cookbookskristina gill

cookbooks + more: asian cooking

by Grace Bonney

I was over the moon to find out that Helen was submitting a recipe for dumplings. I LOVE dumplings and overdose on them every time I go to London. I am planning a trip to Hong Kong some time in order to eat them there. And when I am in New York, I always make a stop in Chinatown to Jing Fong or a nearby restaurant to have dim sum. If you are interested in more dim sum recipes or need tips on making them after you try Helen’s recipe, including vegetarian and vegan options, check out Andrea Nguyen’s new book Asian Dumplings.

Thinking of the other side of the world, I thought I would include non-Western cuisine in this week’s round up. When I crave Asian food– noodles or rice dishes, vegetable sautes, curries, spices, I turn to these books. Since returning from a trip to the Mekong earlier this year, these books have greater significance to me because they allow me to recreate (almost) in my own little way many of the memories of my travels. As detailed as they may be, I find using them and studying their recipes to be relaxing.

Also, starting this week we’ll be sharing our recipe subject’s favorite kitchen items! So not only will be get a great recipe recommendation each week, but books and kitchen accessories as well. Today we’re sharing Helen’s favorites, clockwise from top left: peugeot salt and pepper mills $124, columbian clay pot $76, iittala saucepan $234, imperia pasta machine $70, bodum storage jars $12+, zojirushi rice cooker $134]

CLICK HERE for the rest of the cookbook reviews after the jump!

Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey by Rick Stein (BBC Books): This book typifies the fear that strikes in my heart when I see southeast Asian cookbooks. Long lists of ingredients. i think “My Lord! How will I do this?!!” But Rick Stein’s book actually inspires me to make the effort– make the lists, go out to the market, and methodically follow the recipes. Unfortunately, the difficulty of finding all of the ingredients means I can’t make many of the recipes in this book, or I have to make substitutions. Stein really underscores the need to follow each recipe to the letter in order to derive the full culinary experience as he has intended it, however, I think if you start with the easy recipes like the Vietnamese spring rolls or crisp spring rolls with pork, prawns, and dried mushrooms, move up to an easy Malaysian curry, Sri Lankan beef and vegetable stuffed gothamba rotis, or the Bangladeshi Lamb Biryani, you won’t regret it. Even if you never cook from the book and only read the narrative and look at the gorgeous photography, you will be sated.

Hot Sour Salty Sweet by Jeremy Alford and Naomi Duguid (Artisan). Jeremy and Naomi really need absolutely no introduction to the amazing books that they have produced over the past 14 years. Their Flatbreads and Flavors was what made me crave Asian vegetarian food and go out and buy Madhur Jaffrey’s book. Their recipe for Georgian Cheese Bread (Khachapuri) was an element of the first meal I ever cooked for friends. And ever since then, I have waited anxiously for their new releases, Mangoes & Curry Leaves and Beyond the Great Wall two of the most recent. Hot Sour Salty Sweet is a beautifully photographed book with lots of noodle recipes (which I like as much as I like dumplings) from southeast Asia like the quintessential pad thai and other Thai and Vietnamese noodles and noodle dishes, including the recipes for the noodles. The book doesn’t end there of course. It’s really an amazing book. Like Rick Stein’s book, it is a phenomenal photographic and narrative keepsake even if you never use the book, and I would consider reading it both before and after a trip to the Mekong, if you’re into the food of that region. Never fear, Jeremy and Naomi make sure that the recipes can be made in a typical kitchen. They also break out the vegetarian options into a single chapter, however I think you can comfortable modify many of the dishes for vegetarian consumption.

Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East Vegetarian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey (Knopf). This is one of the first cookbooks I ever bought as an undergrad years ago, and it’s one I come to again and again. Even though I am not a vegetarian, I wanted a book of vegetarian recipes that covered Asian cooking. Asia is a big place, I know. But this books covers a great portion of it. Divided by main ingredient, this book is so diverse, I can eat Asian food all the time and never tire of it!! In fact, I always turn to this every time I want to try something new with eggplant, whenever I want to find a chutney, or when I need a sauce to use with other vegetables or rice dishes. There are no photographs in this thick paperback book, only occasional illustrations of technique. Nonetheless, I love it! It is not always easy to find the ingredients, but it always easy to use and follow the recipes thanks to Madhur Jaffrey’s explicit instructions. It is definitely a book I’d keep even if I were forced to thin my collection.

Suggested For You


  • If you are heading towards Hong Kong, and you have extra time, I would highly recommend stopping in Shanghai for their famous xiao long bao, or definitely go to Beijing, the home of dumplings (or jiaozi as they call them). So yummy there! Can’t find them anywhere else as good!

  • My sister and I love the wonton noodles they have all over Hong Kong. The egg noodles have this wonderful texture, the broth is light and the dumplings/wontons are delicious. And let us not forget the char siew (roast pork) that’s in the bowl too. It tastes so good…

    Hope you enjoy Hong Kong! Can’t wait to see what pictures you share!

  • While living in China, some American friends of mine made breakfast dumplings. These are eggs or hash brown dumplings dipped in salsa. They are double awesome.

  • i lived with a chinese family in france for a few weeks, and on the menu, dim sum was definitely a highlight. some of the food was more of a challenge! but shopping for chinese ingredients in the supermarkets of paris chinatown was a real adventure.

  • Yun is right, when in Shanghai, eat as many xiaolongbao as you can! In small shops, swank Din Tai Fung — it’s a virtual Disneyland of dumplings.

    Fritz, the Beijing breakfast dumpling you mention sound fantastic. Did the filling have egg in it and scallion/chives, along with some noodles? They’re hafl moons and pan-fried. If there are and were, you are a lucky man!

  • Two great cookbooks! Hot Sour Salty Sweet is visually stunning & the Madhur Jaffrey book are filled with interesting information.

  • Hong Kong is awesome but not just for dumplings. The shopping is amazing. Every time i go i only wish i had taken a larger bag.