Encyclopedic regional cuisine cookbooks?
May 1, 2019 4:50 AM   Subscribe

What are some examples of "encyclopedic" or "definitive" cookbooks for different regional/national cuisines? The types of cookbooks I'm thinking of aim to provide recipes for all of the dishes considered part of the region's canonical cuisine.

Some examples of what I'm talking about:

French cuisine: Larousse Gastronomique
Italian cuisine: The Silver Spoon
North American cuisine: The Joy of Cooking perhaps?

I'd be especially interested in finding equivalent cookbooks for Indian and Chinese cuisines (if they exist!), but any regional cuisine would be interesting.
posted by Yiggs to Food & Drink (27 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

Diana Kennedy's Essential Cuisines of Mexico. Every time I've randomly opened it and made a recipe it's been delicious! An amazing Mexican adventure.
posted by london explorer girl at 5:02 AM on May 1, 2019 [7 favorites]

Perhaps tangentially: The Mennonite Community Cookbook. Here's the story behind its creation. (Communities rather than region, but it has preserved a common culinary tradition, and become the bible of that style of cooking/baking..)
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:24 AM on May 1, 2019

There was a related AskMe about international standard cookbooks, the kind that everyone has. I summarized the responses.
posted by zamboni at 5:28 AM on May 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

India (and so is China!) so finding a single cookbook to cover everything would be challenging. But Samaithu Par (literally Cook and See) is considered the canonical cookbook for South Indian vegetarian cooking (aka Tamil Brahmin cooking). It does assume a certain familiarity with the cooking styles, and gives pretty abbreviated recipes, so I'm not sure I would recommend it to someone not already familiar with the cuisine. But that is what everyone I knew growing up referred to when it doubt.
posted by peacheater at 5:35 AM on May 1, 2019 [3 favorites]

I would put Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking in the Italian spot.
posted by sallybrown at 6:45 AM on May 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure how Nordic people feel about it, but Magnus Nilsson tried to make his book encyclopedic regarding Nordic cuisine.
posted by DJWeezy at 6:49 AM on May 1, 2019 [3 favorites]

I'm told that Vår Kokbok (Our Cookbook) is the Swedish one. If you're looking for specific editions, maybe one from the late 80s or early 90s. Those will have fewer international recipes than the current edition.
posted by gregr at 7:06 AM on May 1, 2019

Venezuelan cuisine: Mi Cocina by Scannone

Uruguayan cusuine: Crandon Institute cookbook

I live in China ATM. An encylopedia of Chinese cuisine would be...very difficult to compile. Very curious if it exists! It'd have to be gigantic!
posted by wooh at 7:07 AM on May 1, 2019

DJWeezy is in before me with the Nordic Cookbook - I own it and it is massive, and at least to this outsider has the appearance of being well-researched. Good recipes too.
posted by Vortisaur at 7:18 AM on May 1, 2019

I'll make a bid for All Under Heaven as a candidate for that "gigantic, encyclopedic" Chinese cookbook. It's not like the Oxford English Dictionary in size, necessarily, but it does make an effort to identify 35 distinct regions of Chinese cooking and showcase them. I got it because it actually has a section for recipes from the very Western regions of China, where you get Nepalese and Uighur recipes. I've been making a concerted effort to cook more from it this year and have been having a lot of fun playing around with the variety (a recent recipe was for an oxtail soup that showcased a Russian influence, even).

And it's very "Western-chef" friendly as well. The writer is a woman who was born in California and moved to China after college, so she's familiar with "here's what your average Western supermarket would most likely have in it" and tries to avoid recipes with anything it would be a pain in the butt to find.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:23 AM on May 1, 2019 [5 favorites]

John Folse's Encyclopedia of Cajun and Creole Cuisine.
posted by CheeseLouise at 8:14 AM on May 1, 2019

Poland doesn't have an everyone-has-it standard due to people mostly working off family recipes, but Barbara Adamczewska's W kuchni babci i wnuczki is more or less my bible for all the staples. Sadly out of print and used books go for a multiple of the original price, but a pdf is easily located. I'm not aware of any translations.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 9:00 AM on May 1, 2019

The Ghana Cookbook by Fran Osseo-Asare and Barbara Baeta

It probably covers cuisine in other areas of West Africa, but I can't say that for certain.
posted by arachnidette at 9:02 AM on May 1, 2019

1080 Recipes (aka 1080 Recetas De Cocina) by Simone Ortega for Spain.
posted by penguin pie at 10:42 AM on May 1, 2019

I came here to tout Samaithu Paar, but peacheater already did it.

So I will add:

Cooking at Home with Pedatha for Andhra Brahmin cooking.

Lord Krishna's Cuisine by Yamuna Devi (The so called Hare Krishna cookbook) for comprehensive Vaishnav cooking. This is more based on the Vaishnav community cooking from all over India, not just one region. But it does follow the Vaishnav cooking restrictions (basically No Onions and No Garlic :-) ).

Southern Flavors by Chandra Padmanabhan. This is a comprehensive collection of Vegetarian South Indian food from all the states there (Kerala, Andhra, TN and Karnataka). Her book Dakshin is like a greatest hits version of Samaithu Paar. It also has gorgeous photos of every dish so you know what they are supposed to look like. I personally prefer Dakshin as the recipes are easier to make.

Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries is a fantastic compendium of recipes from all over India. This is my favorite Indian cookbook. It is pretty comprehensive.

Eileen Lo's book on Buddhist Vegetarian cooking from China, From the Earth; is a fantastic collection.

Pushpesh Pant's India:The Cookbook, is a massive, massive compendium. But the recipes are not well edited.
posted by indianbadger1 at 11:38 AM on May 1, 2019 [6 favorites]

I second EmpressCallipygos' recommendation for All Under Heaven.

I would also recommend Fuchsia Dunlop's books on regional Chinese cuisines:

- Sichuan: Sichuan Cookery (UK) / Land of Plenty (US) -- this one in particular has a larger-than-normal introductory section that really goes into detail about Sichuan flavors, ingredients, cooking techniques, equipment, etc., that really demonstrates a thorough immersion in the cuisine
- Hunan: Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook
- Jiangnan: Land of Fish and Rice

Her other cookbook Every Grain of Rice is actually my favorite of all her cookbooks, but that one is the exception in that it's explicitly not a regional Chinese cookbook, but rather a cookbook that focuses on the Chinese home cooking tradition, perhaps with an overall southern Chinese influence.

Another book you might be interested in is Kian Lam Kho's Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees. This one's a bit different in that the author doesn't focus on any specific regional Chinese cuisine or make any pretenses that it is an encyclopedia of all dishes. However, what it does do is to present in a systematic and thorough way the entire world of Chinese cooking techniques (I don't have the book with me, but for example there are chapters on dry stir-frying, moist stir-frying, flash-frying, braising, steaming, roasting, boiling, blanching, cold preparations, etc.)
posted by andrewesque at 11:40 AM on May 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

I would be remiss to not add another wonderful cookbook that I don't as often (because it has too many Meat dishes), but is a comprehensive cookbook.

Bilkees Latif's Essential Andhra Cookbook. It is a comprehensive collection of dishes, both meat and vegetarian; but with a special emphasis on the cooking from Hyderabad. I personally consider Hyderabadi cooking to be the best in India, as I grew up there :-). This book does a good job of proving why. The various Biryani recipes are reason enough.
posted by indianbadger1 at 11:49 AM on May 1, 2019

I would also add one more for Italian: The Italian Academy of Cuisine's La Cucina, which is a comprehensive, no frills cookbook that categorizes recipes by both type and region. A lot of these recipes are very traditional, although they sometimes use ingredients that are more difficult to find in the typical US grocery store (so much lard!).
posted by dcheeno at 12:42 PM on May 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Je Sais Cuisiner / I Know How to Cook by Ginette Mathiot has been called "The Joy of Cooking of France."
posted by vespabelle at 12:47 PM on May 1, 2019

For English food Delia Smith’s complete cookery course is suitably hegemonic.
posted by Middlemarch at 1:02 PM on May 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Excellent suggestions, thank you! I should have specified that I'm definitely interested in regions within China and India, as I realize a complete cookbook of those countries would be massive!

One additional request: what about Turkish cuisine? Anyone know of such a cookbook for Turkey (or regions of Turkey)?
posted by Yiggs at 11:29 PM on May 1, 2019

How about The Art of Turkish Cooking, by Neset Eren? It's a cookbook for American readers, so it doesn't quite fit your criteria, but as I understand it, it is very comprehensive. The writing is beautiful. I had just taken it out for inspiration when I saw your post.

Also: Jane Grigson's English Food is a classic.

This is a great ask, I'm bookmarking it :-)
posted by mumimor at 12:28 AM on May 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

Not sure about Turkey specifically, but Najmieh Batmanglij's book Food of Life is an excellent deep dive into classical Persian and contemporary Iranian foodways. Darra Goldstein's book The Georgian Feast has been updated and is well-researched and reliably delicious. Claudia Roden's classic, The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, is quite broad but accurate enough as a starting point for more focused exploration.
posted by VelveteenBabbitt at 12:33 AM on May 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

I also really love Thai cookery secrets - it's tiny but it's packed with flavours!!
posted by london explorer girl at 1:02 AM on May 2, 2019

I don't know if anyone is still reading this ask, but I stumbled over a series on Greek cooking on youtube, and the last (fourth) episode answers your question, but the whole series is deeply fascinating. There are some things I can see are incorrect, but the overall is fine, and the narrative is very good.
posted by mumimor at 9:56 AM on May 14, 2019

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