Book Reviews

5 Cookbooks for the Global Food Lover

My Sweet Mexico: Recipes for Authentic Pastries, Breads, Candies, Beverages, and Frozen Treats

It’s that time of year again, when travel blogs feature their annual gift buying guides. If my blatant attempt at sarcasm hasn’t seeped through yet, it’s just that I don’t really care for these posts because they’re either completely identical in terms of content or they feature the same products, just from different brands. Or worse, you notice some of the same content from previous years.

So for something different, I thought I would feature five cookbooks you should buy as Christmas presents for the person  who one, loves to cook, and two, loves global cuisines. If there’s one thing I know, it’s this type of cookbook, and even though I don’t seem to have much time anymore to do a lot of cooking from scratch, that doesn’t mean I don’t faithfully stalk the cookbook webpages of Amazon. So without further ado, my five recommendations for cookbooks you should gift for the global food lover in your life.

The Food of Oman: Recipes and Stories from the Gateway to Arabia by Felicia Campbell 

I’m not going to lie, Oman had never been on my travel radar. Sure, I could locate it on a map easily enough but I had no idea how visually stunning it was.   It seemed like it was a real life Agrabah (the fictional location of the Disney animated classic Aladdin). And then I borrowed the cookbook The Food of Oman and my mouth was watering. Like most cookbooks (really coffee table books) these days, the photographs found inside are beautiful-they feature not only images of prepared dishes, but also scenes of Omani people and places, both famous and everyday. Two of the things I really liked had nothing to do with cooking per se.    The first was a hand-drawn map of the country depicting its various regions  and how native dress differs.   Second was a page containing photographs of some of the most commonly used spices in Omani cuisine.   As a cook of extremely exotic cuisines, this is most helpful.

I also loved  that there was a whole chapter entitled “Between Meals” which covered everything from savory bites, breads, sweets, beverages, and pantry condiments. This is a cookbook I look forward to adding to my collection.

King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World by Joan Nathan

Last year I ate at Abe Fisher, a restaurant in my hometown of Philadelphia whose cuisine is “inspired by the journey of the Jewish people from their ancestral homeland to the Diaspora.” Well, the cookbook by Joan Nathan, King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World is exactly that. Jewish people have literally traveled to all corners of the world and so over time, their cooking has become infused with the local cuisines where they  ultimately settled. Thus, the recipes you find in King Solomon’s Table originated everywhere from Italy, Poland, and Bulgaria to Yemen and Ethiopia to New York and Miami. The recipes vary in length and difficulty although I don’t think any are “Julia Child hard.” It’s really a matter of finding one that suits you. I’ve already made Putterkuchen (Butter Crumble Cake) but look forward to trying out the Caponata Siciliana di Melanzane alla Giudia (Sicilian Eggplant Caponata Jewish-Style) and Pletzel (Onion and Poppy Seed Flatbread). My one slight critique is that not all the recipes  feature a picture of the finished product. Personally, I  enjoy knowing what (in theory) the dish should look like.

King Solomon's Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World

Taste of Persia: A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan by Naomi Duguid 

I won’t say too much on Taste of Persia because I’ve certainly talked at length about it here before.  However, I must say that if you truly are a citizen of the world and love to cook, this is one cookbook you MUST add to your collection. And as you know, I am dying to get to Georgia because I know I’d get my khachapuri fill!

Taste of Persia: A Cook's Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan

My Sweet Mexico: Recipes for Authentic Pastries, Breads, Candies, Beverages, and Frozen Treats by Fany Gerson

Okay, so I feel Mexican desserts come in “under the radar” as the American English idiom goes. If you were to poll most people (well, let’s say non-Latinos) to name  a Mexican sweet, churros would probably be the number one answer you’d get. But that’s terrible because there is so much more to the world of Mexican sweets, as evidenced by Fany Gerson’s beautiful cookbook  My Sweet MexicoOne of my favorite things about Mexico from the two times I was living there were visits to the panadería (bakery). Mexicans are very big on their sweet breads (no, I’m NOT talking about the thymus), and so a whole chapter in the cookbook is devoted to them. There’s also everything from beverages to sweets from the convents (nuns in Spanish-speaking countries have long made products that they then sell to the general public as a source of income), heirloom sweets, corn, and more.

I first became aware of Fany Gerson a couple of years ago when I learned she made paletas, Mexican-style ice pops, in New York City.  She opened a brick and mortar shop in the city’s Village and on my trip to New York back in the fall, I was able to visit. I can’t recommend a stop at La Newyorkina enough.

My Sweet Mexico: Recipes for Authentic Pastries, Breads, Candies, Beverages, and Frozen Treats

The Pho Cookbook: Easy to Adventurous Recipes for Vietnam’s Favorite Soup and Noodles by Andrea Nguyen 

Back when I first started this blog, I actually did make my own phở, complete with oxtail bones (they really are the staple of the famous broth). I haven’t made it again since but that doesn’t mean a trip to Vietnam isn’t at the very top of my Asia bucket list, namely so I can try some authentic phở. While there are certainly countless cookbooks  on the market on Vietnamese cuisine, I like Nguyen’s work because it doesn’t just have one phở recipe, but rather scores of them, because in a country as big and diverse as Vietnam, there’s naturally a Hanoi-style phở and a Saigon-style phở. Nguyen breaks  phở into the following categories-master phở, adventurous phở, along with chapters on phở add ons, and even stir-fried, deep-fried, and pan fried phở!

I’m actually most looking forward to trying some of the non-phở recipes like the Tofu and Thai Basil.

The Pho Cookbook: Easy to Adventurous Recipes for Vietnam's Favorite Soup and Noodles

What cookbooks of global cuisines would you add to the list?

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