My husband and I both love to cook. I'm the Asian cook, and he's the everything-else-not-Asian cook. Like all things, there are different aspects about a recipe book that may tickle our fancy. I don't have a big range of recipe books at home, but I thought I'd share some of my dearly beloved ones.
Easy Recipes by Christine Ho
I picked up Easy Recipes from a bookstore in Taiwan and I was immediately sold once I saw that it was bilingual: Chinese and English. Since bringing it home, it's become my go-to for classic Chinese dishes and currently resides on my kitchen bench for easy access. I have yet to cook everything in this book, but it definitely has my stamp of approval.
Why I love it
It has pictures, lots of them. Pictures of the more unusual ingredients and step-by-step pictures are provided which have proven to be quite useful.
It's got clear, but detailed instructions.
All recipes are actually easy!
So the book has a few sections: breakfast, tea snacks, soup, main course, noodles & rice, desserts and the extras. It is mostly Asian, but it does have not-so-Asian things like blueberry pancake, pumpkin soup, French toast and apple turnovers. You won't find anything overly complicated here, but you'll definitely create something traditional and delicious.
It wasn't until when I saw pictures of Campbell's chicken stock and Pauls pure cream that I realised the author actually lived in Brisbane. This was great news because it meant that ingredients listed in her recipes are also available to me. I instantly fell in love with this book even more.
Christine also has a blog called Christine's Recipes so if you are looking for inspiration or wanting to cook something different, browse her extensive collection of recipes.
Two Asian Kitchens by Adam Liaw
I must say the only thing that led me to buy this book was due to the fact that Adam was the MasterChef Australia winner and that the recipes were primarily Asian.
Why I love it
There is a good range in here. You'll find traditional dishes like Hainanese chicken rice, Japanese katsudon and Vietnamese pho. Then there are modern dishes such as laksa fried chicken, white miso green curry with seafood and rum and lemongrass roast pork belly. So this book is definitely inspirational, different and unique. This is my go-to when I'm feeling adventurous.
Recipes are divided into four main sections: pantry items (everyday soup stock, garlic oil); techniques (dumplings, sushi); the old kitchen which comprised of traditional recipes such as Japanese yakitori and laksa; and the new kitchen which features more modern dishes.
Adam was 2010's MasterChef Australia winner. Need I say more?
Land of Plenty by Fuchsia Dunlop
I absolutely love spicy food. I put Tabasco on my pizza, fresh chillies in literally everything I cook and am not afraid to try the hottest of the hottest dishes. This is one of the reasons why I love Sichuan food.
Sichuan is a province in China and it is a different kettle of fish to the usual Chinese food. Although I'm not really that familiar with Sichuanese cooking, I know for a fact that its most famous characteristic is its fiery spiciness using the numbing Sichuan pepper.
This book is my Sichuanese cooking bible.
Why I love it
Apart from the fact that everything I've ever cooked from this book has been absolutely delectable, the instructions are easy to follow and most recipes are fairly easy.
I got so much more than just recipes from this book. It gives you the ins and outs of Sichuan food, the author's personal experiences and a thorough description of pretty much everything. It is a fantastic read for anyone interested in authentic Sichuan food.
There are many parts to this book. Detailed information is provided on cooking methods, equipment used and most of the ingredients mentioned in this book. Recipes are separated into sections: noodles, dumplings, and other street treats; appetisers; meat dishes; poultry; fish; vegetables and bean curd; stocks and soups; sweet dishes; and hotpot.
Very few pictures exist here, but don't let this put you out. In addition, several ingredients may be quite difficult to find, but you can Google image it or ask your Asian grocer to help you locate them. With me, I leave it out the odd item here and there.
The list of ingredients may be quite daunting, but just think, this is the reason why everything is so flavoursome. The set out isn't great, but it's an excellent book.
Fuchsia Dunlop is an English writer and chef specialising in Chinese cuisine. She lived in the Sichuanese capital, Chengdu and studied full-time at the province's most famous cooking school. She's spent time in kitchens of the region's most famous restaurants, exploring various street markets and food vendors, and cooking and eating with her Sichuanese friends.
Vietnamese Street Food by Tracey Lister and Andreas Pohl
My awesome mother-in-law actually bought me this book from Hanoi and had it signed by Tracey Lister, whom she knew. When I think of Vietnamese food, I think of pho and rice paper rolls. Before I had this book, I'd never been that interested in Vietnamese cooking. Pho takes hours to cook, and rice paper rolls take too long to prepare. It was just so much easier to buy.
However, this book really opened up my world to Vietnamese cuisine.
Why I love it
Other than the mouth-watering dishes I have created, there are a few other reasons why I love this book.
The layout of this book is excellent. It is so easy to read and follow.
I also love the photography in this book. Many recipe books contain really schmick photos of the finished product, which tend to be just a little different to my version of the finished product. Instead, you get photos that have been taken remarkably well reflecting the photographer's experience showing us the modest lives of these Vietnamese people and their day-to-day cooking.
Vietnamese Street Food has over sixty authentic recipes. There is a section for rolls, grill/roast, boil/steam, fry, baguettes/salads, sweets and sauces/condiments. In addition, you get a glimpse of the lives and daily routines of the people who run the most celebrated stalls in Hanoi.
Tracey currently lives in Hanoi with her husband Andreas, where she runs the Hanoi Cooking Centre, a successful cooking school.
100 Best Recipes by Matt Preston
This is probably my western food bible. I know there may be better ones out there, but this has everything I need.
Why I love it
I love it because it's got what I need: chocolate cake, scones, pumpkin soup, pizza dough, among others. I don't cook a lot of food that's not Asian, but when I do this is the book I turn to.
It has variations: 4 different recipes of simple biscuits, 9 ways to pimp your store-bought ice cream, 8 ways to cook eggs, 4 ways to use chorizo, you get my drift.
There is a whole section on pies and pizza.
The recipes are fairly easy to follow, though many are quite lengthy. I was a little disheartened when my chocolate cake didn't turn out like the picture in the book, but it still tasted pretty damn good.
The recipes are categorised in 9 different sections: soup, salads, pies and pizza, pasta and rice, seafood, chicken, meat, desserts and teatime. Some recipes require a lot of reading. For example, Matt has dedicated two pages to scones. So depending on the type of cook you are, you may this book extremely informative, or too difficult to follow.
Matt is a food journalist and is probably most well-known for his role as a judge on MasterChef Australia.