The Best International Cookbooks For Both Culture and Food

The Books I Picked & Why

Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies

By Najmieh Batmanglij

Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies

Why this book?

Over the last four years, I have been cooking my way through my mother-in-law’s canon of Persian dishes, from ghormeh sabzi herb and braised meat stew to countless pots of the crispy-bottomed saffron rice called tadiq. When a family recipe is lacking in key details (like measurements or timing), I always refer to Najmieh Batmanglij’s book, which is considered the bible of Iranian cooking. Her recipes offer elevated versions of all the classics, along with a number of more obscure regional specialties, and explanations of Iranian traditions and customs. If you are only going to have one Persian cookbook on your shelf, this should be it.


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Ethiopia: Recipes and Traditions from the Horn of Africa

By Yohanis Gebreyesus

Ethiopia: Recipes and Traditions from the Horn of Africa

Why this book?

Long intimidated by the unfamiliar ingredients, cooking methods, and, most of all, the fermented dough required to make classic injera bread, it was with trepidation that I opened Yohanis Gebreyesus’ new cookbook. What I found were straightforward and inviting explanations of cooking techniques, ingredients, customs, and flavors alongside incredibly easy-to-follow recipes that made me wonder why I’d waited so long to begin exploring this comforting cuisine. The pumpkin stew, perfumed with a complex, floral spice blend that’s savory, sweet, and slightly spicy, has become a favorite I return to over and over again. If you want a friend to take you by the hand and introduce you to Ethiopian culture and cuisine, Yohanis Gebreyesus is your man.


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Delights from the Garden of Eden: A Cookbook and History of the Iraqi Cuisine

By Nawal Nasrallah

Delights from the Garden of Eden: A Cookbook and History of the Iraqi Cuisine

Why this book?

When I want a truly traditional recipe for an Iraqi dish, or any classic Middle Eastern food, I reach for Nawal Nasrallah’s tome. As a culinary historian, she spares no detail when describing the origins of the food of her homeland, and interspersed with recipes are folkloric tales, cultural tidbits, and bite-sized histories. What you come away with is a deep appreciation of the complex, ancient culinary traditions of the fertile crescent, as well as recipes for the best falafels you’ve ever made (spoiler: use both fava beans and chickpeas for heartier flavor).


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Bangkok: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Thailand

By Leela Punyaratabandhu

Bangkok: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Thailand

Why this book?

Leela Punyaratabandhu doesn’t dumb things down in her cookbook, which is an ode to the city of her birth. Hers are Bangkok-style Thai dishes as they are cooked in Thailand. Through it we learn not only how to caramelize beef using jaggery (an unprocessed sugar), but also how to pair it with deeply savory and spicy dishes for a meal that harmonizes contrasting flavors and textures. The suggested meals in her book require cooking sets of dishes, often four or more. While not the makings of an easy weeknight dinner, if you follow her instructions, the results are truly transportive.


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Kachka: A Return to Russian Cooking

By Bonnie Frumkin Morales, Deena Prichep

Kachka: A Return to Russian Cooking

Why this book?

Want a visual primer to all things Russian from the items found at the cured meat and fish counter to helpful phrases when grocery shopping? How about recipes for infused vodkas ranging from tarragon to cranberry and an entire chapter devoted to dishes wrapped in dough? Kachka is a cookbook that will not only teach you to cook Russian food, it will teach you how to eat, drink, and entertain like a Russian in a way that’s quirky, highly visual, and as fun as it is authoritative.


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