- Joined Mar 29, 2002
I've amassed a backlog of cookbooks--mostly of Asian influence--to read. I thought a thread might be of interest and if nothing else is a shared catalog of what I'm reading and thinking of these books. I'd be interested in seeing such lists from other members in their own threads as well.
- Cooking South of the Clouds by Georgia Freedman. I heard of this book through a marketing email I get from Mala Market last year. They're a good source of specialty Chinese ingredients and share interesting recipes, They spoke highly of the book and so I added it to my list. It languished there for quite a while particularly as it was slow to come to market in the US. I got motivated to read it because of another Yunnan regional cookbook I'll talk about below. Overall, I liked this one better for it's greater variety of flavoring approaches. Yunnan is known for it's air cured hams and includes the region we call Tibet in the rise to the Himalayas. Thus the South and Clouds. Seasonings seem to focus more on preserved/pickled foods and chilies though the common soy sauce and oyster sauce do make appearances, just less than you might expect. Fried and boiled squash leaves dishes stuck out to me. I'd not seen those cooked before. I didn't know they were edible. I've eaten the blossom, which are just a specialized leaf so it makes sense. This is the better of the two Yunnan focused books in my opinion.
- The Yunnan Cookbook by Anabel Jackson. I get weekly cooking emails from the South China Morning Post as well. One of those emails included an interview with Anabel Jackson who has written more on the food of Macao than most anyone else and how that cuisine is fading away. So I've been looking for her books on Macau and she's written some on Vietnamese food and a few on China. And so now I had two Yunnan focused books to read and contrast each other. This is a pretty and elegant book and is missing page numbers on pages with recipes. Where she's talking about a region or category of food, those pages get numbers. This is annoying to me. I usually write notes in the front end-papers with a recipe name and page number that I'm interested in trying out. Couldn't really do that here. And no index either, but without page numbers I suppose that is reasonable. The recipes are very simple and short for what you may have come to expect for a Chinese recipe. Not as much caught my eye as in Cooking South of the Clouds. A zucchini and dried shrimp dish stood out to me and a pumpkin soup. I've seen hard squashes steamed but not made into soup in Chinese cuisine.
- Chinese Cooking: The Food and the Lifestyle by Anabel Jackson. This one sat strangely with me. She covers most of what you'd expect, usually with a bit more exotic content. However there are dishes overly simplified--Hot and Sour Soup-- for a non-Asian reader, but others that were surprisingly unadapted. The Egg Fu Yung, Fu Yung just means eggs, is a fried rice dish and not an omelet in gravy as Westerners might expect. Considering its publication in 2004, I think it runs behind the times even when published for sticking closer to traditional ingredients. This feels like it was from 10 years earlier or more. I found her vegetable section the most interesting with some dressed cold vegetable dishes (cabbage and cucumber one looks good) and even a stir fried potato and cilantro one. There's a scallion pancake recipe that just reads wrong to me. This isn't the flour based one (she includes one of those too) but the more rolled eggy style. The picture shows what I think to be an 8 inch non-stick skillet rolling up a pancake. The instructions say to put in 1 tablespoon of batter, cook it, roll it up and cut in three pieces. I just don't see the pancake shown coming from 1 T of batter. Based on the volume of ingredients and suggested yield, it must be more. Not a must have unless you're an Anabel Jackson completist.