Recommendations for authoritative cookbooks.
May 4, 2009 6:20 PM   Subscribe

Recommendations for authoritative cookbooks intended for a Western audience?

I'm looking for authoritative cookbooks associated with a particular style of cooking, intended for Western audiences. In general, the book should strive to be as authentic as possible, but make some concessions to cooking practicality or availability of ingredients in Western countries (Canada to be precise).

Examples of the type of book I'm looking for: Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, or Shizuo Tsuji's Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art.

I'm interested in all sorts of cooking traditions - Indian, Chinese, Malay, Lebanese, Russian, whatever you can think of!
posted by pravit to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 65 users marked this as a favorite
For Chinese, there's Gloria Bley Miller's The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook.

For Italian, there's Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.

(I haven't yet found one on Korean cooking I could wholeheartedly recommend - still looking, though.)
posted by needled at 6:42 PM on May 4, 2009

Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty (Szechuan) and Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook (Hunan)
posted by ocherdraco at 6:43 PM on May 4, 2009

Sorry, missed a link: Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook
posted by ocherdraco at 6:46 PM on May 4, 2009

Julie Sahni's Classic Indian Cooking
posted by marsha56 at 6:50 PM on May 4, 2009

Oh, for Italian-American (!= Italian), Lidia Bastianich's Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen.

Just compare the recipes for lasagna in the Hazan and Bastianich books and you'll see the difference in the two styles.
posted by needled at 6:53 PM on May 4, 2009

Diana Kennedy's The Essential Cuisines of Mexico
posted by marsha56 at 6:58 PM on May 4, 2009

I'm not sure what exactly would make a cookbook authoritative, but here are a few that combine detailed directions, extensive information about ingredients, and a lot of very tasty recipes.


The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking by Barbara Tropp

The Key to Chinese Cooking by Irene Guo (wow, the prices on Amazon are really high for these two - snap them up if you spot 'em anywhere!)


Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking by Yamuna Devi. Includes a fair amount of cultural/theological background as well, but unintrusively.


Real Thai: The Best of Thailand's Regional Cooking by Nancie McDermott. This one's less encyclopedic than the preceding tomes, but was the most helpful book for me to start learning how to cook Thai dishes.


The Cuisines of Mexico by Diana Kennedy. She has a bunch of Mexican cookbooks but I think this one is the most informative and has the best recipes. (I find the format really annoying, though - ingredient lists are scattered over the pages and required equipment is intercalated with food. Let's see, I need a dozen corn tortillas, 2 chiles poblanos, a frying pan, and some queso fresco.)

An observation about the Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook: the recipes are very bland to my taste, and some of the ingredients are given names I've never seen elsewhere (e.g., black bean paste is "soy jam"), which I think decreases its value as a reference work.
posted by Quietgal at 7:24 PM on May 4, 2009

Silver Spoon for Italian. It's very authentic.
posted by honeybee413 at 7:29 PM on May 4, 2009

1080 Recipes for Spanish.
posted by grouse at 7:37 PM on May 4, 2009


1. "The Cuisines of Germany: Regional Specialties and Traditional Home Cooking" by Horst Scharfenberg, Poseidon Press, 1989. ISBN: 0-671-63197-7. 500+ pages of recipes, historical origins, and commentary. My #1 go-to book on German food.

2. "The New German Cookbook" by Jean Anderson and Hedy Wurz, HarperCollins, 1993. ISBN: 0-06-016202-3. 400+ pages of very accessible German recipes, but a bit on then-in-vogue styles of 1990s.

3. The German Cookbook: A complete guide to Mastering Authentic German Cooking." by Mimi Sheraton, Random House, 1965. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 65-24163. A classic reference. Reliable and simple (mostly).
posted by webhund at 7:52 PM on May 4, 2009

For Middle Eastern (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Morocco, etc.), Claudia Roden's The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.
posted by needled at 8:01 PM on May 4, 2009

Response by poster: Really excellent responses so far, thanks. I actually found Fuschia Dunlop's recipe for gongbao chicken posted on a blog a while back and it's been one of my favorite dishes since, so I went ahead and ordered her Sichuanese and Hunanese cookbooks!

By "authoritative", I guess I was trying to say that if I wanted to cook X cuisine and was willing to devote a reasonable amount of time and effort in learning and sourcing ingredients, someone knowledgeable in that style of cooking would point me to this book. So far the answers I've been getting are spot on.
posted by pravit at 8:02 PM on May 4, 2009

Anya von Bremzen and John Welchman, Please to the Table: The Russian Cookbook. Actually covers Russia and many other countries of the former USSR, so technically I guess it's Soviet cuisine.
posted by sineala at 8:18 PM on May 4, 2009

Thai Food by David Thompson. It's written for Western readers, but its bibliography includes classic Thai cookbooks spanning several centuries.
posted by embrangled at 9:07 PM on May 4, 2009

Madhur Jaffrey's Quick & Easy Indian Cooking -- "In a new collection of sixty easy-to-follow recipes, the author of A Taste of India shares the secrets of fine Indian cuisine, presenting a variety of delicious rice dishes, chutneys and relishes, drinks, curries, and desserts."
posted by danascot at 12:33 AM on May 5, 2009

Seconding needled - Claudia Roden is my culinary idol! She also has a similarly excellent book on Jewish cuisine The Book of Jewish Food. It's also intended for people who have no idea about Jewish food before opening the book.
posted by Coobeastie at 2:04 AM on May 5, 2009

Nthing some, adding some:

Thai: Cracking the coconut

Indian: Quick and Easy Indian Cooking

French: Bistro Cooking

The New Middle Eastern Food

The Essentials of Italian Cooking
posted by xammerboy at 6:37 AM on May 5, 2009

You've gotten some excellent suggestions! I'll add Poopa Dweck's amazing and beautiful Aromas of Aleppo: The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews.
posted by trip and a half at 6:41 AM on May 5, 2009

For Chinese cooking: The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen by Grace Young.
posted by Ms. Informed at 9:37 AM on May 5, 2009

This is the question I hadn’t thought to ask. Thank you so much for posting it! My wishlist now overflows.
posted by musicinmybrain at 9:53 AM on May 5, 2009

One of the appendices in How to Cook Everything has a big list of great cookbooks. He doesn't cover everything, but he makes a pretty good start. Worth a look if you already own HtCE.
posted by pwicks at 6:29 PM on May 5, 2009

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