When I got back from holiday break, I opened three different packages from book publishers that held forthcoming Malaysian cookbooks. Besides the deluge of diet books (new year, new you!), I got more cookbooks on Malaysian food than any other topic.
How many cookbooks on Malaysian cooking can you list right now? Fewer than three? Me, too. Something was going on here.
To make a cookbook requires a great investment of resources, manpower, time, money; while there are opportunities for experiments (a Korean cooking comic came out last year), there must be some degree of guarantee it'll be well-received by a certain audience. Andrea Nguyen, the author of many Asian cookbooks and the newly released Pho Cookbook, thinks we have thought leaders like Lucky Peach and travel shows like Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown to thank for the growing interest.
"Asian food doesn't seem as exotic as it once was," Nguyen says.
As such, this will be an exciting year for Asian cookbooks — not because we'll see more new Asian cookbooks than before. From the information that's available online so far, it looks like there will be just about the same number published as last year (45).
It won't be because we'll get our first book on a certain cuisine. Think of any topic, and a talented writer or cook has likely covered it. Tibet? Yes. Japanese preserving or clay pot cooking — done and done. Macanese and Nikkei cuisines, too.
This year, we'll be getting a larger number of Asian cookbooks that are presenting cuisines for the home cook in a beautiful, complete, accessible, and authentic way.
Amy Kaneko, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Weldon Owen Publishing, is coming out with her own Japanese cookbook in March, just one of three Asian books the publisher is releasing in the next four months. She's seen the uptick in interest in international cuisines not just at restaurants, but also at international book trade fairs.
"We are gratified to see that there is a growing appetite in the the US market for recipes and information on Asian foods, which has been less published and a little mysterious, and to expand American palates beyond the traditional popularity of European cuisines."
Just in the next five months, Ten Speed Press is coming out with books on vegetarian South Indian cooking, Burmese food, pho, and Bangkok food culture. Kelly Snowden, who edited The Pho Cookbook and Vibrant India (and is also one of our books' editors!), says "America is such a diverse marketplace; even people who don't have cultural roots in Asia are familiar with Asian food and curious about how to prepare it. Authors like Andrea Nguyen and Chitra Agrawal can take Asian flavors and techniques and interpret them for American audiences, so there's a lot of value there for readers."
Below are just some of the Asian cookbooks that are coming out in the next 5 months — we look forward to featuring many, many of them. Andrea explains that "the rise in Asian cookbooks is due to growing interest in Asian food, but the concentration of spring releases is also seasonal. This time of the year, people think about Chinese New Year and perhaps eating clean diets, so they tend toward Asian foods and ideas."
While information on the fall roster of books isn't totally available yet, know that it will likely be quieter than the spring. Clarkson Potter has just one Thai cookbook — from the Kris Yenbamroong, the chef behind Los Angeles's Night + Market. And Ten Speed has another: the second book from Andy Ricker of the Pok Pok empire.
A sampling of the spring roster
Donabe: Classic and Modern Japanese Clay Pot Cooking by Naoko Takei Moore and Kyle Connaughton
The Dumpling Galaxy Cookbook by Helen You and Max Falkowitz
Travels Through Dali: With a Leg of Ham by Mei Zhang (May 1)
Amazing Malaysian: Recipes for Vibrant Malaysian Home Cooking by Norman Musa (June 1)
The Malaysian Kitchen: 150 Recipes for Simple Home Cooking by Christina Arokiasamy (March 21)
Malaysia: Recipes From a Family Kitchen by Ping Coombes (April 25)
Burma Superstar: Addictive Recipes from the Crossroads of Southeast Asia by Desmond Tan and Kate Leahy (March 28)
Our Korean Kitchen by Jordan Bourke and Rejina Pyo (April 18)
Bangkok: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Thailand by Leela Punyaratabandhu (May 9)
Vibrant India: Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Brooklyn by Chitra Agrawal (March 21)
Quick and Easy Thai by Jean-Pierre Gabriel
Japanese Patisserie: Exploring the Beautiful and Delicious Fusion of East Meets West by James Campbell (April 4)