The best Southeast Asian cookbooks from a Chef who uses them daily

Who am I?

Thirty-two years ago, I got my start as a chef by cooking in a shoebox cafe in Boston that played with curious Asian ingredients. Ten years later, after using lots of Asian cookbooks, I was incorporating Thai and Vietnamese cooking into my menus at the restaurant I was running. A few years after that, I opened and ran a Vietnamese restaurant in Cambridge (unfortunately, after major success, it burned down after a year). After this, the tourism board of Malaysia sent me on a four-week trip to write about the street food for FoodArts magazine. It is these experiences that greatly influenced my interest in Southeast Asian cooking.


I wrote...

Vegetarian Planet

By Didi Emmons,

Book cover of Vegetarian Planet

What is my book about?

All the best flavors from all the Earth come to life in a soulful celebration of tasty and inventive food. From Didi Emmons, a terrific young cook who combines a passion for culinary adventure with a love for the honest pleasures of home cooking, these 350 recipes - with more than 150 main dishes - spell an end to boring and bland meatless meals. Full of farm-fresh produce ripe for the eating, hearty grains that warm the soul, and a whole world of new spices and flavors, they promise boundless pleasures for the everyday table.

The books I picked & why

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Thai Home Cooking from Kamolmal's Kitchen

By William Crawford, Kamolmal Pootaraksa,

Book cover of Thai Home Cooking from Kamolmal's Kitchen

Why this book?

Written 35 years ago by a UCLA professor and a Bangkok-born female chef who owned a highly lauded restaurant near LA, this photo-less book explains Thai cuisine well, as well as the culture of food in Thailand, and its recipes never miss the mark and generally are short. This book is in no small part responsible for the success of Veggie Planet, a pizza restaurant I owned in Harvard Square, Cambridge, for 6 years. One of the most popular pizzas was called “Red Curry” pizza and was layered with coconut rice, broccoli, pan-fried tofu, and this book’s Red Curry Peanut Sauce. Never again will you use a curry sauce from a can. It’s been through 9 printings, and you’ll have to buy a used copy.

Thai Home Cooking from Kamolmal's Kitchen

By William Crawford, Kamolmal Pootaraksa,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Thai Home Cooking from Kamolmal's Kitchen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Rich, unusual flavors and hot and spicy combinations have made Thai cooking the newest exotic cuisine that is sweeping the country. Now 157 classic dishes from the authentic Thai restaurant Kamolmal have been collected and re-created into easy-to-follow recipes for American cooks.


Dakshin: Vegetarian Cuisine from South India

By Chandra Padmanabhan,

Book cover of Dakshin: Vegetarian Cuisine from South India

Why this book?

This is a glossy cookbook published first in India and then in 1994 by an Australian division of Harper Collins. I’ve made many, many recipes in this book and it’s opened my eyes to the meat-free, texturally complex cuisine of South India. The careful but dynamic mix of ingredients such as mustard seeds, curry leaves, dried coconut, dal, and cumin seeds used in tempering dishes brings the food to life. I recommend this book to the curious and adventuresome home cook who enjoys shopping at Indian markets. The recipes are solid and for the most part easy once you become familiar with its cuisine and techniques.

Dakshin: Vegetarian Cuisine from South India

By Chandra Padmanabhan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dakshin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Dakshin" in an ancient Sanskrit word meaning "south." It symbolizes what this Indian cookbook is all about - the best and most delicious of South Indian vegetarian cuisine.

Filled with tempting recipes and beautiful photographs, Dakshin: Vegetarian Cooking from South India presents the finest cooking from the region. Drawn from the states of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh, and the union territory of Pondicherry, the recipes in this vegetarian cookbook bring traditional South Indian cooking within reach of any cook in any kitchen.

From sambars and rasams, to cooling desserts and sweet treats, Dakshin takes you through the…


Simple Art of Vietnamese Cooking

By Binh Duong, Marcia Kiesel,

Book cover of Simple Art of Vietnamese Cooking

Why this book?

This book is written by Binh Duong, the owner and chef of a Vietnamese restaurant in Hartford, CT, and Marcia Kiesel, who was a food and wine magazine journalist and tester. I once opened and ran a popular pho restaurant in Cambridge and I relied heavily, almost fully, on this cookbook. Its recipes are almost never off-tune (and I highly recommend the dipping sauces and condiments chapter). Its recipes are easy to follow and every detail is clearly spelled out. Some ingredients may be foreign (tree ears, tiger lily buds) but nothing a decent Asian market would not have.

Simple Art of Vietnamese Cooking

By Binh Duong, Marcia Kiesel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Simple Art of Vietnamese Cooking as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The author shares his secrets to cooking such Vietnamese dishes as Coral Lobster, Hanoi Soup, Happy Pancakes, and Sweet Potato Nests with Shrimp


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Southeast Asia, India, and Thailand?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Southeast Asia, India, and Thailand.

Southeast Asia Explore 30 books about Southeast Asia
India Explore 337 books about India
Thailand Explore 26 books about Thailand

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Indian Cooking, Classic Indian Cooking, and Feast if you like this list.