Restaurant Reviews

Spicy Steve's Favorite Cookbooks & Food Related Books

With a library of hundreds of books, it came as quite a surprise that many of my best cook books and food related reference books are out of print and used copies are selling at extremely outlandish prices so, sadly, I have not included them.

I look for books that not only have great recipes, but have extensive food history, a good glossary of tools and ingredients that provide both the reader and cook with a sense of what the food is all about. It is the stories behind food
that add to the flavor and the experience of a dish. I have tried to short list some good books which will hopefully provide either the basics with as much detail as possible for the generalist or suggest very in-depth books for the devotee of South East Asian cuisines that I cook and educate on.

If you do want to purchase any of the books I recommend, please consider doing so through the Amazon links provided below as we are in association with Amazon.ca. Just click on the book's image and you will be transported to the Amazon site. You will pay no more, however we will get back a fraction of the purchase price that will help with the regular running and maintenance of this website. Many thanks for your support.

Thailand
Malaysia & Singapore
Vietnam
South East Asia
Reference

Thailand

Thai Food by David Thompson

The bible for serious lovers of Thai food.  This compact 673 tome is a collection of classics and unique dishes, many translated by Thompson while in Thailand from old recipes and manuscripts.  The first 117 pages alone are on Thai Food History and Culture, even before you hit the recipe section which includes 8 chapters on the "Fundamentals of Thai Cooking" and two chapters on "Food 'Outside the Meal" - snack food, street food and desserts. Photos are sparse in this book due to the immense amount of information complied.  David Thompson is one of Australia's foremost chefs, restaurateurs, and cookery writers.  You could easily call this book a culinary and academic achievement.
If you are serious about Thai food it is worth every penny.

Vatch's Thai Kitchen:  Thai Dishes To Cook At Home by Vatcharin Bhumichitr

I am going out on a limb recommending this one, however, I don't see how you can go wrong with anything Vatch publishes.  His cook books are usually always in a user friendly format with great photography and commentary.  So if you are looking at a basic Thai cookbook with all the classics that you can cook at home without buying a 673 "cookbook bible" like David Thompson's Thai Food then Vatch is a good place to start.

Vatch's Thai Street Food by Vatcharin Bhumichitr

Vatcharin Bhumichitr is a Thai Restaurateur and owner of various UK based Thai restaurants including the world-famous Chang Mai in London which was the first Thai restaurant outside of Asia to specialize in regional Thai cuisine.  This book covers Thai regional "hawker" or street food that so many travelers have enjoyed and backpackers have survived on when traveling throughout that country.  This book is well laid out, categorized by the regions versus types of dishes and is filled with tasty recipes and excellent photography.

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Malaysia & Singapore

Shiok! Exciting Tropical Asian Flavours by Terry Tan  

It seems that my collection of over 40 Malaysian and Singaporean cookbooks are either out of print or for the most part only available in Singapore and Malaysia where I bought most of them. Shiok is a term used in Malaysia and Singapore that usually conveys a feeling of intense pleasure in eating something.  This is another book I am putting myself out on a limb for as Terry Tan has been around for donkeys years, the foreword is by David Thompson whom I respect deeply and the preview of photos and table of contents looks very good and up to date on Amazon.  

While this book is focused on being Singaporean and there are lots of political reasons why it is either one or the other but seldom mixed, many of the recipes apply to Malaysia as well, or more specifically southern Malaysia.  A bowl of laksa in Singapore and Johor Bahru is very similar while one from Penang in the north is a very different 'animal'.  The same goes for Hokkien Mee and Char Kway Teow among others, so if you want a decent cookbook for Singapore that also covers many dishes replicated in Southern Malaysia or all of Malaysia, this is a good starting point.

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Vietnam

Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table by Mai Pham

Mai Pham is the chef/owner of the acclaimed Lemon Grass Restaurant in Sacremento, California.  She shares her love of Vietnam where she was born in this 242 page cook book that includes lots of stories, food history and background on Vietnamese cuisine.  It's a very personal cookbook with lots of great recipes included from Mai's family and a very enjoyable read.  A great introduction to Vietnamese cuisine with a depth that goes well beyond just recipes and a glossary.

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South East Asia
None in stock at Amazon.com

Essentials of Asian Cuisine by Connie Trang

Connie is an American Vietnamese cookery writer and author of the award winning Authentic Vietnamese Cooking (1999).  In this 608 page cookbook, the author takes you on a culinary journey through Asia and not only offers up some excellent recipes but brings a much deeper insight into the ingredients and origins of each dish.  Trang truly tries to help the reader appreciate food history and relationship of one dish to another, to its cultural roots and to other dishes in the region.  

I love food history and facts rather than just a recipe, so if you are like me, you'll like this book.  It's a reader's book with over 60 pages of essential and fundamental reference information for the devoted foodie followed by another 500 plus pages with recipes and further background information relevant to each.

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Reference

Southeast Asian Specialties:
A Culinary Journey Through Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia

by Rosalind Mowe (Editor)

This is a terrific reference book you should get your hands on if you love this part of the world as much as I do.  It is a reprint from German of Culinaria Sudostasien into a paperback English version.  It is a reasonably sized book versus the huge Culinaria editions usually printed, however, if you know the Culinaria series which cover many countries it still contains the same level of excellent text and photography.  

This is a reference book with over 300 pages and lots of photos and articles on every imaginable aspect of food culture, ingredients, styles of cooking, beverages, festivals, food art and even a few recipes thrown in, although the emphasis is not on the recipes.  Any book in the Culinaria series covering any area you really are interested in is a must for the devoted foodie.  I have heard there is a Thai version, however, I don't know if it was ever published in English. This edition covers Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

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