• Top 10 Best Chinese Cookbooks to Buy Online 2020 1
  • Top 10 Best Chinese Cookbooks to Buy Online 2020 2
  • Top 10 Best Chinese Cookbooks to Buy Online 2020 3
  • Top 10 Best Chinese Cookbooks to Buy Online 2020 4
  • Top 10 Best Chinese Cookbooks to Buy Online 2020 5

Top 10 Best Chinese Cookbooks to Buy Online 2020

China is vast. Its land is vast; its history is vast; its food repertoire is–you guessed it–vast. If you like eating Chinese, you’ve probably heard of these cuisines right? Sichuan, Hunan, Guandong, Shandong… And you’ve more than likely heard of these spices and condiments. Peppercorn, star anise, oyster sauce…

So you may be ready to try your hand at Chinese cooking, but you’re worried. You don’t know how to find a cookbook that’s authentic (but easy!), and you don’t know if you want to focus on dishes from a single region or from all over China. And you would rather not be stuck with a cookbook filled with ingredients you can’t get your hands on. Actually, you probably have a million more questions, so let’s slowly work through them together.
  • Last updated: 10-24-2019
  • 432 views
Table of Contents

How to Choose a Chinese Cookbook – Buying Guide

When faced with so much questions and such a vast topic, there’s only one thing to do. Divide and conquer. So, below, we picked out a few general questions you might have about Chinese cookbooks, organized them into sections, and answered them one-by-one.

Are You a Beginner? Or Just Busy? Look for Simple Cookbooks

Authentic Chinese cooking can be difficult–and we’re not just talking about stir-fry techniques. An advanced cookbook is good if you already know a thing or two about Chinese dishes and you’re looking for new inspiration. However, if you don’t have a lot of time on your hands or are new to cooking, you’ll want a cookbook tailored to beginners.

Make Sure the Cookbook is Meant for Home Cooks in America

Make Sure the Cookbook is Meant for Home Cooks in America
Let’s get this out of the way. The average commercial burner used for Chinese stir-fry can produce temperatures nearly 10 times as high as that pitiful thing in your kitchen can. Ten times. So if you aren’t careful when you pick up a Chinese cookbook, you are going to end up with limp, leaky veggies and chewy, characterless meat.
And while we’re on the topic of equipment, make sure that the cookbook doesn’t ask that you use any woks, knives, or other gear you don’t have or otherwise aren’t willing to buy. (Some cookbooks do give you the option to use American-styled skillets.) Look for important keywords like “Simple” and “Home Cooking” when it comes to Chinese cookbooks.
You also want to check how many spices the cookbook utilizes. There’s Amazon Prime now, as well as plenty of cities where rarer Chinese condiments and spices, like chili bean sauce and five-spice powder can be found. But if you don’t want to pay for shipping or you live miles away from the nearest Chinese supermarket, look for a book that calls for as few rare spices as possible.

Look for One-Dish Meals that are Fast and Nutritionally Balanced

Look for One-Dish Meals that are Fast and Nutritionally Balanced
Chinese side dishes usually have just one main ingredient–so you have just a pork dish or just a vegetable dish. That means that, for a complete meal, you’d have to make at least two side dishes, as well as get the rice going in the cooker. And who has the time or energy for that on a busy weekday night after work?
So if you’re looking to cut down on prep time, see if the cookbook offers one-dish meals that also ensure you meet your daily dietary requirements.

Does the Book Explain the Spices and Cooking Methods and Offer More Inspiration?

Does the Book Explain the Spices and Cooking Methods and Offer More Inspiration?
If you do decide to go for a book that uses a bunch of different spices, see if it includes explanations of them–aroma, taste, about methods of use. That way, when you’re ready to start experimenting in the kitchen, either crafting your own Chinese dishes or dreaming up fusion-cuisine, you can incorporate these spices in novel ways.
Likewise, books that offer general how-tos for Chinese cooking methods and tools will 1) be invaluable to beginners who are just learning how to cook and 2) leave you with the freedom to use those tools and methods in different ways.

Do You Want Just a Region or a Smattering of Different Styles?

China is huge, and each of the regions has a different taste to offer. We could be here all night, and we wouldn’t be able to talk about all of them. What we will talk about are the “Eight Great Cuisines”–made up of eight regions famous for their distinctive tastes.

Sichuan and Hunan: The Two Spicy Ones

Sichuan and Hunan: The Two Spicy Ones
You’ve probably heard of this first one–Sichuan. It’s known for its biting hot chili and pungent, refreshing peppercorns. The taste, in Chinese, is often described as “mala“–or numbing and spicy. A lot of Sichuan dishes will also have a sweet or sour component playing underneath, perfect for people who like complex, layered flavors. A famous representative? Mapo tofu.
Hunan is another bright and spicy region, but it doesn’t use copious amounts of peppercorn–so you don’t get that tingling sensation. Instead, the aroma of garlic and the savoriness of meat give Hunan dishes their bold flavor profile. Hunan is known for its “dry pot” dishes–stir-fries with very little moisture, which leaves the meat crunchy without, the vegetables crisp, and spices fragrant.

Guangdong or Cantonese: Lighter and Easier on the Stomach

Guangdong or Cantonese: Lighter and Easier on the Stomach
All the spice and oil in a Sichuanese dish can land you in the restroom the next day if you aren’t careful. If you’re looking for something lighter and more refreshing, perhaps pick out a Cantonese cookbook. The Cantonese are famous for dim sum–or “morning tea”–which often consists of steamed dishes light enough for a morning meal. Their rice noodle rolls are to die for.
Cantonese congee is the ultimate comfort food, by the way. The most popular variety is Century Egg-Lean Pork Porridge, which infuses rice with the umami of meat and preserved egg.

Shandong, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang: Seaside Regions with Savory-Sweet, Braised Dishes

Shandong, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang: Seaside Regions with Savory-Sweet, Braised Dishes
Tender and savory-sweet isn’t, of course, all these regions have to offer, but it’s one of their main tastes. Shangdong has rich, nourishing flavors–featuring clear broths that have bubbled for hours, deep, milky soups, sweet and sour carp, and the creaminess of sea cucumbers.
Jiangsu offers more balanced flavors. Jiangsu chefs stress the use of fresh ingredients, and sugar is a popular seasoning, so you get sweet and mellow undertones. It makes good use of the hong shao method, where you braise pork in soy sauce and rice wine. Jiangsu is also famous for salted duck and sweet and sour Mandarin fish (look above), which you will not be able to make at home.
Zhejiang is directly south of Jiangsu, and it utilizes the same savory-sweet approch and attention to fresh ingredients and seafood. Its dishes are quite dainty and not quite as greasy and overpowering as other Chinese dishes. It’s home to Shaoxing, famous for its wine, so its braised dishes–such as the tender and succulent Dongpo pork–are both clear and flavorful.

Fujian and Anhui: Hearty, Nourishing Fare

Fujian and Anhui: Hearty, Nourishing Fare
Fujian is another seaside province, and its dishes are rich, with a number of thick broths, stews, and soups known as “geng.” This region also loves to pickle its food and use Chinese rice wine, giving dishes a slightly sweet, crystallized, heady taste.
Anhui is further insland, neighboring Jiangsu, so their fare can be quite similar at times. However, Anhui is a mountainous–and not a coast-side–region, so their dishes utilize a lot of wild herbs, plants, and animals. There is less emphasis on stir-frying and more on stewing–think of the famous and multifarious Li Hongzhang Hotchpotch.

How is the Book Organized? Make Sure It’s Easy to Read

How is the Book Organized? Make Sure It’s Easy to Read
There can be a lot of recipes in one book, so you need to make sure they’re laid out in a way that makes sense to you. Check first if the index is extensive and easy to follow.
Then see how the recipes are arranged. Is it by the type of main ingredient? That’ll be good if you’re looking for nutritional balance and a variety of side dishes. Is it by cooking method? That’ll be good if you’re looking to budget your time.
Then look at the recipes themselves–are they written out in a way that’s easy to read, or is there a lot of text that obscures the instructions? Are there icons and visual cues? Is there cook time and serving size and, if you need it, nutritional information listed out? Amazon has a LOOK INSIDE! for a lot of its books, which will come in helpful if you want to quickly look at the layout.

Top 10 Best Chinese Cookbooks to Buy Online

Hopefully, we’ve primed your appetite and left you chomping at the bit and ready to get cooking. So here are 10 of our favorite cookbooks that will have you working magic in your kitchen.

10. Harper & Row – Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook

$4.74

9. Knopf – The Key to Chinese Cooking

$3.01

8. Ten Speed Press – All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China

$24.31

7. Simon & Schuster – Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge: The Ultimate Guide to Mastery, with Authentic Recipes and Stories

$26.19

6. Rockridge Press – The Essential Wok Cookbook: A Simple Chinese Cookbook for Stir-Fry, Dim Sum, and Other Restaurant Favorites

$16.19

5. Phaidon Press – China: The Cookbook

$33.95

4. Rockridge Press – The Healthy Wok Chinese Cookbook: Fresh Recipes to Sizzle, Steam, and Stir-Fry Restaurant Favorites at Home

$14.88

3. W.W. Norton & Company – Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking

$32.18

2. Tuttle Publishing – Easy Chinese Recipes: Family Favorites from Dim Sum to Kung Pao

$21.20

1. Tuttle Publishing – Katie Chin’s Everyday Chinese Cookbook: 101 Delicious Recipes from My Mother’s Kitchen

$16.96

Summary

Chinese cooking was always expansive, covering all corners of that vast country. But, nowadays, with more and more chefs immigrating to the States and altering their dishes to fit the palettes of North America, the definition of Chinese cooking has become even murkier.
Whether you’re a purist who believes that “Chinese cooking” can only be defined as food you’d get at a street stall in Chengdu, or you’re more open to the newer tastes of Panda Express and New Yorkian Chinese takeout, there is a cookbook for you. We hope you found something up above that inspired you to fire up your wok and make yourself a warm and savory feast.

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