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Chinese cookbooks


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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.

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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.

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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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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

I do believe I read in one of the Florence Lin books that she stated that the size of the eggs and the quality of the flour along with other variables made it impossible to have a recipe for noodles. I do not have her the noodle cookbook, but I know just like every other book I have read she skirts the issue of giving any kind of noodle recipe. I too feel your pain about this noodle thing. Even though my wife is Chinese it does not mean that she is forthcoming on the subject of noodles. Witch has lead me to believe that there is a universal conspiracy by Chinese persons to keep these noodle making secrets from us westerners :huh:

Edited by Sugar Toad (log)
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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.

I'm not exactly sure what "Cantonese mien" are, nor what you would use potassium carbonate for...seems like enough to start a new thread. I haven't tackled making noodles, but almost all the noodle recipes I've seen are quite basic: flour, water, maybe some oil for the dough, salt, maybe some leavening like baking powder, eggs (if making egg noodles, obviously). One recipe calls for "lye water" to stop/kill odors of dough fermentation after a long resting period. The "magic" that another contributor spoke of is, I believe, in the right combination of those simple ingredients and how the resulting dough is treated (resting...sometimes overnight, kneading, stretching, dusting, cutting, etc.). I believe another factor is getting the flour right for the particular recipe: some call for combinations of bread flour and cake flour. Much of the flour I've seen (and bought) in China is quite heavily processed, thus the attention to this factor would seem to make sense. I've seen lots of la mian (pulled noodles) sellers using some nasty, blue-green chemical liquid in their dough...never determined what it was, although a shortcut to adding flexibility for the pulling would seem to be a logical guess.

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I'm not exactly sure what "Cantonese mien" are, nor what you would use potassium carbonate for...seems like enough to start a new thread. 

Potassium carbonate solution is sometimes used in Chinese cooking in place of baking soda (I stumbled across that while researching xiaolong bao wrappers). I'm not sure what the poster means by Cantonese mian either, except that they tend to be thinner than the northern varieties.

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Potassium carbonate is a lot like baking soda. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, just a different salt (potassium instead of sodium). It gets used for color (yellow) texture and taste in things like mooncake pastry, noodles and wrappings. You can buy the liquid solution in almost any Asian grocery, and I think it goes by kan sui in Cantonese. It's different then lye water (but it's usually in the same section on the shelf).

By Cantonese mien I meant the egg/wheat flour type that are cut thinner and flat, and are yellow. I think the most common cuts are for wonton mien (very thin), chow mien (thicker, more like spaghetti alla chitara) and lo mien (more like fettucine). They have a different texture then Hokkien mien (also yellow but round and very chewy) or the Shanghainese stuff without any eggs, or that stuff that gets sold for "Hong Kong" style chow mien.

I'm thinking of trying soft (low protein flour), eggs (from my mum's chickens) and some potassium carbonate. The partner is also asking his step-mum for hints (she doesn't make them but might know some grannies that do).

regards,

trillium

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By Cantonese mien I meant the egg/wheat flour type that are cut thinner and flat, and are yellow.  I think the most common cuts are for wonton mien (very thin), chow mien (thicker, more like spaghetti alla chitara) and lo mien (more like fettucine).  They have a different texture then Hokkien mien (also yellow but round and very chewy) or the Shanghainese stuff without any eggs, or that stuff that gets sold for "Hong Kong" style chow mien.

I follow what you are saying, but didn't I get the "Cantonese" part. They use egg noodles in the north (wonton is of northern origin) though admittedly not for chao mian or tang mian.

The fresh soup noodles we buy in Chinatown SF (90 percent Cantonese clientele) are eggless, as far as I can tell. They typically come in three grades, "regular", "Shanghai" and "Hong Kong", but the only difference appears to be in thickness.

Now that I think about it, maybe the egg compensates for the softness of the wheat flour. (I'm no cook, as you can tell!) A harder wheat is typically used in the U.S. for commercial Chinese style noodles. My wife prefers them to the noodles she was used to in Shanghai, as they stand up better to boiling. (She avoids the thick Shanghai noodles, however, because she finds it difficult to get the right degree of "doneness" in chao mian.) It probably makes sense to go for a softer flour if you are making egg noodles and want to get the same texture and flavor as you would in south China.

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I'm just using Cantonese to specify the type of noodle I'm trying to make. There are endless regional variations in texture, I'm not claiming they're the only region that use egg noodles, just that that type of style is what we're shooting for.

What brand of soup noodles do you buy in SF? If it's the wonton mien from New Hong Kong Noodle Co., then it does contain egg, unless they've changed their recipe drastically since I last lived there. Usually, the yellow noodles are supposed to contain egg, even if they use FD&C yellow and potassium carbonate along with egg "product" instead.

regards,

trillium

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I'm enjoying this thread, as I love cooking Asian food, but I tend to have Asian cookbooks that cover a few different types of cuisine, not solely Chinese.

I have three Nina Simonds books (Spoonful of Ginger, Asian Noodles and China Express), so I can vouch for those. I also have Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen, but have only made a few things out of there. (The sweet and sour pork is awesome.)

I'm curious, though, about your opinions of Martin Yan's cookbooks. I only have one, and have liked everything I've made out of there, but again, it has a mix of Asian dishes, not solely Chinese.

I'll have to check out Ken Hom's books.

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To add one more to the list, I also like the Time-Life series book "Chinese Cooking" because sometimes the recipes work for me better than my other books. For example, har gau is flawless from this book, at least for me. Tastes just like the restaurant variety.

I love cold Dinty Moore beef stew. It is like dog food! And I am like a dog.

--NeroW

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I'm fortunate to have many of the Chinese Cookbooks in my Library as well as a complete set of the "Time-Life Series". However my favorite cookbook is "Five Treasures of Chinese Cuisine" written by Flora L. Chang and Gaynell M. Fuchs published by Oriental Publishing Co. in Honolulu, Hawaii. There are sometimes copies available at used bookstores, if you find one buy it, you won't be sorry. It very interesting and comprehensive with dishes written with Chinese Characters together with Chinese and English indexes. Every recipe has been carefully tested, prior to publication as well as explained. I remember having "Noodles' custom made as "Tai Tai's' often did, in Hong Kong. Buying the fresh Shrimp Fat or Roe, Duck Eggs and bringing this to the noodle maker who would make the delicious, Shrimp Fat, Egg Noodles while we watched and waited. So many of her recipes are improvements on popular dishes now served at many places

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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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

The Lin book does indeed provide instructions on making several types of noodles, as well as cooking them.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Well, it looks as though I'm among friends! I have quite a large library of Chinese cookbooks but by the time I read this far I realised that you had all picked the best of the bunch! This begs the question what you feel is missing from the books you've read. Have any of the books fallen short in some way? What was missing?

All the best,

Edited by Ian (log)
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  • 2 months later...

(Hope you all don't mind my bringing up an old topic. I'm still wading my way through all the wonderful posts.)

It's hard to add to the wonderful books listed in this thread! From my first Calvin Lee's "Chinese Cooking for American Kitchens, in the '50s, to Dunlop's Land of Plenty -- my newest, I cherish them all. There is always something special to find in even the most humble of books. I can't pick a favorite. They are like friends.

I do agree about Tropp's "China Moon", and I'm delighted to see the Chinese food/culture books included. Fascinating readings!

My copy of "The Eater's Guide to Chinese Characters is being held together by elastics!

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I have sereral in my collection, many have passed through my kitchen from various libraries but I have three favorites. In order:

The Gourmet Chinese Regional Cookbook by Calvin B.T. and Audrey Evans Lee

This was my first volume about Chinese cooking that I acquired in 1978.

The thing I like most about this volume is that the book covers the cultural and historical backgrounds about how a particular region came to produce it's own unique flavorings and culinary styles. I also find it valuable because it has recipes from the major regions of China. When I do a Chinese dinner party, I want to have a variety of taste sensations, while I could be happy with sichuan alone, I want something broader in a full menu.

Land Of Plenty by Fuschia Dunlop

This volume is very new and I like it for many of the same reasons as the previous one. While it addresses only the region of Sichuan it includes lots of information about the culture and history of the region. Agreed, there is no substitute for sichuan peppercorns but there are some recipes here that do not call for it. It would be a valuable read from a library if sichuan peppercorns remain hard to find, just for the techniques and other ingredients mentioned. The section for appetizers and dumplings is quite extensive. I wish there were more recipes for beef and lamb as pork is the main "meat" focus as it is in the region. (Lamb dishes are more popular in the north.) Just a side note of personal preference.

Mrs. Chaing's Szechuwan Cookbook by Ellen Schrecker with John Schrecker

The recipes are from Mrs. Chaing, the editing, layout and commentary by the authors. The thing I like about this book is that when the ingredients are listed, the text with how they are going to be used is laid out right next to them on the page. For some, this can help with conceptual leap between ingredients and how to manage them and when they are going to be used.

I think any good cookbook about China, or any country for that matter, will have good information about the area, it's history and culture, and often the way the geography affects the either the food resources or how they are produced. These books above have all those things and great recipes.

Edited by stellarWOK (log)
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Anything by Kenneth Lo, especially "the Encyclopaedia of Chinese Cooking" (??). Rhoda Yee's "Dim Sum" book is almost getting too dog eared to use now :rolleyes: I have a library of books and a good repertoire, but if I need a refresher on a technique, I refer to Lo's book. Rhoda's book is a good reference for basic dimsum, but her dimsum is not as stylish and refined as what the modern restaurants serve now. Still her style is what I grew up with.

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Rhoda Yee's "Dim Sum" book is  almost getting too dog eared to use now  :rolleyes: .

LOL! You described my copy, which is held together with industrial tape!!

Sometimes some of my less well-known books give me something that is priceless to me. Just one recipe, and the book has a special place on the shelf.

For example, a little booklet by Cecilia J. Au-Yeung's Chopsticks Recipes and Chinese Casseroles has a steamed rice dish 'Garlic Rice' which combines regular white rice with glutinous rice. It is a rice that can stand by itself.

Another is Nobuko Sakamoto's The People's Republic of China Cookbook. This one gave me Copper Well Street Plain Noodles. A wonderful plain noodle dish (that uses Sichuan peppercorns!) I've since seen it in another book, but I still have allegiance to the first time I found it.

Both books have other great recipes, but those 2 dishes stand out.

I'm making me hungry!!

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  • 1 month later...

Earlier, someone mentioned "The Thousand Recipe Cookbook" by Gloria Bley Miller. That book came out at a time when there were few books around. It was my bible for awhile.

There is a complete section of 'Supplementary Information' that was quite useful at the time --- substitutions, storage, how to, a glossary, soaking, terminology, etc. Unfortunately, the newer edition isn't as complete.

But I have to laugh about how things have changed over the years. So many of the ingredients in the 'storage' section that were said not to require refrigeration ----- now have "Refrigerate after opening" plastered all over the labels! Our litigious society?

Another book I cherish is "The Mandarin Way" by Cecelia Chiang. It is more a memoire than a cookbook, but I have read it several times, and often refer to it for rites and rituals. She lived in a fascinating time and crossed the bridge from the old, into a new life. Quite a gratious woman.

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It's a little red passport-sized booklet published by the People's Government of Shanghai. It's called (translating here) Certificate of Marriage.

Gary: :unsure:

How does your cookbook do with Cantonese Recipes?

Irwin :biggrin:

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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