As a follow-up to the story I posted yesterday about learning to cook while in China, I thought I should mention a few of my more commonly used resources. I found myself wanting to mention them in the previous post, but decided not to interrupt the flow of the story by including too many details.
For breads and cakes, I have worn out my Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook. I learned a while back that if you can start to get a feel for the right proportions of dry and wet ingredients in a recipe, you can adapt it to your own flavor preferences, and this standard cookbook has some solid, basic recipes that I’ve tweaked over and over again to make breads and cakes with my own flair. Betty Crocker is also where I tend to turn for basic information about meat and vegetable preparation—it’s just a solid resource book.
A few years back, a roommate introduced me to More-with-Less Cookbook, by Doris Janzen Longacre. For someone living overseas, this book is a must. So many simple, yet delicious recipes. I love that the recipes don’t start with a can of cream of mushroom soup or a block of Velveeta or any number of other American recipe staples that I can’t get here (and really shouldn’t be eating on a regular basis in America, anyway).
My favorite online resource is allrecipes.com, in large part because of its ingredients search function. I can search for recipes that include ingredients that I have on hand, as well as excluding ingredients that aren’t available to me—a big deal if I’m trying to find a recipe that, say, uses cocoa powder instead of baking chocolate. And, again, if you get a feel for how to use the right proportions, this site is a good place to read through several similar recipes for ideas and then strike out on your own.
Several people have asked me over the years about writing up some local recipes, and I just haven’t had time to do it in addition to my other work (with the exception of a blog entry I posted last year of Lydia’s mom’s steamed fish). Chinese cookbooks abound, if you’re in the mood for Cantonese or Sichuan or some of the more popular cuisines. But recipes from Yunnan are a bit more hard to come by, so I was quite excited when a friend gave me a recently published cookbook called A Taste of Shan by Page Bingham, with recipes from the Shan State in northern Myanmar, just across the border from where I live. The Shan of Myanmar have ethnic (and therefore, culinary) ties with the Dai of China, so this book will be a treasure to me in days to come, when I need to whip up something to remind me of southern Yunnan.
(Thanks, Emily, for More-with-Less, and thank you, Erin, for A Taste of Shan.)
Next in the “Finishing Well” series: ”What to do with our talents”