The 10 Best Asian Cookbooks

Updated June 22, 2017 by Melissa Harr

10 Best Asian Cookbooks
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We spent 43 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. When you finally get tired of grilled cheese sandwiches, why not spice up your meals by learning some new dishes from one of these Asian cookbooks? You can go on a culinary tour of India, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, and China, and don’t worry — we’ve included something suitable for everyone, from the most basic amateur to the highly proficient and experienced cook. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best asian cookbook on Amazon.

10. Sushi: The Beginner’s Guide

Sushi: The Beginner’s Guide walks you through all of the steps necessary in moving from total sushi newbie to roll-making master. Along with close-up photographs and detailed explanations, the author provides a wide and useful range of recipes.
  • excellent and clear images
  • includes japanese names for foods
  • not many vegetarian options
Publisher Imatani, Aya
Model n/a
Weight 1.5 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

9. Pok Pok

Pok Pok covers a range of Thai recipes in a unique style that holds a quaint charm for some, although others find it a bit jumbled. It does a great job of explaining Thai flavor profiles, which may help you create some of your very own dishes.
  • works well as ingredients reference
  • detailed and thorough
  • perhaps best for experienced cooks
Publisher imusti
Model n/a
Weight 2.8 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

8. Japanese Soul Cooking

Japanese Soul Cooking, which offers over 100 recipes, has a dual goal. First, it seeks to introduce Japanese comfort food, such as ramen or udon soup, to American cooks, and second, it tries to make this cuisine approachable and accessible.
  • tells the origins of favorite dishes
  • thoughtfully laid out
  • foolproof directions
Publisher Ten Speed Press
Model n/a
Weight 1.9 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

7. Land of Fish and Rice

Land of Fish and Rice brings to you the techniques, ingredients, and recipes of the lower Yangtze region of China, a much-loved culinary territory. Besides a treasure trove of food-related information, you’ll be treated to anecdotes and historical asides from the author.
  • good gift for foodies
  • includes meat and poultry meals
  • requires hard-to-find items
Publisher W W Norton Company
Model n/a
Weight 2.8 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

6. Burma Superstar

Burma Superstar brings you a taste of Myanmar from the owner of the popular San Francisco restaurant of the same name. All recipes have been streamlined, so you won't need to be a pro chef to achieve mouthwatering meals, such as chili lamb or pumpkin stew.
  • coauthored by experienced gourmands
  • features essays about the country
  • lacking some meals from restaurant
Publisher TEN SPEED
Model n/a
Weight 2.6 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

5. Momofuku by David Chang

Momofuku by David Chang has revolutionized how Americans cook Asian cuisine with his dedication to mastering foods, flavors, and exotic fares. It's more than just a cookbook, as it also tells the stories behind the creation of many of the recipes.
  • chronicles chang's rise to fame
  • a bit heavy on the profanity
  • meals are somewhat labor intensive
Publisher Chang, David
Model n/a
Weight 2.7 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

4. The Slanted Door

The Slanted Door has a number of modern versions of traditional Vietnamese chow, along with stories from the famous San Francisco restaurant that shares its name. Extremely well-written, it provides easy-to-follow recipes and stunning images of the finished dishes.
  • from an award-winning chef
  • plenty of alcoholic beverages
  • some oversimplification of flavors
Publisher Random House
Model n/a
Weight 3.8 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

3. Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking

Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking covers all types of traditional Korean comfort food from simple, few-ingredient dishes to complex restaurant-style eats. It includes a full glossary of terms and ingredients that will help familiarize you with the mainstays of this cuisine.
  • whole chapter on kimchis and pickles
  • step-by-step pictures
  • substitution suggestions
Publisher Kim, Maangchi
Model n/a
Weight 2.7 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

2. Vegan Richa's Indian Kitchen

Vegan Richa's Indian Kitchen will help expose you to new spices and flavors that you might have previously found intimidating and teach you to create exotic and healthy Indian food. It contains a range of mouthwatering desserts and breads.
  • makes vegetables the star ingredient
  • no stressful or complex processes
  • useful gift for new vegans
Publisher Vegan Heritage Press LL
Model n/a
Weight 1.5 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

1. Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge

Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge doesn't focus on any particular regional cooking. Instead, it provides you with more than 100 traditional stir-fry recipes and is designed to help you become an authority by outlining the essential wok techniques and tools.
  • inspired by many parts of asia
  • helpful shopping advice
  • for beginning and experienced cooks
Publisher Young, Grace
Model n/a
Weight 2.7 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

Bringing Eastern Cuisine To Your Home

The term "Asian cuisine" can be used broadly to define the foods native to or inspired by a massive swath of the planet. Foods from regions as ostensibly disparate as southern India to Korea, Thailand to Japan, and Mongolia to Indonesia all fairly fall under the umbrella term of Asian food (sometimes also referred to as "Eastern"). This comes as no surprise, really, when one realizes that the greater continent of Asia accounts for more than 4.1 billion of the earth's inhabitants (the current global population is estimated to be around 7.5 billion people, for reference).

Given the diversity inherent, then, in Asian cooking, one might think that the best way to begin their own journey toward mastering a given cuisine is to simply find an Asian cookbook covering the foods of a region they already know they like. That, in fact, would be an oversimplification. For just as so-called Western cooking has changed and evolved in recent years, so too has the approach to food preparation changed globally. As just one clear example, consider a cookbook that would never have been seen just a generation ago, such as a guide dedicated to 100 percent vegan Indian cooking.

Also keep in mind that compared to many types of cooking (Americana and basic Italian, for example), adroit Asian cooking can be quite difficult to learn and master. A Japanese itamae (chef) typically works for five years before he or she even begins to prepare the rice used to make sushi; the full training may last twenty years. So be ready to be patient, and by all means start with a basic cookbook.

Once you know which general type of food you wish to prepare -- Japanese or Mongolian, e.g. -- it is then time to decide whether you approach the cuisine generally in terms of taste or preparation method. Many Asian cookbooks focus on the tools and techniques used in the preparation, such as the wok and stir-fry cooking or the gear used in the process of pickling foods such as is common in much Korean cooking. Other books approach their recipes in terms of ingredients used. Both approaches will likely involve a good deal of investment in new gear, new staple foods, or both.

Finally, consider whether you prefer a book the reads more like a manual or more like a volume of prose. Many cookbooks (Asian and otherwise, of course) weave a story into their pages, telling tales of the author's life, of a given place or time, or taking some other narrative approach. Other books are much more matter-of-fact, focusing on lists of ingredients and step-by-step instructions. There is no right or wrong approach, merely that which suits your preference.

The Basic Ingredients of (Much) Asian Cooking

When many people think of Asian food, the first ingredient that comes to mind is soy sauce. And while indeed this tangy, sweet, and salty sauce is prominently used in many dishes, it is not nearly so common in authentic cuisine as Americanized Asian food would lead one to believe. That said, you will want to have a bottle of good soy sauce on hand -- consider a low-sodium option (and note that some brands offer gluten-free soy sauces as well, a must for those with Celiac disease).

The other sauces you should have on hand include a good chili sauce (Sriracha is considered a gold standard by many people), a fish sauce, a fermented rice cooking wine such as Mirin, sesame oil, and a rice vinegar. Also consider stocking several cans of coconut milk, particularly if you enjoy southeastern Asian cooking; Thai food in particular uses plenty of coconut milk.

Having a few lemons and limes on hand is also a good idea, though jars of their juice will serve if need be and will keep for many months in the refrigerator. Also make sure you have plenty of onions (white or yellow, ideally) as well as fresh cilantro, fresh ginger, and plenty of garlic, either fresh or in frozen cubes.

Also in the freezer should be plenty of chicken and pork, and perhaps some fish. As for non-perishable goods, you will need to have plenty of rice on hand. Also stock up on noodles (which will likely be made from rice). Keeping sesame seeds and peanuts can do much to enhance certain dishes, as can salt and even sugar. Also keep cans of chickpeas on hand for many Indian dishes.

Perfect Tools for Cooking Eastern Cuisine

If you already have a generally well-stocked kitchen, with a good array of knives, pots and pans, a decent stove and oven, and so forth, chances are you will not need any new tools or supplies to help you begin cooking Asian-style meals. But the right gear can not only make the process easier and more authentic, but can also make your cooking experience more enjoyable as well.

Many Asian meals are prepared in a concave large frying pan usually referred to as a wok. Many woks can be used with traditional gas or electric stoves, while others can even be placed over the heat of a charcoal grill or wood fire. Other woks provide their own heat, plugging in and using an electric heating element. If you want an authentic stir fry cooking experience, a wok is must-have tool.

A complete set of Japanese cook's knives comprises more than two dozen individual cutting tools. If you are not ready to make the massive investment into that level of arsenal, at least procure a decent sashimi knife (also called a shobu-bocho) for preparing fish, a gyuto (which translates as "beef sword") for sawing at meats and chopping thick vegetables, and a nakiri for chopping leafy vegetables and other more tender foods. If you plan to make your own sushi, also get well-made bamboo rolling mats.

Traditional Korean cooking is often done on a flat iron plate that is heated over a stovetop, grill, or open flames. These plates are ideal for searing fish fillets and the highly popular thick cuts of pork belly so often found in Korean cuisine. A standard griddle can be used, but many chefs invest in a Korean grill plate largely thanks to their standard grease drains, which make foods healthier and cooking cleaner.

Finally, make sure you own or buy a good wooden spatula. Much Asian cooking involves constantly moving foods, and a wooden tool will not scratch your pots or pans.



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Last updated on June 22, 2017 by Melissa Harr

Melissa is a writer, editor, and EFL educator from the U.S. She's worked in the field since earning her B.A. in 2012, during which time she's judged fiction contests, taught English in Asia, and authored e-courses about arts and crafts. In her free time, she likes to make stuff out of sticks and string.


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