Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month - Food and Cooking

Sheryn Morris, Librarian, Literature & Fiction,
Book covers of delicious Asian Pacific food and cooking
Book covers of delicious Asian Pacific food and cooking; mmm, what's for dinner?

Asia is the largest continent in the world, with over 40 sovereign states and territories. The boundaries between the European and Asian continents are not so easily defined. Many countries have cuisines and methods of cooking that go back centuries. There are overlaps and contrasts in certain types of food and their origins, with heated discussions about who makes something best. All I can add is yum for those of us on the sidelines.

Around the world in L.A.

I cannot claim to have eaten my way through the foods of all those countries and regions. It is a pleasurable job in progress. As a native Angeleno, living in a city that is a cross-section of the world, and having traveled a little, I have food memories from some of those places, eaten mostly in L.A. Let’s begin with a few first-timers: an eight-course dinner celebrating the Chinese New Year; a student pot-luck Filipino dinner; dim sim ordered by Chinese friends, who ordered unadorned chicken feet; special foods eaten at an end-of-the-day fast for Ramadan; Korean glass noodles made by a Librarian, who worried about too much garlic, never enough; stuffed grape leaves, Armenian recipe, as a take-along food on a road trip, and returning home to make them; shopping at Bangkok Market, closed last year, at Melrose & Olympic to buy curry paste for pad thai; Brashov Restaurant, Romanian Armenian, closed long ago, at Vermont & Franklin for mititei; Chinese jook or zook, a cure-all soup like its counterpart, chicken noodle soup; recently, Armenian eech; Armenian Food Fair & Festival last May at Holy Cross Armenian Apostolic Cathedral; hummus made by a colleague, who has secret touches that make it the best ever.

Iranian Feasts in L.A.

Southern California has the largest Iranian community outside of Iran. Food memories: a raw egg yolk tossed into a hot stew, (khoresh), quickly stirred to make everything rich and creamy; doogh yogurt drink; the great variety of khoresh (stews); pickled vegetables fragrant with fenugreek; Persian cucumber, planted with seeds from Iran in a garden in Santa Monica, picked warm from the vine, and eaten with crystals of coarse salt; a snack of dried wheat berries; fighting over tahdig made from rice or potatoes; bamieh; rosewater and saffron used in ways never imagined by me. So many more memories of meals, the very best kind, cooked and served at someone’s home, where it was an honor to be a guest, and to be on the receiving end of abundant food and even more hospitality.

Turkish Delights

In Istanbul and other parts of Turkey: crispy simit; kunefe; grilled mackerel sandwiches fresh off a grill on a boat in the Golden Horn; fresh lemon squeezed on any bowl of the numerous lentil soups; burek; a plate of crispy fried anchovies; gozleme; in the Spice Bazaar in Izmir, a Turkish friend sharing a childhood treat—a slice of pickle in a small paper cup with the pickling juice; Turkish breakfasts; sour cherry jam in real yogurt; kumpir; freshly squeezed pomegranate juice; mezze is a meal in itself, and so much better; an array of candies, not just Turkish delight, mixes of seasoned roasted nuts and seeds sold in stalls in a Spice Bazaar; in the old part of Ankara, hospitality offered in a street market, where a man put out his hand, palm up, I offered to shake it, he waved me off with a smile, and dumped a fistful of warm roasted pumpkin seeds into my hand; on a cold damp evening, the smell of coffee roasting in Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar. As with Persian food, the best meals were at someone’s home, where hospitality reigned supreme. We feed ourselves to live, and we eat to live. On special occasions, we feed ourselves and others to celebrate. Every culture, country, religion, ethnic group has different types of foods they like to cook and eat. If you are not part of that group, then openly accept an invitation to a festival, a wedding, a religious event, and any seasonal celebration. Be part of the rituals, the foods, and their significance, the unique foods as prepared by someone’s elderly relative from a secret recipe handed down generation to generation, and have a wonderful time. As a guest, do not forget to bring a gift, and find out ahead of time what is appropriate.

The library’s cookbook collection is legendary, as are the Culinary Historians of Southern California. This list of cookbooks does not even begin to scratch the surface off an eggplant as to what our library can offer.

Asian Pacific American - Food & Cooking

Book cover for Aromas of Aleppo: The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews
Aromas of Aleppo: The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews
Dweck, Poopa

A large format cookbook which combines secular and religious history, with the customs and recipes of, what was, the Aleppian Jewish community in Syria. Numerous photographs (color and black and white) throughout the book.

Book cover for The Banh Mi Handbook: Recipes for Crazy-Delicious Vietnamese Sandwiches
The Banh Mi Handbook: Recipes for Crazy-Delicious Vietnamese Sandwiches
Nguyen, Andrea Quynhgiao

The same-old sandwiches can get boring, but that can change with some simple ideas for a favorite Vietnamese street food.

Book cover for Bottom of the Pot: Persian Recipes and Stories
Bottom of the Pot: Persian Recipes and Stories
Deravian, Naz

Naz Deravian left Iran when she was eight years old, and has no memory of her last meal in Teheran. She does remember her first meal in Vancouver, British Columbia—a quarter pounder with cheese and fries at MacDonald’s. Now living in Los Angeles, she has recreated some favorites from home that are adapted to American cooking methods. A cookbook, a memoir, and lots of stories, with full-page color photos.

Book cover for Easy Chinese Recipes: Family Favorites From Dim Sum to Kung Pao
Easy Chinese Recipes: Family Favorites From Dim Sum to Kung Pao
Low, Bee Yinn

Chinese cooking has specific techniques which are very exacting. However, the recipes in this book make it possible for everyone to prepare some of the well-known dishes without being a master cook. The recipes are easy to do!

Book cover for The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food
The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food
Lee, Jennifer 8.

 Fortune cookies are only part of the story here. Lee takes readers on a journey through the history of Chinese food with a particular emphasis on the dishes that Americans are most familiar with. You'll learn the
rise of the Chinese takeout restaurant, go inside the soy sauce wars, and uncover the surprising truth about General Tso's chicken.

Book cover for Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia
Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia
Alford, Jeffrey

Award-winning authors, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, take us on an eating adventure through southern China, Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. They cover easy-to-make, delicious street foods.

Book cover for Indian Cooking Unfolded
Indian Cooking Unfolded
Iyer, Raghavan

Raghavan Iyer is the modern master of Indian cuisine, which is not just curry. The winner of three James Beard Awards, an Emmy, and other accolades, he makes it possible for everyone to cook and achieve the complex flavors of these traditional dishes.

Book cover for Istanbul and Beyond: Exploring the Diverse Cuisines of Turkey
Istanbul and Beyond: Exploring the Diverse Cuisines of Turkey
Eckhardt, Robyn

A cookbook and cultural tour of Istanbul, and Turkish regions that reflect the foods of Syria, Iran, Iraq, Armenia and Georgia. There are superb color photographs of food, people and landscapes throughout the book. The wife and husband team, respectively journalist Robyn Eckhardt and photographer David Hagerman, have spent twenty years traveling and doing research in Turkey. 

Book cover for Jerusalem: A Cookbook
Jerusalem: A Cookbook
Ottolenghi, Yotam

This is a gorgeous cookbook, not only for the color photographs and recipes, but because it pays homage to the diversity, history, and glory of a city that has endured over the centuries. Ottolenghi and Tamimi present the complex history of this ancient city through the historical origins of different types of foods and recipes. As in his previous books, Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes From London's Ottolenghi and Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, Yotam Ottolenghi keeps bringing us recipes for exceptionally good food.

Book cover for Lavash: The Bread That Launched 1,000 Meals
Lavash: The Bread That Launched 1,000 Meals
Leahy, Kate

Bread is the staff of life, and lavash is a type of flatbread that is an important component in Armenian cuisine. It is easy to make, to take-along, to eat on its own, to toast and brown, and is a very delicious way to scoop up dips, and for dipping into stews. Recipes include the basic bread and other dishes.

Book cover for Levant: Recipes and Memories From the Middle East
Levant: Recipes and Memories From the Middle East
Helou, Anissa

Anissa Helou is one of my favorite food writers, especially her books about the street food treasures to be found in the Mediterranean, the Middle East and North Africa. This is a memoir told through family recipes of her childhood in Lebanon and Syria.

Book cover for My Korea: Traditional Flavors, Modern Recipes
My Korea: Traditional Flavors, Modern Recipes
Kim, Hooni

Korean cuisine has complexity and many dishes take time to prepare. Michelin-star chef Hooni Kim makes it very easy to prepare and cook them in an American kitchen.

Book cover for Palestine on a Plate: Memories From my Mother's Kitchen
Palestine on a Plate: Memories From my Mother's Kitchen
Kalla, Joudie

Joudie Kalla shares her family's heritage of great Palestinian home cooking, which has been passed on from her mother, her grandmother and all the women who cooked before. Throughout the book there are spectacular color photographs of people, places and food. Kalla includes a table of contents, an index, and for unique ingredients there is a list of U.S. suppliers.

Book cover for The Pho Cookbook: Easy to Adventurous Recipes for Vietnam's Favorite Soup and Noodles
The Pho Cookbook: Easy to Adventurous Recipes for Vietnam's Favorite Soup and Noodles
Nguyen, Andrea Quynhgiao

A James Beard 2018 award winning book about a one-dish meal that has a range of diversity making it easy to make, tasty and a staple of Vietnamese cuisine. Pho is comfort food.

Book cover for Red Hot Kitchen
Red Hot Kitchen
Kuan, Diana

Chef and cooking instructor Diana Kuan offers up a selection of chili sauces and dishes to go with them, and everything can be made at home. There is a guide to heat intensity of ten chili peppers; types of rice and noodles; spices, vinegars and cooking oils; vegetables; cooking utensils; and online sources. Instructions for recipes are presented in a user-friendly format with beautiful full page color photographs.

Book cover for Rice, Noodle, Fish: Deep Travels Through Japan's Food Culture
Rice, Noodle, Fish: Deep Travels Through Japan's Food Culture
Goulding, Matt

In Japan, art and food meld into one, from the small local eatery to the more revered restaurants. Matt Goulding editor at the online journal Roads & Kingdoms, savors and appreciates the works of "shokunins" or artisans who take pride in the preparation and presentation of food. Goulding conveys such delight in what he experiences that readers will be salivating and dreaming of taking a foodie trip to Japan.

Book cover for Shuk: From Market to Table
Shuk: From Market to Table
Admony, Einat

Shuk is a market place, and an Israeli market has fresh food products and spices that represent Persia, Yemen, Libya, Palestine, various Balkan countries and parts of North Africa. These ingredients contribute to marvelous recipes that shake up the palate and taste buds in an unexpected way. Part of the narrative description for each recipe includes information about the country or culture of origin. Full-page color photographs make you want to start cooking now.

Book cover for Supra: A Feast of Georgian Cooking
Supra: A Feast of Georgian Cooking
Tuskadze, Tiko

Georgia is Euroasian, at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, and has its very own special way of food preparation, ingredients, ways of serving and an abundance of hospitality. I have never had their food, but did meet a traveler who had, and he told me that he was almost fed like a child, by his hosts. The food was great!

Book cover for Sweets and Desserts From the Middle East
Sweets and Desserts From the Middle East
Der Haroutunian, Arto

The French and the Austrians pride themselves on rich, complicated, elaborate desserts and confections, which I love. However there is another world of richness to be found further east.
Arturo der Haroutunian will show you the way to sweets that will be great with a strong cup of coffee or tea.

Book cover for Taste of Persia
Taste of Persia
Duguid, Naomi

Naomi Duguid, food writer and inveterate traveler, won a Jame Beard Award for this book, which covers Persian cuisine, but also those overlapping and influential tastes from other countries: The subtitle of the hard copy book is: a cook’s travels through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran and Kurdistan.

Book cover for Vietnamese Food Any Day
Vietnamese Food Any Day
Nguyen, Andrea Quynhgiao

Andrea Nguyen, food writer and chef, shows everyone how to make fresh Vietnamese dishes: bánh mì, soups, seafood and meat dishes, salads, sweets and coffee, and more. She includes her special recipe for perfect rice, and a super-simple recipe for overnight rice porridge that includes all the toppings and add-ins.