A few years ago, my criteria for recipe books was mainly colorful photography. I needed to see what the food was supposed to look like. Because when I first started cooking, the comparison to what I had prepared was not always obvious. Okay, it still isn't always obvious :) but with experience, and the ease of finding images online, my criteria for recipe books has changed. Photos are great, but more importantly, I want to read the story behind the recipe. In fact, my bedside/couch side piles of books always include recipe books. I enjoy sitting and reading them. And once in a while, I'll cook from them. Here are my favorite Chinese recipe books, with authentic recipes, some photography, and lots of great stories.
Feeding the Dragon: A Culinary Travelogue Through China with Recipes by Mary Kate Tate & Nate Tate.
This brother and sister team traveled throughout China and collected recipes and stories. There are a hundred authentic recipes that are easy to follow, a glossary of ingredients, and a section for basics such as holding chopsticks and folding dumplings. The travel photography is stunning, and I loved reading the travelogue aspect - their experiences studying and traveling in China, the people they have met, the foods they have tasted. Their companion website Feeding the Dragon has recipes as well.
My Grandmother's Chinese Kitchen: 100 Family Recipes and Life Lessons by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo. This book is as much a memoir as it is a recipe book. The recipes are authentic recipes the author (a professional chef) grew up with, that she helped prepare as a child with her grandmother, and her grandmother's servants. Some of the recipes are elaborate, but the instructions are clear. Through anecdotes, the author writes about lessons in character as well as cookery. I particularly enjoyed reading about how she and her family celebrated various festivals, and the importance of ancestor worship. This book also includes a glossary of Chinese ingredients.
Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province by Fushia Dunlop. This book is an extensive collection of the regional cuisine of Hunan, Chairman Mao's home province. The recipes are clear and easy to follow, and range from street food to sweets. There is an introduction before almost every recipe, and historical references throughout which I found very interesting, in the context of the cultural revolution. There is also a great introduction about the Hunan province, a glossary of food items, and descriptions of cooking methods.
Martin Yan's Chinatown Cooking: 200 Traditional Recipes from 11 Chinatowns Around the World by Martin Yan. The recipes from the Chinatowns range from traditional to fusion, simple to elaborate. I love the sidebars and introductions filled with information and history, with tidbits like table etiquette and the meaning of dimsum.
Books are a wonderful way to experience new worlds and ideas. Our house is filled with books, most of which are borrowed from our public library. Public libraries are an incredible resource, making books accessible to everyone, and we highly encourage everyone to discover theirs. If you are hoping to build your own home library,I've made it easy by linking book titles to Amazon.com. Please note that I have become affiliated with them, which means that if you make a purchase, you are also supporting this website.