Favorite Cookbooks

I have a collection of hundreds of cookbooks (to the left is a portion of my collection). Below is a list of just the cookbooks that I adore; the ones that I (or William) have enjoyed reading and usually are ones that we’ve cooked from many times.

I like information-heavy cookbooks about technique, ethnic cookbooks that teach about ingredients and what to look for when buying, ones that encourage me to try out a new ingredient, and ones that have introductions to recipes that stick in my head enough that I remember when I’m planning meals. I tend to like cookbooks which are usually written by home cooks and don’t mind whether or not they have pictures.

Here is a list of the cookbooks and sources that I have been using frequently in my cooking:

  • Southeast Asian
    • Thai
      • Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey through Southeast Asia by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid is a great introduction to start cooking Southeastern Asian food. They make the cuisine non-intimidating and they teach you about ingredients that may be unfamiliar to westerners. They are also great at giving cultural insights and traveler’s observations about how the food culture developed and allow you to really appreciate the context of the food.
      • SheSimmers.com by Leela Punyaratabandhu. A blog about Thai home cooking with great insights into Thai culture and history, and especially culinary history and subtle insights that the Thai community might be aware of but that I wouldn’t pick up on as an outsider (e.g. What is authentic Thai cuisine?).
      • “It Rains Fishes: Legends, Traditions, and the Joys of Thai Cooking” by Kasma Loha-unchit.
      • “Dancing Shrimp: Favorite Thai Recipes for Seafood” by Kasma Loha-unchit: A book of Thai seafood recipes. The introduction which explains the history of seafood in Thailand is especially interesting; traditional Thai cuisine uses river fish, dried fish, and things that can be caught close to shore (small fishes, prawns, etc). The use of seafood which lives in the deep ocean in Thai cuisine is relatively new–just like for sushi, fresh seafood from the deep sea only started being used in Thai cuisine after WWII which is when refrigerators and freezers became common.
      • Thai Food and Travel.com by Kasma Loha-unchit and Michael Babcock. Kasma is an expert Thai cooking teacher. The website’s section on Thai ingredients is especially useful since it recommends high quality brands to look for.
      • Thai Food by David Thompson is an advanced Thai cookbook on royal Thai cuisines and not one that I necessarily turn to for daily cooking, but it is great authoritative reference about Thai cooking, and it clarifies many issues such as proper techniques for making Thai curries (e.g. breaking the coconut milk for “fried” curries).
    • Vietnamese
  • Japanese
    • Washoku: Traditional Japanese food
      • Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji is considered one of the authoritative sources of Japanese cuisine written in English.
      • “The Japanese Kitchen” by Hiroko Shimbo: This is another cookbook which is considered one of the authoritative sources on Japanese cuisine written in English. Hiroko Shimbo is more contemporary than Shizuo Tsuji, and she continues to publish new books and writes a blog with additional insights into modern Japanese cuisine.
      • “Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen” by Elizabeth Andoh: I love all the informative details in this book and especially the frugal tips on how to use side products or little odds and ends to make other dishes. In particular, the Japanese Kelp and Mushroom Relish recipe is wonderful; I never knew what to do with konbu leftover from making dashi before I found this book.
    • Sushi
      • “The Sushi Experience” by Hiroko Shimbo. This is a great primer on sushi. It explains many details about sushi making that help to make you more confident. The ingredient section is especially useful. For example, it tells you exactly what sort of nori, variety of Japanese rice, rice vinegar, etc that you should look for. The introduction which explains when raw fish became prevalent is especially interesting–it turns out that the emphasis on raw fish in sushi came about after WWII (before that sushi fish was cured with vinegar, fermented, or cooked), when refrigerators and freezers became widely available. I was surprised at how recent the usage of raw sushi is, but it makes sense if you think about it, because raw fish must be kept cold in order to be safe.
    • Yōshoku: Western-influenced Japanese comfort food
      • “Japanese Soul Cooking” by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat: This book is a lot of fun to cook from, and it makes very satisfying meals. The recipes are often fairly easy to make.
  • Chinese
    • “Asian Tofu” by Andrea Nguyen and her accompanying website
    • “Asian Dumplings” by Andrea Nguyen and her accompanying website Asian Dumpling Tips: This is an excellent resource for dumpling making; it is perhaps the best English language source for dumpling recipes and techniques. It is especially useful because she writes about many specific details (e.g. folding technique, flour choices) needed to make wonderful dumplings.
  • Indian
    • Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni
    • Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking by Julie Sahni
    • Daksin: Vegetarian Cuisine from South India by Chandra Padmanabhan
    • 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer
  • Western (American and European influenced / California Cuisine)
    • The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers: I just started reading this one, and I already love it. Judy gives so many insightful, observant, and thoughtful hints.
    • Cook this Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can’t Wait to Make by Melissa Clark has great (and sometimes surprising) combinations of flavors and a wide variety of recipes. The recipes are divided into sections by what is available that month at the farmer’s market, which is helpful for getting a realistic sense of what dishes have ingredients that are available at a certain time of the year in a farmer’s markets. Her meals almost always turn out satisfying, and can be cooked in a reasonable amount of time.
  • French
    • “Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home” by Julia Child and Jacques Pepin: Someone gave the book as a present to my mother. She didn’t use it so she gave it to me; this became my first cookbook! I love how the side bars of the recipes give some of Julia and Jacque’s opinions about the dish and variations that they commonly make.
    • “Bouchon” by Thomas Keller and Jeffery Cerciello: I love ethnic and regional foods. I like this French cookbook because it is about a specific type of comfort food served in Parisian neighborhood bistros.
  • Southern Louisiana
    • “Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen” by Paul Prudhomme
    • “American cooking: Creole and Acadian” from the Time-Life “Foods of the World” series. This book is good for getting a historical perspective on food from Louisiana. I love the explanations about traditional Creole and Cajun life.
    • “Real Cajun” by Donald Link
    • Acadiana Table: Cajun Creole cooking in Acadiana (the area surrounding Lafayette in southwest Louisiana)
  • Dessert
    • Nearly every ice cream recipe in The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz that we’ve tried has come out great, much better than other ice cream recipes have turned out for us.
    • DavidLebovitz.com‘s food blog, mostly about desserts.
    • Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman is a blog featuring modern American comfort food, though I mostly use this resource for desserts.
  • Learning about Cooking / Cooking Reference
    • Ruhlman’s Twenty: 20 Techniques, 100 Recipes, A Cook’s Manifesto by Michael Ruhlman
    • The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg: Useful for looking up compatible flavors when making up or modifying dishes
    • The Recipe Writers Handbook by Barbara Gibbs Ostmann and Jane L. Baker: Style guide for recipe writers. Really useful for refining your recipe format and making it easy to follow, and learning about standard recipe writing practices and formats. This also helps one to understand and follow recipes better–for example, the book explains that “1 tsp ground black peppercorns” means to measure the pepper after it is ground, whereas “1 tsp black peppercorns, ground” means to measure the volume of the whole peppercorns and then grind them (measuring before or after grinding does make a difference in the final volume of spices).
    • Time-Life “Foods of the world” series: All of the books in the series are a great way to learn about global cuisines from the perspective of the 1960s and early 1970s. The writers are fantastic. I love their stories. The books are very enjoyable; these is my absolute favorite cook books to read.
    • Eater: Go to the city specific pages for information on new restaurant openings and existing restaurants. The city specific pages (and especially the heatmaps) are useful for the city you live and when you are visiting new towns.
    • Serious Eats: For keeping up with trends in cooking and eating
    • USDA: Nutritional information and Food Safety
    • Recipe searches can be useful for researching a dish or an idea:
  • Awards and Review Sites

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s