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Carlovski

Vegetarian cookbooks

77 posts in this topic

As a new (Experimental) vegetarian (See here for more details) I have been going through quite a few cookbooks and online resources.

A lot of them are fairly poor to say the least. Also seems to be a theory that if you are vegetarian you must want to eat 'Healthy' food all the time, or they are full of meat substitute recipes.

The thing that really gets me is that in so many of the books - even some of the better ones (The Cranks one in particular) is that they seem to put soy sauce (Well usually tamari actually) in everything. Don't get me wrong, I love soy sauce - in moderation and in the right things. But to put it in anything creamy, cheesy or mayonnaisey just seems wrong to me!


I love animals.

They are delicious.

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We have "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" by Deborah Madison and have been really happy with the variety and taste of the recipes so far.

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Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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Even though soy, cheese, and mayonnaise can totally, happily coexist (see okonomiyaki), I know exactly what you mean, and to me, that is exactly the kind of vegetarian cooking that can put you off of it forever. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't really get the feeling that that approach to vegetarian cooking is actually targeted at cooks, more for people who want to make vegetarian food at home without much thought or effort. It's like the "Beatles Complete Chord Songbook"...you're not really playing those songs.

Maybe the analogy is flawed. Regardless, I'll be back to recommend some non-soy-centric vegetarian recipe sources in a bit (hopefully).

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While it's not entirely a vegetarian cookbook, if you can find a copy of 'The Victory Garden Cookbook' from the old pbs series you can get tons of recipes and ideas from it. You'd have to sub in some cases (ie, vegetable broth instead of beef..that sort of thing). It's not macrobiotic, just a book to show you how to use the fruits of your labor. I've had a copy for 20 years, and still go back to it prn. If it's out of print you may be able to find a copy on alibris.com. I'd offer you mine, but my niece has already claimed it!

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do you think the use of soy is to replace the "umami" flavor that you lose from not eating meat? maybe cookbooks that include soy sauce are worried too much about including meat-like flavors rather than just celebrating the existing flavors in the vegetables themselves. sort of approaching vegetarianism the wrong way.

i also feel this way about all the fake meats out there. if you're a vegetarian, embrace it...don't run around trying to find fake bacon and fake burgers and particularly fake hot dogs (why make an already gross product even grosser?). why bother? just eat the real thing if you want it. but i know even the buddhists ate fake meat (wheat gluten and tofu skin) years and years ago...

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From the "stating the obvious" department:

Most Indian cookbooks are free of the soy sauce

dilemma and the meat analogue approach.

Ethiopian cuisine also has great vegetarian food.

Gosh: there have to be lots of Mediterranean menus

that would fit these requirements......

I've found Madhur Jaffrey's cookbooks:

World Vegetarian and

World of the East Vegetarian Cooking

really helpful to incorporate Indian and non-Indian slants to

vegetarian cooking.

I've also heard excellent things about Deborah Madison's books.

Question:

What do you all think of the Moosewood cookbooks?

I've gleaned a good recipe or three from them over the years,

but I've found they need a LOT of tweaking because they are very

bland as written (e.g. I routinely triple the spices).

It's from them I got the great idea to add bulgur to vegetarian

chili for bulk and chewiness.... It works excellently......

Also, I've always been bugged about the fact that in their international

recipe collections, cuisines of Italy, China, etc etc are written by

people with actual experience and connection to the cultures, but

the section on India seems to have been written by someone

with no India connection whatsoever, who

learned all their dishes second or third hand from a cookbook while playing

Ravi Shankar sitar music for the "total" experience..... :wacko:

Especially for recent editions, couldn't they have updated with

contributions from more connected sources?

Milagai

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i also feel this way about all the fake meats out there.  if you're a vegetarian, embrace it...don't run around trying to find fake bacon and fake burgers and particularly fake hot dogs (why make an already gross product even grosser?).  why bother?  just eat the real thing if you want it.  but i know even the buddhists ate fake meat (wheat gluten and tofu skin) years and years ago...

If you're not a vegetarian, maybe you're not in much position to

judge :biggrin: ?

I totally agree that it's misguided to approach vegetarian cuisine

from a deficiency perspective and try to fill in the non-meat gaps,

rather than taking it in its own right.

But if someone wants to be vegetarian, and wasn't raised that way,

and misses meat, and finds analogues tasty, then why the &*(^ not?

Also - there seem to be many of the Buddhist type restaurants

(at least in the US) that are based on the fake meats, that this trend

seems alive and well and not back in the old days......?

Milagai

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I totally agree that it's misguided to approach vegetarian cuisine

from a deficiency perspective and try to fill in the non-meat gaps,

rather than taking it in its own right. 

But if someone wants to be vegetarian, and wasn't raised that way,

and misses meat, and finds analogues tasty, then why the &*(^ not? 

i know and understand the point. most of these products are new inventions to make up for "fad" vegetarianism. basing vegetarian cuisine on cultures that have embraced that style of eating, i think you end up with much tastier meals than heating up a fake meat product...that's more my point than anything else.

and i'm not judging so much as just stating my opinion...but i'm bound to be attacked for it regardless of how i word it. even if it is softened by the addition of an emoticon :wink:

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If you go back to your original thread, you'll find that a number of excellent books were mentioned. Have you tried any of the ones by authors in the U.S.? Are they accessible at libraries if too expensive to buy?

In addition to Madison, Jaffhrey, Thomas, Bishop and perhaps even Passionmelondragon or whatever her name is, there are authors of books devoted exclusively to vegetable-rich cuisines such as Italian or Persian, as well as excellent books that focus on baking and vegetables.

It sounds as if you need to spend more time looking at established topics devoted to cookbooks or elsewhere online scouring book reviews to identify cookbooks that intrigue you. I'd encourage you not to focus exclusively on vegetarian tomes (see comment about Italy & Iran/Persia above).

For example, I've found new ideas for vegetarian dishes in a book by Suzanne Goin that received awards in 2005 and made David Leite's list of best books for that year. Ludja (and indirectly Racheld in her learned discourse on grits) recently inspired me to check out a book on the cooking of the American South by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock, and it, too, has ideas you'd probably like even if you can't get okra in the U.K.--or can you?

While it's been ages since I've used the first cookbook Molly Katzen wrote as part of the vegetarian co-op, Moosewood, I recall exactly the kind of early cooking vegetarians did without formal training and without much research or a foundation in cuisines that would inspire later generations of talented chefs and authors.

That said, some of those hippiesque ventures are not all bad. At least once a year I adapt a Moosewood recipe for mock Shepherd's Pie that relies on a combination of shredded, thawed frozen tofu, toasted walnuts, sauteed onions, herbs, lemon juice and soy sauce as a sub the ground (minced) beef or lamb. Sounds wretched, but it's brilliant.

ETA: I can't believe the fortuitous timing! Milagai, there's an implicit response to one of your questions here in addition to observations that click with your own. Over time, Katzen & Moosewood have parted ways and both have gotten much more professional as they've responded to new trends in the food world, and their fringe-status has become more mainstream. Of course, their development took place during three decades in which a superior and wider range of raw materials became available for vegetarian cooks to use, at least in the United States. I can't speak for what seems to be a less cosmopolitian location in the UK (true? this is only an inference) where there is not a weekly farmers market down the street.


Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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If you go back to your original thread, you'll find that a number of excellent books were mentioned.  Have you tried any of the ones by authors in the U.S.?   Are they accessible at libraries if too expensive to buy?

Echoing Pontormo's question to the OP:

1. Can you tell us titles of books you *have* tried?

2. Do they represent typical vegetarian cookbooks available in the UK?

3. Are some of the vegetarian cookbooks previously suggested

(that don't have the fake and soy issues) not accessible in the UK?

Pontormo: thanks for the feedback on the Moosewood bks,

and I got a good laugh out of that name Passionmelondragon etc.

What's the story behind that person's name?


Edited by Milagai (log)

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Also seems to be a theory that if you are vegetarian you must want to eat 'Healthy' food all the time, or they are full of meat substitute recipes.

The first two Vegetarian Epicures are full of butter ! Great stuff in pastries, ets. Not the healthiest but sure yummy........and no soy sauce . :smile:

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I should add that many vegetarian foodies of my personal acquaintaince do not care for those modern mock-hamburgers and mock-hotdogs etc. one bit, but find themselves using them--or worse, having them thrust upon them by well-meaning but clueless non-vegetarians!--at events like barbecues, where all the omnivores are chowing on beef burgers and the harried (non-vegetarian) host decided to put no real creative effort into providing a non-meat alternative.

The portobello mushroom strategy is another one majorly overused by non-vegetarians to cope with vegetarian dinner guests. I've in fact heard at least one vegetarian friend fume that if they were served one more grilled portobello mushroom by a non-vegetarian host thinking they had come up with a cleverly original non-meat main, they were going to scream. :laugh:

I'll also reiterate the point made upstream, that the "fake meats" that have been perfected over centuries of tradition in the Chinese Buddhist vegetarian tradition are an entirely different--and IMO an entirely superior--category from the modern Boca Burgers etc. of western convenience-food culture.

That said, of the several examples of vegetarian cookbooks on my shelf, some are much more successful than others. Moosewood, for all its early-hippiedom naivete, does have some very charming concepts and ideas (I too think its idea of using bulghur, rather than TVP or some other godforsaken crap, as the texture component in its vegetarian chili an extremely successful idea--and matched with the beans in that chili, voila: complete protein in one dish!). And Madhur Jaffrey, with her first-hand knowledge of many of the cuisines she writes about, produces some extremely reliable veg cookbooks (all the more remarkable because she herself is apparently an omnivore, having written many meat-and-seafood-laden cookbooks too).

On the other hand, I once bought this monstrosity called something like "1001 low-fat vegetarian recipes" that turned out to represent every nightmare cliche about bad imitative-of-omnivore-food vegetarian cookery I've ever heard of--sadly, also sporting every nightmare cliche about lowfat cookery as well (i.e. heavy use of diet-industry nonfat and/or low-cal substitute products). This cookbook I can enthusiastically dis-recommend for anything other than a doorstop--fortunately I picked it up in a used bookstore so it didn't cost me all that much. :rolleyes:

Bear in mind that there are also plenty of totally-sucky omnivore cookbooks out there as well--bad cookbooks are not the exclusive province of vegetarian cookery, but rather a universal plague, so one shouldn't be blaming vegetarianism as such for this problem. :wink:

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Bear in mind that there are also plenty of totally-sucky omnivore cookbooks out there as well--bad cookbooks are not the exclusive province of vegetarian cookery, but rather a universal plague, so one shouldn't be blaming vegetarianism as such for this problem. :wink:

I agree wholeheartedly! Well said.

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I'm going to second (or third) Pontormo's initial advice: I wouldn't even Google for the word "vegetarian", because you'll generally get this budget/convenience/tamari cooking.

Read your favorite chefs and learn from their meatless or vegetable-centric recipes. As fuct as StarChefs is, I've gotten a ton a great vgtarian ideas from it. Check out the recipes from Pascal Barbot, Todd English, and Hubert Keller for starters...

And at the other end of the spectrum, for an example of the soy/fake approach applied to celebrity chefdom, check out Roxanne Klein. I'm sure she's a lovely person and there are some good ideas there, but titling recipes like that really doesn't do vegetarianism any favors (the whole imitating "real food" thing).

EDIT: While I'm seconding, I'll add another echo to the Madhur Jaffrey recommendation, the one I have is The Madhur Jaffrey Cookbook (853pg.), which I can't seem to find on Amazon UK. It's very good. I believe it's a collection of two previously separate cookbooks, Eastern Vegetarian Cooking, and An Invitation to Indian Cooking. I use the former much more frequently than the latter.


Edited by markemorse (log)

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If you go back to your original thread, you'll find that a number of excellent books were mentioned.  Have you tried any of the ones by authors in the U.S.?  Are they accessible at libraries if too expensive to buy?

Echoing Pontormo's question to the OP:

1. Can you tell us titles of books you *have* tried?

2. Do they represent typical vegetarian cookbooks available in the UK?

3. Are some of the vegetarian cookbooks previously suggested

(that don't have the fake and soy issues) not accessible in the UK?

Pontormo: thanks for the feedback on the Moosewood bks,

and I got a good laugh out of that name Passionmelondragon etc.

What's the story behind that person's name?

I believe the lady in question's name is Crescent Dragonwagon, and she's been around forever, since back when I was a hippie!


"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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I flicked through quite a few at the library - I can't remember most of the titles. I only took out a couple (I was carrying shopping at the time so didn't want to add too much to the load!) There was at least one Moosewood cookbook - seemed a little too hippies and brown rice for me....

Most of the books were at the 'Good Housekeeping' end of the market - if you know what I mean, recipes written by home economists rather than chefs or keen food writers.

The Cranks book I did take out was a bit similar in places, and a lot of the recipes seemed to have one or two more ingredients than I felt were strictly necessary. I took out another - more of a straight recipe book that I will make some things out of - there was a good sounding noodle salad which I think will make a good work lunch.

I have reserved the Madhur Jaffery 'World Vegetarian' book too - I've taken it out before for specific recipies - and I like her writing (I have already have an invitiation to indian cooking)

Re. my less cosmopolitan location, yes I live In Southampton - it's a fair sized industrial port, but not much for food lovers, there was a well regarded vegetarian restaurant but it has apparently shut down. Also was a really good fun place which served lots of small dishes in a communal eating style - everything was either preprepared or cooked on their open charcoal grill and they all the food came from local suppliers (I remember some very good lamb, but to be honest the courgettes were equally memorable). But that shut down too :angry:

There is an infrequent and fairly small farmers market, but I can easily get to Winchester which is twice a month. I think the Farmers would like to make it weekly (It's by far the most succesful) though.

I like the idea of the Bulghar wheat to give that elusive chewiness that is often missing.

I'm also less troubled by the ubiquitous portabello mushroom - in fact at barbecues thats usually what I have, even when I am eating meat. I really like mushrooms! And far better than the nasty 'mixed vegetable kebab' - dried shrivelled mushrooms, overcooked peppers and squidgy courgettes, all basically tasting the same.

Hmm - just noticed, should really replace my sig :hmmm:


Edited by Carlovski (log)

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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Read your favorite chefs and learn from their meatless or vegetable-centric recipes. As fuct as StarChefs is, I've gotten a ton a great vgtarian ideas from it. Check out the recipes from Pascal Barbot, Todd English, and Hubert Keller for starters...

And at the other end of the spectrum, for an example of the soy/fake approach applied to celebrity chefdom, check out Roxanne Klein. I'm sure she's a lovely person and there are some good ideas there, but titling recipes like that really doesn't do vegetarianism any favors (the whole imitating "real food" thing).

I think a good tip is to avoid any recipes originating from California :raz:

And I am never going to use any product called 'Rawmesan'. And Cashew cheese is never really going to replace roquefort for me....


I love animals.

They are delicious.

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I think a good tip is to avoid any recipes originating from California  :raz:

To the contrary. You could learn a lot from Alice Waters, Deborah Madison, Suzanne Goin, Russ Parsons...

It makes sense that the state that produces the largest amount of produce for the rest of the country, one with a year-round growing season would be a Mecca for good chefs and inventive authors of food-related literature. Vineyards, cheese-producers, and families arriving from Mexico and Latin America also play a significant role in shaping California's wonderful food.

Prejudice responds to one aspect of California's reputation, to be sure. But think of the number of excellent chefs and cookbook authors who were raised on the kinds of meals that Nigel Slater describes in Toast! :raz:


Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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(I too think its idea of using bulghur, rather than TVP or some other godforsaken crap, as the texture component in its vegetarian chili an extremely successful idea--and matched with the beans in that chili, voila: complete protein in one dish!).

Just for the record: the "complete protein" myth was long ago

exploded by nutritionists - your body does all the combining needed

all by itself, from various plant based foods eaten over the day.

You DONT have

to actually create combinations in every dish you cook.

Most vegetarian cuisines however do have strong traditions of

food combinations - e.g. dal and chapatis, beans and rice, etc.

that just go together, and that effortlessly do this work for you.....

You'd never eat dal or beans just by themselves (for a meal

I mean, not one of those raiding-the-fridge-at-midnight snacks).....

Milagai

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I should add that many vegetarian foodies of my personal acquaintaince do not care for those modern mock-hamburgers and mock-hotdogs etc. one bit, but find themselves using them--or worse, having them thrust upon them by well-meaning but clueless non-vegetarians!--at events like barbecues, where all the omnivores are chowing on beef burgers and the harried (non-vegetarian) host decided to put no real creative effort into providing a non-meat alternative.

JMHO: Of all the possible evils, I'd rather have the mock whatevers

than be presented with fish, chicken, things made with beef stock,

or be told "you can just pick the turkey out, right?".....

(all actually happened to me).....

:biggrin:

baby steps......

OTOH: I've been afflicted more times than I can count by people

(both meater and veggie) who dislike and pick out and throw away

all kinds of lovely vegetables - from asparagus to tomatoes,

who are deeply suspicious of beans,

and who won't eat analogs either, what DO they eat?

Milagai

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Thanks to Pontormo for coming to our defense. I think there are probably more vegetarians in Ca than anywhere outside Asia.

Have you seen the Greens cookbooks? They have wonderful recipes and, especially Fields of Greens is lower in fats in many of their recipes.

Fake food is fake food so I say avoid the plastic cheeses, phony meats, etc. and keep experimenting.

I didn't see Didi Emmons' book Vegetarian Planet mentioned and it has some good and interesting recipes.

Another vote for Madhur Jaffreyand World of the East. I was looking at my copy just yesterday and it still makes my mouth water.

I'm not a vegetarian but havae cooked a lot of vegetarian foods for my family and in the restaurants.

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Hi, Milagai--once again, I think we're actually on the same wavelength here ...

(I too think its idea of using bulghur, rather than TVP or some other godforsaken crap, as the texture component in its vegetarian chili an extremely successful idea--and matched with the beans in that chili, voila: complete protein in one dish!).

Just for the record: the "complete protein" myth was long ago exploded by nutritionists - your body does all the combining needed all by itself, from various plant based foods eaten over the day. You DONT have to actually create combinations in every dish you cook. Most vegetarian cuisines however do have strong traditions of food combinations - e.g. dal and chapatis, beans and rice, etc.

that just go together, and that effortlessly do this work for you.....You'd never eat dal or beans just by themselves (for a meal I mean, not one of those raiding-the-fridge-at-midnight snacks).....

Oh, I've totally known that for years too. Even "Diet for a Small Planet" lady Frances Moore Lappe recanted on her original obsession with protein-complementarity in subsequent editions of her book. But I still think it's kinda neat when a non-traditional dish just does the protein-complementing thing as an unforced result of its ingredients, the way a traditional dish evolved over centuries would do.

I should add that many vegetarian foodies of my personal acquaintaince do not care for those modern mock-hamburgers and mock-hotdogs etc. one bit, but find themselves using them--or worse, having them thrust upon them by well-meaning but clueless non-vegetarians!--at events like barbecues, where all the omnivores are chowing on beef burgers and the harried (non-vegetarian) host decided to put no real creative effort into providing a non-meat alternative.

JMHO: Of all the possible evils, I'd rather have the mock whatevers than be presented with fish, chicken, things made with beef stock, or be told "you can just pick the turkey out, right?".....(all actually happened to me).....

:biggrin:

baby steps......

OTOH: I've been afflicted more times than I can count by people (both meater and veggie) who dislike and pick out and throw away all kinds of lovely vegetables - from asparagus to tomatoes, who are deeply suspicious of beans, and who won't eat analogs either, what DO they eat?

Totally agreed that there are much more distressing situations a vegetarian can confront than being served yet another Gardenburger! I confess, though, that this is partly my own foodie streak just reacting to boring food in general, going "man, there's so much greater room for inventiveness here! Why not go for the gusto instead of taking the no-thought way out? Especially when the gusto would be just a hair more effort than simply buying a prefab veg-slab! "

To be fair, though, I find myself thinking similar thoughts about lots of omnivore fare too. It's one thing when it's unplanned or an emergency or something, but hey, if someone's gone to the trouble to invite people over in advance... well, yeah, it's lovely to hang out and all, but ... jeez, don't tell me you feed yourselves this same boring food all the time, too! You poor people! Maybe I need to cook for you sometime! :laugh:

Which leads to my also having long wondered about those picky eaters (of any food philosophy) who seem to never willingly consume a (non-starchy) vegetable ever--how they don't come down with deficiency diseases I'll never understand. :smile:

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When I was vegetarian, I almost never cooked from veg cookbooks or magazines for the reasons discussed here. Deborah Madison's books are an exception-I still like those. Instead, I always found plenty to cook in cookbooks that focused on Italian, Mediterranean, and Asian cuisines. To me, it makes a lot more sense to cook from recipes that were developed because they taste good (ie from a good Italian cookbook), not recipes that were developed to exclude particular food items while mimicking others.

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I was married to a vegetarian for 25 years, and gave it a shot for a little bit myself, so even though I returned to my carnivorean roots, I've done a lifetime of vegetarian cooking.

Seriously, those Greens cookbooks are terrific (you're operating on the English notion of Californianism, which doesn't hold water in this case). I'd also recommend the later versions of the Moosewood cookbooks. For example, "Sundays at the Moosewood Restaurant," in which they stop trying to mimic meat dishes with tofu and sprouts and actually use international recipes which never had meat to begin with.

If you like mushrooms, I found that soaking dried wild mushrooms in fortified wines like madeira and marsala, then using that mushroom infused liquor as stock really gave flavor to a lot of dishes.

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Not sure about your tamari question, Carlovski, but I absolutely recommend Deborah Madison's books; she has a way with vegetables, and I don't recall too many recipes requiring soy sauce.

Also worth checking out is The World Food Cafe Cookbook; all the recipes are 'naturally' vegetarian, meaning that it's a dish that didn't have meat in the first place, so there's no need to replace it with something else. It's also most likely available where you are since the cafe itself is in London.

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      A few weeks ago I bought a copy of this cookbook which is a best-selling spin off from the highly successful television series by China Central Television - A Bite of China as discussed on this thread.   .
       

       
      The book was published in August 2013 and is by Chen Zhitian (陈志田 - chén zhì tián). It is only available in Chinese (so far). 
       
      There are a number of books related to the television series but this is the only one which seems to be legitimate. It certainly has the high production standards of the television show. Beautifully photographed and with (relatively) clear details in the recipes.
       
      Here is a sample page.
       

       
      Unlike in most western cookbooks, recipes are not listed by main ingredient. They are set out in six vaguely defined chapters. So, if you are looking for a duck dish, for example, you'll have to go through the whole contents list. I've never seen an index in any Chinese book on any subject. 
       
      In order to demonstrate the breadth of recipes in the book and perhaps to be of interest to forum members who want to know what is in a popular Chinese recipe book, I have sort of translated the contents list - 187 recipes.
       
      This is always problematic. Very often Chinese dishes are very cryptically named. This list contains some literal translations. For some dishes I have totally ignored the given name and given a brief description instead. Any Chinese in the list refers to place names. Some dishes I have left with literal translations of their cryptic names, just for amusement value.
       
      I am not happy with some of the "translations" and will work on improving them. I am also certain there are errors in there, too.
       
      Back in 2008, the Chinese government issued a list of official dish translations for the Beijing Olympics. It is full of weird translations and total errors, too. Interestingly, few of the dishes in the book are on that list.
       
      Anyway, for what it is worth, the book's content list is here (Word document) or here (PDF file). If anyone is interested in more information on a dish, please ask. For copyright reasons, I can't reproduce the dishes here exactly, but can certainly describe them.
       
      Another problem is that many Chinese recipes are vague in the extreme. I'm not one to slavishly follow instructions, but saying "enough meat" in a recipe is not very helpful. This book gives details (by weight) for the main ingredients, but goes vague on most  condiments.
       
      For example, the first dish (Dezhou Braised Chicken), calls for precisely 1500g of chicken, 50g dried mushroom, 20g sliced ginger and 10g of scallion. It then lists cassia bark, caoguo, unspecified herbs, Chinese cardamom, fennel seed, star anise, salt, sodium bicarbonate and cooking wine without suggesting any quantities. It then goes back to ask for 35g of maltose syrup, a soupçon of cloves, and "the correct quantity" of soy sauce.
       
      Cooking instructions can be equally vague. "Cook until cooked".
       
      A Bite of China - 舌尖上的中国- ISBN 978-7-5113-3940-9 
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