Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

Sign in to follow this  
Sunny Simmons Steincamp

Pan-Asian Cookbooks

Recommended Posts

So, I was mentally drooling over <a href="http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showuser=19804">chrisamirault</a>'s description of savory egg dishes with curry over at the <a href="http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=99435&hl=">egg thread</a> while simultaneously bemoaning my lack of real proficiency for making any type of Asian cuisine beyond egg rolls, won ton soup, rangoon, etc., and it occurred to me (with only a smidgen of prompting) that I should ask here to see if you all have some suggestions for some good, solid books that would get me on the right track in this, one of my favorite of all types of cooking. I see lots of titles in the bookstores, but I have no idea what to look for, or which are worth the expenditure... I have no frame of reference!

I'd especially be interested in pan-Asian books; my family, friends and I enjoy the nuances in every region's special fare... although I'm not averse to indulging one of my few spending vices and purchasing individual books if they are especially valuable.

Thanks in advance!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In business jargon, they use the term 'sticking to your knitting', ie sticking to what you know and what's made you succesful. You see this same idea when consultants tell restaurants to edit down their menu, to focus on a limited number of good dishes rather than a much longer list of dishes that end up tasting mediocre.

I think the same idea would apply to a pan asian cookbook. It takes a lifetime to master Chinese or Japanese cooking, so I don't see how a author could succesfully master all the different cuisines of Asia and understand the differnent nuances you're looking for. By its very nature, these pan asian are usually painted in broad strokes, where the nuances get lost because the author only has a certain limited number of pages and time to focus on a particular region before the author has to race to cover another region. Perhaps, you might be better served by getting several different books, where each book focuses on a particular style like Chinese or Thai cooking.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sunny, I'd start by checking books out of the library and seeing where it takes you. Is there a particular Asian cuisine you are looking for?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I disagree with Leviathan: I actually believe that there are a few pretty damned solid cookbooks that focus on the cuisines of Asian nations, broadly defined. True, those cookbooks are impossibly general, but so is any cookbook, after all, particularly when trying to represent some absurdity like "Chinese cuisine," itself a constellation of cuisines. All are flawed: such is life.

So, with that in mind, I offer two books. One, oft discussed here, is Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid's Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet, which I think does a very good job of introducing readers to the flavor palate of southeast Asian cuisines, particularly for the Western (read: US) kitchen.

But one of the best cookbooks available of any sort and my standard starting point for most discussions of Asian cuisines is Charmaine Solomon's remarkable Complete Asian Cookbook. Complete it is not, both for the reasons indicated above and for the fact that its sections on Thai, Japanese and Chinese cooking are very limited. However, her introductions to each cuisine, the choice of representative dishes, the emphasis on techniques and on appropriate ingredients (substituters, beware: she won't let you off the hook), and the remarkably successful recipes throughout the book make this a must-have for every kitchen bookshelf. I mean, what's your go-to book for Sri Lankan mas ismoru, Indonesian sambal goreng telur, kai Lao, and Philippino kari-kari?

Of course, as you get focused and want more precision and variety, you can go get your David Thompson and Shizuo Tsuji. But Solomon is a great place to start.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sunny, I'd start by checking books out of the library and seeing where it takes you.  Is there a particular Asian cuisine you are looking for?

That is a perfect idea... only I live in a cow town where the library is about the size of your average convenience store, and there are probably all of four cookbooks (if you count Storey books,) none of which is likely to be about Asian cooking. All that being said, maybe I can peruse some next time I have a few hours spare time (ha) in Richmond.

As far as particular types... my family is very partial to Vietnamese. My brother and I have yet to meet a Szechuan dish we didn't love. I am *really* excited to try the Indonesian curried egg dish. And I was pleased & proud as punch when I pulled off takoyaki on my first try... although I have to admit, I had nothing to gauge how authentic it wound up tasting!

For the record, I am a huge fan of most Middle Eastern fare, and while it never fits neatly in my head as "Asian," even though technically it is, I'll gladly accept any recommendations along those lines, too.

The good news is, since I'm not a shopper (don't care about clothes, won't wear diamonds, am ambivalent about jewelry in general, etc.,) my husband is pretty good about indulging my love of books (including cookbooks... which he knows usually net him some fun.) So I won't really fret if I wind up with lots of recommendations!

Although you're really right.. I *should* march into my local library and see if I can rouse some interest in expanding their culinary section... :)

Thanks!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I disagree with Leviathan: I actually believe that there are a few pretty damned solid cookbooks that focus on the cuisines of Asian nations, broadly defined. True, those cookbooks are impossibly general, but so is any cookbook, after all, particularly when trying to represent some absurdity like "Chinese cuisine," itself a constellation of cuisines. All are flawed: such is life.

I guess I understand where Leviathan was coming from; it'd be like trying to create an "American" cookbook. But since I am pretty much a flat-out newbie when it comes to authentic Asian dishes, I'd probably benefit from at least some sort of general, over-arching treatise of the <i>styles</i>, <i>methods</i>, and <i>ingredients</i>, if nothing else.

So, with that in mind, I offer two books.

Those sound perfect to get me started. I'm on it. :)

Of course, as you get focused and want more precision and variety, you can go get your David Thompson and Shizuo Tsuji. But Solomon is a great place to start.

Hmm, so maybe those go on the "see if I just *happen* to run into them at Borders" list. ;)

Thanks so much!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
ludja   

Just to add to the thread for others and in case you become enamored with Asian noodle dishes, a nice general book on that topic is "The Noodle Shop" by Jackie Passmore. It features noodle dishes from China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

As an aside, I have several Vietnamese cookbooks but there is one from last year that is on my to buy list: "Into the Vietnamse Kitchen" by Andrea Nguyen. There is a great excerpt from her book on eGullet and she answered many questions about the book. A good friend has already been busily cooking out of it and is very happy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
ludja   
...

Although you're really right.. I *should* march into my local library and see if I can rouse some interest in expanding their culinary section... :)

Thanks!

Interlibrary loan, if they have it, can also be your friend here. It's usually a free service or available for a nominal fee.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A couple of other "overview" books I can recommend are:

A Taste of the Far East by Madhur Jaffrey; and

The Chinese and Asian Kitchen Bible by Sallie Morris and Deh-Ta Hsiung.

The latter is a promotional "bargain" book that has a very extensive pictorial review of ingredients, equipment, and cooking techniques. I haven't tried any of the recipes from this particular book, but recipes from other cookbooks from this publisher have turned out well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Pan   

Madhur Jaffrey's Asian Vegetarian cookbook has good recipes and is well worth looking at and cooking from.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
... only I live in a cow town where the library is about the size of your average convenience store, and there are probably all of four cookbooks (if you count Storey books,) none of which is likely to be about Asian cooking.

Does your “cow town” include an Asian market? A lot of Asian ingredients can be stocked up, mail ordered, or grown (soy sauce, fish sauce, frozen galangal, spices, chiles, etc.), but it is nice to have access to fresh herbs and veggies, especially in the winter.

As far as particular types... my family is very partial to Vietnamese.  My brother and I have yet to meet a Szechuan dish we didn't love.  I am *really* excited to try the Indonesian curried egg dish.

Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet and Into the Vietnamese Kitchen are excellent recommendations. I will add two specialized suggestions: Land of Plenty by Fuchsia Dunlop for Sichuan; and Cradle of Flavor by James Oseland for Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore.

Happy book shopping!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll toss in "Modern Art of Chinese Cooking" by the late great Barbara Tropp. She taught me how to buy things, how do make many things, most notably pleating potstickers! It's a no-nonsense book that has tons of information.

I'll also second Bruce's recommendations of Hot Sour Salty Sweet (which is as much of a travelogue as a cookbook, so you get a sense of why this is this and that is that) and Into the Vietnamese Kitchen.

I find it very helpful, when exploring a cookbook of a cuisine that I'm not familiar with to have some history, some sense of the area to go along with the recipes.

(Oh, and pictures or drawings of the ingredients can be more than helpful.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I second Charmaine Solomon's Complete Asian Cookbook. I bought mine in 1976 :shock: and I must admit after living in several very hot countries it is a tad mildewy but still going strong :smile:

I also take Leviathan's point about there being more finesse and detailed knowledge in some cookbooks devoted purely to a particular cuisine

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Milagai   

I second Ludja's suggestion of interlibrary loan.

Great way to check out books before deciding

which to buy.

I also endorse Pan's suggestion of Madhur Jaffrey's

World of the East Vegetarian cooking.

It's one of the most used cookbooks in my collection,

and I usually get good results....

Milagai

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Similar Content

    • By Chris Hennes
      I just got a copy of Grace Young's "Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge"—I enjoyed cooking from "Breath of a Wok" and wanted to continue on that path. Does anyone else have this book? Have you cooked anything from it?

      Here was dinner tonight:

      Spicy Dry-Fried Beef (p. 70)

      I undercooked the beef just a bit due to a waning propane supply (I use an outdoor propane-powered wok burner), but there's nothing to complain about here. It's a relatively mild dish that lets the flavors of the ingredients (and the wok) speak. Overall I liked it, at will probably make it again (hopefully with a full tank of gas).


    • By Kitchenista
      At this time of year when you can hoard fresh, local strawberries because they are so abundant, why not freeze them and enjoy them all year long. Then you won't have to buy tasteless, fake looking ones in the dead of winter!

      The best way to preserve them, sugar-free, and have them fresh, year-round is to freeze them. Remember to start with the freshest strawberries possible. Strawberries start to lose freshness and nutrients quickly and will only last a few days in the fridge, so the sooner you freeze them the better. Follow these steps and they will last up to a year in the freezer:
      1. Gently wash them and pat them dry or allow them to air dry for an hour or so. Slice off the tops, including the stem and any white area, then cut them in half lengthwise.
      2. Line one or more rimmed baking sheets (depending on how many berries you have) with parchment or SilPats. Arrange them in a single layer on the sheets. and place them, uncovered, or loosely covered with plastic wrap in the freezer. Allow them to freeze solid, about 12 hours. Once frozen, transfer the berries (they may stick to the parchment a bit, but peel off relatively easy) to a freezer weight plastic zipper bag. Press out as much of the air from the bag as possible before sealing, to minimize freezer burn over time. If you are planning to leave them in the freezer for months, then consider double bagging them. Place the bagged berries in the freezer, where they will keep for up to one year.
      Note: I will warn you that the thawed berries will not be firm and bright like they were when raw and fresh. They tend to thaw out a bit mushier, and slightly darker…but can still be used for anything you would use fresh strawberries for. For smoothies, use frozen.
      Optional: Brushing the berries with a bit of lemon juice before you freeze them will help to preserve their color. While strawberries can be frozen whole, cut or crushed, they will retain a higher level of their vitamin C content if left whole.
    • By boilsover
      My Breville BSO 800XL  just died on it's second birthday, after only *extremely* light use at my beach house.  Just won't power up.
       
      Reading online, I learned that a common failure mode is the thermal fuse blowing -WHICH IS DESIGNED TO BLOW AT <450F.  This is a $3 part at Radio Shack, and there is a detailed instruction on how to replace it here:  http://virantha.com/2014/03/02/fix-your-breville-smart-oven-by-replacing-the-thermal-fuse/
       
      So I guess I'll give fixing it myself a try and report back.  Has anyone here done this repair?  Was it successful?  And why would Breville use a fuse that is lower than the appliance's top heat settings?
       
      Thanks!
    • By CanadianSportsman
      Greetings,

      I've cooked several recipes from Keller's "Bouchon" the last couple of weeks, and have loved them all! At the moment (as in right this minute) I'm making the boeuf Bourguignon, and am a little confused about the red wine reduction. After reducing the wine, herbs, and veg for nearly an hour now, I'm nowhere near the consistancy of a glaze that Keller specifies. In fact, it looks mostly like the veg is on the receiving end of most of it. Is this how the recipe is meant to be? Can anybody tell me what kind of yield is expected? Any help would be appreciated. Thank you, kindly. 
    • By Franzisaurus_Rex
      I've had an idea flowing across my brain waves over the last few months. It's on every channel and I'm getting ready to pull the trigger. 
      I'd like to try to braise a dish in my smoker. I am thinking of braising a rabbit, but the I'm not looking for guidance on the protein/ingredients, rather the technique. I turn to you, o internet, in hope you will tell me your secrets.
      Has anyone ever braised in their smoker before? I've done some research, but I haven't seen much on the "how to" for the technique. Here's my plan:
      - Brown the rabbits on skillet (stovetop)
      - Get the aromatics/other stuffz sweated browned, etc.
      - (MEANWHILE) Smoker heats up to 300-325 degrees.
      - Add stock to rabbit, bring to a simmer on the stove top.
      - Transfer to smoker, braise uncovered for 1-2 hours, then cover with foil to finish for as long as necessary.
      I've seen folks smoke and then braise, but I haven't seen much on the idea of braising something IN the smoker. I saw something on CookingwithMe.at about doing something similar with pork belly, but that's about it.
      All I know is that after using stock+drippings from a smoked turkey created this CRAZY MIND-BLOWING flavor, so I'm basing this a lot off that idea.
      -Franz
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×