The Best Chinese Cookbooks. Create better food than your local takeaway.

One of the oldest civilisations in the world, China has an immense history of amazing food. With very different styles across the regions of China. Here’s our list of the best Chinese cookbooks to explore this exciting and diverse cuisine and replace your takeaway cravings for good! It’s so much more satisfying when you know you made it yourself.

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The Food of Sichuan

After we returned home from our first trip to China, I furiously researched the best Chinese cookbooks. Then I bought all of Fuchsia Dunlop’s regional books. The Food of Sichuan details recipes from the province known for the fiery mala flavour profile. A full meal contains various styles of dishes but if you like your food hot then this is the book for you. Fuchsia Dunlop was the first non-Chinese graduate from the Sichuan institute of Higher Cuisine in Chengdu. The only accredited culinary school in China.

Stir Frying to the Sky’s Edge

My first experience of Chinese cooking was the stir fry; simple, quick and delicious. The possibilities of the stir fry are so much more than that cheap meal you ate as a student though. This book gives you the chance to master this skill and add amazing diversity to this staple of home cooking. No collection of the best Chinese cookbooks would be complete without this volume.

Land of Fish and Rice: Recipes from the Culinary Heart of China

This excellent book by Fuchsia Dunlop focuses on the area around Shanghai in the lower Yangtze river. As the title suggests, there is much more focus on fish than in her other books. You’ll want a good fishmonger to get equivalent fish, even if not the ones specified in the book. The style here is lighter and simpler than the food of Sichuan and Hunan. This is ideal for those who prefer the more delicate side of Chinese cuisine. 

Chinese Takeout Cookbook

So we all know the Chinese food we eat in the West isn’t the same as in China. That doesn’t mean it isn’t delicious! As entrepreneurial Chinese chefs modified their recipes for our palates, they created something new, exciting and undeniably delicious. Save some money and make your takeout favourites at home with this book. Not necessarily any healthier than the stuff that comes from the takeaway, if you worry about such things, but very good for the bank balance.

Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province

The province of Hunan in southern China is another area which fell in love with the chilli. It is also the home of Chairman Mao and has become far more prominent in Chinese cuisine since the revolution. This book includes Mao’s favourite dish, red braised pork belly, as well as other Hunanese classics. They use more dry spices than the Shanghai region and less heat than Sichuan. Alhough you will find some mala flavour dishes in here. Overall, this cookbook is a really good blend from the superb Fuchsia Dunlop.

Complete Chinese Cookbook

Ken Hom gives a beginner, western kitchen friendly guide to Chinese cooking. This cookbook is really good if you don’t have a Chinese supermarket nearby or if it’s your first foray into Chinese cooking. The dishes are more Westernised than most but still very good and the recipes are easy to follow.

Every Grain of Rice

The last of our recommendations from Fuchsia Dunlop – until she releases another book as she’s amazing! Every Grain of Rice focuses on the simple cooking of Southern China where vegetables play more of a role. So, predictably, if you’re vegetarian this is the best of her books to get. There are vegetable dishes and tofu aplenty in all of her books but the ratio is much higher in this one. Like all her books, you require a few specialist ingredients to make the dishes but they are not overly complex and the results are fantastic.

China: a Cookbook

A fairly comprehensive look at the 35 cuisines of China in 300 recipes. This book gives great detail on the origins of dishes and the differences between regions. Not one for the beginner and you definitely need access to specialist ingredients. However, the more experienced chef will enjoy mastering the many techniques of Chinese cooking. Everything is covered from dumplings to soups, congee to stir frys, and banquet style meats.

All Under Heaven

This is another in a fabulous collection of monster cookbooks that covers almost everything you could want to know about a cuisine. A great addition to your shelf,  as much for reading the fascinating history of Chinese food as it is for making the amazing dishes. It would be a crime to have a best Chinese cookbooks list without it. If you want to go from knowing nothing to knowing everything about Chinese food in one book, this is your guide.

Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees

A slightly different style of book, but one we love a lot. Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees will take you through the fundemental techniques of Chinese cooking and recipes to use them in. The reason I like this is it gives you more license to freewheel and have your own spin on things. Any book that helps you to be more creative and cook new things without having to memorise recipes is one that we’re huge fans of.

Want more cookbook recommendations? Look no further:

Scottish Cookbooks  |  Japanese Cookbooks  |  Chinese Cookbooks  |  Thai Cookbooks  |  Spanish Cookbooks

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The Plate Unknown is an educational food blog. Here we share information about world food culture, the origin of dishes from around the world, and tips for taking a food-focused trip.  

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