to those recommended by others:

Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art (Shizuo Tsuji)

Fred Plotkin's two Italian cookbooks, on Liguria and Friuli-Venezia Giulia... I'd wish he'd do cookbooks on Lazio, Piemonte, Sardegna and Sicily!

Paula Wolfert's books on Moroccan and Southwestern French cooking--you've gotta admire any cookbook that has a recipe for tajine with agar wood and ambergris

Zarela Martinez's book on Oaxacan cookery (The Food and Life of Oaxaca)

Practical Korean Cooking (I think there's even a recipe for a raw liver-and-tripe dish)

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  • 4 weeks later...

Ha interesting topic, as I'm just researching a blog post about Fu Pei Mei's trilogy of Chinese cookbooks at the moment.

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Fu+Pei+Mei

They do not compromise simply because they come from an age (1960-70s) before the idea of making cookbooks "accessible" didn't exist! It's basically a Chinese cookbook written straight for Chinese housewives translated into English (actually its unusual in that the book includes both Chinese and English text).

The recipes are great, unvarnished Chinese and entirely authentic. The only downside is the translation can be a bit dodgy. We were just looking through mums favourite recipe (spiced duck cold cuts) and found they had missed out a key ingredient on the translated version.

Highly recommended though!

J

More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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