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Fall 2015's Best Cookbooks: Local and Regional Cuisine

These books will take you places

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There’s never been a better time for cookbooks as a portal for travel, anthropology, and culinary exploration. Whether it’s a dive into Ukrainian cuisine or an ode to the American South, this season’s crop of cookbooks cover the world. Standouts include the first English-language release from Mexico City trailblazer Enrique Olivera, Lucky Peach’s love letter to all of Asia (including both traditional recipes and mall chicken), a lush paean to the food and culture of Senegal from Pierre Thiam, and a new take on New Nordic from Magnus Nilsson of Fäviken.


Check out our whole Fall 2015 cookbook preview: the best baking books, books where culinary pros take on home cooking, and essential restaurant-inspired cookbooks. Or see the entire thing on the main page.

Senegal

Pierre Thiam
Lake Isle Press, September 2015
Senegalese chef Pierre Thiam has lived in Brooklyn for decades now, cooking the food of his homeland for hungry New Yorkers. With this, his second cookbook, he makes a powerful case for the ascendance of Senegal, with its layered spices and densely flavored preparations, as a pillar of global cuisine on par with Mexico, Italy, and Thailand. Thiam writes with wit and intelligence about the history and topography of Senegal, how the country's unique history gave rise to its ingredients and preparations, and — gently but powerfully — explaining how the flavors of West Africa have been adopted and coöpted by the American South, part of American slavery's great erasure of African identity.

The book stands strong as a purely anthro­po­logical document, a record of how people cook and eat in Dakar today, but it's also wonderful as a true cookbook

The book stands strong as a purely anthropological document, a record of how people cook and eat both classically and innovatively in Dakar today, but it's also wonderful as a true cookbook. The recipes are written for the home cook (Senegal's food culture is largely home-based), and for readers with access to all the specialty ingredients required, they're a wonderfully approachable collection of flavors and techniques, from an elegant rack of lamb to the classic stew called yassa. Those without access to fonio, a millet meal that Thiem positions as a successor to quinoa, can simply comfort themselves with the book's stories, histories, and photographer Evan Sung's moody, evocative images. —Helen Rosner

Order: Amazon / Powell's

Mexico From The Inside Out

Enrique Olvera
Phaidon, October 2015
The first English-language cookbook from acclaimed Mexican chef Enrique Olvera, Mexico From the Inside Out is a stunning volume, filled with vibrant photos of everything from street life in Mexico to dishes from Olvera's award-winning restaurant Pujol. While the recipe count hits 65, it’s best looked at as art book, not cookbook.

While the recipe count hits 65, the book is best looked at as art book, not cookbook.

Olvera explains in the introduction that the first half of the book, called Side A/Pujol, is for the professional chef. It truly is: the recipes for dishes like smoked mushroom tacos or cuitlacoche, heirloom tomatoes, beans and Mexican tarragon are complex and over-simplified, often glossing over specific techniques, omitting suggestions as to where one might find some of the more high quality Mexican spices outside of Mexico, and skipping context (the book is devoid of headnotes). The second half of the book, Side B/Vice Versa, is geared towards home cooking, but these recipes — for dishes like octopus tostata with peanut and chile morita salsa — still require a level of comfort in the kitchen, and the dedication of an ambitious and experienced cook.

From a cooking standpoint, perhaps the most valuable part of the book is the straightforward and well assembled glossary to Mexican ingredients found at the back. And the short essays scattered throughout give a glimpse into the life of a captivating chef and his view on one of the world’s most compelling (and perhaps misunderstood) cuisines. It’s a book worth making room for — but on the coffee table, not the kitchen counter. —Devra Ferst

Order: Amazon / Powell's

101 Easy Asian Recipes

Peter Meehan and the Editors of Lucky Peach
Clarkson Potter, October 2015
Cultish food quarterly
Lucky Peach enters the cookbook space in signature style: with a 70s-nostalgic cover and a title — 101 Easy Asian Recipes — that started out with a joke. "Completeness is an impossibility and not our goal," editor Peter Meehan writes in the introduction, addressing the obvious complexities of covering an entire continent's fare. The book is not an academic glimpse into regional cuisine; rather, it's a fun overview of an impressive variety of recipes for all kinds of home cooks, no matter their expertise level in the kitchen.

As a label, "easy Asian" cooking fits whatever the editors want it to.

As a label, "easy Asian" cooking fits whatever the editors want it to. Sometimes they've really picked an easy recipe from an Asian country: There's pad see ew, but not the more advanced pad thai. Other times, the dishes are simple but a stretch, like with the spicy mushroom "ragu" (anything is fair game when there's quotation marks around it), pesto ramen, and a dessert recipe for oranges ("cut them up or don't"), and there's no real breakdown of geographic cuisines. "What is authenticity? Who knows!" one footnote reads — in this book, whether a dish is Korean or Japanese or Thai or Chinese doesn't matter.

But should it? Maybe, but in true tongue-in-cheek fashion, Lucky Peach sidesteps all such discussion, focusing instead on the quality of the dishes and the true ease in preparation. The recipes, regardless of their origins, are carefully tested, and trickier instructions get cute step-by-step sidebar illustrations. My scallion pancakes came out thicker and less oily-translucent than I would have liked on a first attempt, but a few days later, I nailed them, and the dry-fried green beans, doenjang jigae, and a few noodle dishes I made were all good, fragrant variations on restaurant staples that I wouldn't hesitate to cook again. —Sonia Chopra

Order: Amazon / Powell's

Rice Noodle Fish

Matt Goulding
Harper Wave, October 2015
At one of the best yakitori destinations in Tokyo, the meal ends with onigiri, dosed with rendered chicken fat and grilled. You are allowed to bring it back with you to your hotel, to enjoy in private after your tasting menu of stunningly perfect grilled chicken bits. After reading about Toriyoshi in Rice Noodle Fish, I know I must address the fact that I am not currently in Japan, that I've never been, and that I have no concrete plans to go.

Refusing to claim expert or insider status makes Goulding a fantastic, and relatable, narrator.

Matt Goulding, the book's author as well as the editor and co-founder of online food and travel journal Roads & Kingdoms, owns his status as a gaijin, a stranger in what is, to many Americans, a strange land. Refusing to claim either expert or insider status makes him both a fantastic and relatable narrator in Rice Noodle Fish, billed as Goulding's "deep travels through Japan's food culture." Its thoughtful portraits of the country's culinary craftsmen and fun graphic inserts explain everything from how a love hotel works to how to maximize a visit to an izakaya. For food nerds, Goulding's unique, impeccably observed meals make the book a page turner. Whether it's a meal in a private Osaka home of fried tofu in dashi, a pizza topped with shirasu (tiny whitefish) in the company of airline executives, or a boundary-pushing take on kaiseki served by a father and son cooking duo, Goulding's meals are genuinely revelatory of both people and place. I want them all.

More travelogue than travel guide, Rice Noodle Fish will excite any lover of Japanese food, travel writing, or vintage No Reservations episodes. It makes sense that the book is published by Roads & Kingdoms with Anthony Bourdain. Like Bourdain, Goulding is here to entice the reader to experience the world as fully as possible. —Hillary Dixler

Order: Amazon / Powell's

Other Notable Books

The Nordic Cookbook

Magnus Nilsson
Phaidon

Breaking free from the high-concept intricacy of his restaurant Fäviken, Magnus Nilsson chronicles the wide world of Nordic home cooking in this lush, beautifully organized volume, one of the loveliest of the season thanks in no small part to Nilsson's own idiosyncratic authorial voice.

Order: Amazon / Powell's

CCCP Cookbook

Olga Syutkin and Pavel Syutkin
Fuel Publishing

As much a cultural artifact as it is a functional cookbook, this record of the food of Soviet-era Russia pairs each recipe with a history lesson, with illustrations and photographs from vintage Russian volumes.

Order: Amazon / Powell's

Made in India

Meera Sodha
Flatiron Books

British cook Meera Sodha chronicles the sort of Indian cooking her family makes at home: fresh, speedy, vibrantly flavored, and far truer to the reality of Indian home cooking than the tikka masala ladled out at your average takeout joint.

Order: Amazon / Powell's

Lidia's Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Great Italian Cook

Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali
Knopf

The donna of modern Italian cooking is considering her culinary legacy in this book, a wide-ranging compendium on cooking Italian food at home. There's little new to the experienced cook, but it's nevertheless the sort of book that will inevitably be well-used and well-loved.

Order: Amazon / Powell's

Mamushka: Recipes from Ukraine and Beyond

Olia Hercules
Weldon Owen

The food of Ukraine in particular (and Eastern Europe in general) is given beautiful treatment in this comprehensive volume, chock full of the flavors of the region, with just enough of a seasonal twist to keep very old recipes feeling surprisingly fresh.

Order: Amazon / Powell's

The Southerner's Cookbook: Recipes, Wisdom, and Stories from the Southern Kitchen

Editors of Garden and Gun
HarperWave

The standard-bearer Southern lifestyle magazine's first dedicated cookbook is a culinary cross-section of the modern south, drawing recipes everywhere from tiny fried-chicken joints to the meticulous tweezer food of the region's highest-end restaurants.

Order: Amazon / Powell's

Tacopedia

Deborah Holtz, Juan Carlos Mena, forward by René Redzepi
Phaidon

A massive hit in Mexico, the obsessive, comprehensive guide to Mexico's taco culture is now available in English. The vibrantly designed book features maps, profiles and over 100 recipes.

Order: Amazon / Powell's

Drinking The Devil's Acre

Duggan McDonnell
Chronicle

Recipes for classic San Francisco cocktails like the Sauzerac mix with a lively history of one of America's great drinking towns. Author Duggan McDonnel mixes his own life as a barman into this love letter to the city's love of booze.

Order: Amazon / Powell's

Also Coming This Fall

· Fire & Ice by Darra Goldstein. Ten Speed: October 27

· Essential Turkish Cuisine by Engin Akin. Stewart, Tabori & Chang: October 6

· LIMA cookbook: Peruvian Home Cooking by Virgilio Martinez and Luciana Bianchi. Mitchell Beazley: October 13 /

· Indian Harvest by Vikas Khanna. Bloomsbury USA: October 13

· Donabe by Naoko Takei Moore and Kyle Connaughton. Ten Speed: October 27

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