12 Inspiring Cookbooks That Will Transport You Around the World

12 Inspiring Cookbooks That Will Transport You Around the World

Wednesday, 30 August, 2023

Eating like a local is one of the best ways to get a sense of a new-to-you place. There’s nothing like a baguette fresh from a Parisian oven, noodles stir-fried on a Bangkok street corner, or a comfortingly gooey bread pudding at an Appalachian picnic.

Thanks to these cookbooks, you can experience delicious food from around the world in your home kitchen. Packed with photos that will transport you to far-flung lands and personal stories served alongside the food, this is as close as you can get to cooking in a local’s kitchen.


New Orleans

Turkey and the Wolf: Flavor Trippin in New Orleans - Mason Hereford & JJ Goode

Turkey and the Wolf
> Mason Hereford

If you’re looking for a traditional jambalaya recipe, stop right here. But if you want to taste the spirit of New Orleans with a melting pot of influences, a sense of community, and food that makes you whoop with happiness, this colorful cookbook is a great place to start.

Mason Hereford is the founder, owner, and sometime chef of the restaurant by the same name in New Orleans. He has a brash sense of humor and clearly loves bringing people together to make and eat food, and he loves New Orleans like a native. All of that is evident on the pages of this book. There are glorious technicolor photographs of the food, the restaurant, and the people who make it happen. ‘Rowdy’ is the word that comes to mind.

He’s used his early love for crappy junk food and used it to create delicious recipes for grownups. There are riffs on classic Southern dishes and New Orleans staples, like collard greens and grits, breakfast biscuits, fried chicken, and deviled eggs. This book also includes the recipe for the sandwich that made Turkey and the Wolf famous: a bologna sandwich for the ages composed of white bread slabs, bologna, American cheese, mayo, sweet-hot mustard, shredded lettuce, and lots of butter. Before it’s grilled, you add the magic ingredient… salt-and-vinegar potato chips. {more}

This book contains recipes that you can reasonably make at home or, in the case of one recipe that requires a pig’s head and good sixteen hours of your time, that you should strongly consider making at home even if it almost takes you down. — Mason Hereford



Ceviche: Peruvian Kitchen - Martin Morales

> Martin Morales

Combining native ingredients with flavors and techniques from Spain, Africa, China, Japan, and Italy, Peruvian food is colorful, complex, sometimes spicy, and made up of surprising combinations: a stir-fry with tomatoes and soy, a chicken dish with spaghetti, scallops with parmesan cheese, ceviche with mirin and ginger.

The book opens with a quote from chef Martin Morales’ Aunt Carmela, ‘Aquí se cocina con cariño,’ which means ‘here we cook with loving care.’ That sentiment shines on every page; there is no mention of food without an emotional attachment, a family story, a detail that connects the dish to Peruvian culture or history.

Morales recounts going to the beach with his father, sitting on the sand, eating ceviche from food stalls. Peru’s national dish, it’s a bold and elegant combination of the freshest fish and a marinade called ‘tiger’s milk’: lime juice spiked with salt and chiles. Along with a handful of recipes for ceviche, the book includes recipes for Peruvian staples like lomo saltado (beef stir-fry), antichuchos de corazón (beef-heart skewers), grilled fish, slow-simmered chicken, and crispy Andean corn, as well as irresistible desserts and cocktails made with the pride of Peru: pisco.

A welcoming host and supportive guide in the kitchen, Morales also embellishes his how-to tips with charming personal stories of his life in the kitchens of Lima and London with friends, family, and food. {more}

I spent as much time as I could on Makaha Beach in Lima, learning to surf and trying to tame the waves. I loved the Pacific Ocean and relished eating all the delicious fish and seafood that came from it. My father would take us to stalls in the nearby district of Chorrillos for ceviche. Sitting on the beach with the sun pounding down on me and my mouth alive with the lime and chile kick of ceviche was as exhilarating as riding the tallest wave. — Martin Morales

The Fire of Peru: Recipes and Stories from My Peruvian Kitchen - Ricardo Zarate & Jenn Garbee

The Fire of Peru
> Ricardo Zarate, Jenn Garbee

Ricardo Zarate — ‘the godfather of Peruvian cuisine’ — grew up in Lima’s oldest district in a large Catholic family with 13 kids. It was a family tradition for the elder siblings to help the younger get established in life. When his turn arrived, Zarate’s older brothers and sisters sent him to culinary school in Lima and later to London’s Westminster Culinary College. Although his first job was as a dishwasher in an outpost of Benihana, he soon worked his way up to the hibachi — and then to Los Angeles, where he opened his first Peruvian restaurant: a lunch stand in a Hispanic market.

All of which inspired and influenced Zarate’s recipes. From classics like ceviche and lomo saltado (beef stir-fry) to creative recipes like Peruvian-style sushi and an irresistible Peruvian burger (made spicy and luscious with chile peppers, avocado, amarillo-pepper-yogurt sauce, and quick-pickled cucumbers), Zarate’s recipes are bright, bold, and easy to make at home.

The scene is set with beautiful photos of the food, people, and scenery of Peru. What makes this book a real stand-out is the headnotes that introduce each recipe and the informative sidebars sprinkled throughout. Zarate is a wonderful storyteller, and he packs charming details and helpful how-to tips in his notes. You, too, will want to hang out with his Uncle Lucio or learn to slice tuna sashimi-style at Zarate’s side. {more}

My uncle Lucio on my mom’s side of the family was from the mountains, a man of pure Incan blood. In addition to Spanish, he spoke Quechua, the traditional language, and looked like a living Ekeko good luck charm, from his chiquito stature right down to his yankees, traditional shoes made from old tires. Mi tío never wavered from tradition, even when it came to snacks, and would only pop his maíz chulpe (large-kernel corn) straight up. In the Andes, herders stash the dried and toasted kernels in their packs as fuel for treks up the mountainside, and restaurants all over Peru serve the crunchy corn before a meal or as the traditional side for ceviche. — Ricardo Zarate



Cinnamon and Salt: Cicchetti in Venice, Small Bites from the Lagoon City - Emiko Davies

Author Emiko Davies is a food writer and photographer who could teach us all a thing or two about how to enjoy life. She’s lived in her adopted home of Italy for almost two decades and has written four other lovely cookbooks about Italian cuisine.

This book features recipes and stories of cicchetti, the irresistible two-bite appetizers found in Venice and only at neighborhood bars called bácari. Cicchetti is a food and an embrace of la dolce vita: The idea is that after work or when your errands are complete, you meet up with friends, sip a spritz, and eat a little something salty and flavorful along with your neighborhood gossip.

In some ways, this book is just what you might expect from a coffee table cookbook. There are gorgeous photos that will transport you to Venice. Dreamy shots down cobbled alleys, pigeons bobbing in a hidden square, locals reading the newspaper with a cup of espresso, a lonely gondolier on a canal. And there are carefully researched, well-written recipes for cicchetti that range from simple (hard-cooked egg topped with an anchovy) to more elaborate (Venetian-style fried mozzarella sandwiches).

But that’s just a sneaky way to lure you into Venetian history. The heart of the book is a romp through the Renaissance via its food and art. The author’s voice is just right. She’s a knowledgeable and opinionated expert with a fan’s enthusiasm; her deep affection for Venice and its cuisine radiates off the page. It’s infectious. You, too, will long for an ombra of wine and a cicchetto at canal-edge. {more}

It doesn’t take long for this city to work its magic on me. Just one look at that long, low horizon shaped by the grey-green Venetian waters as the train pulls into the island station, Venezia Santa Lucia, and I find myself breathing a sigh. It never gets old: the lagoon, the water- lapped maze of streets and canals, the salt-worn, crumbling buildings and campi (squares) hidden away like secret pockets. Whether enshrouded in winter fog with impending high waters or under the warm, beating sun, Venice is truly unforgettable. — Emiko Daviesë



Motherland: A Jamaican Cookbook - Melissa Thompson

> Melissa Thompson

Melissa Thompson wants to help you load up your table with traditional Jamaican food — hello, Jerk Pork, Braised Oxtail, Ackee and Saltfish! And while you eat, she’s going to share the stories behind the recipes to also feed your mind.

Thompson grew up in England, eating homemade food cooked by her Jamaican father. She watched and learned and, eventually, out on her own, she recreated the dishes that represented home to her. And she got curious. How did the unlikely marriage of ackee and saltfish come to be? What makes jerk jerk?

So she wrote this book, what she calls ‘a cookbook with historical narrative,’ weaving Jamaican recipes with essays about the impact of slavery, colonization, and immigration on Jamaica’s cuisine. It’s worth mentioning that this beautiful book includes a map so you can connect flavor with place.

Thompson is a recipe developer and writes about food for The Guardian, Condé Nast, and the BBC — and she learned to cook Jamaican food far from the island, so she knows how to write recipes for the home cook. Instructions are clear, ingredients are easy to find, and the whole vibe of the book is consistent with Jamaica: inviting, colorful, chill. And delicious. {more}

I grew up in Weymouth, a seaside resort in Dorset on England’s South Coast, where there were few Black people, let alone any Jamaican culture. Yet, in our kitchen at home, as soon as I scooped up mouthfuls of my dad’s famous ackee and saltfish with torn pieces of fried dumpling, or savoured a slice of caramel-sweet plantain, if I closed by eyes, I could imagine I was in Jamaica. Each bite rooted me further to the island, a place where — at the time — I had never been. — Melissa Thompson

West Winds: Recipes, History and Tales from Jamaica - Riaz Phillips

West Winds
> Riaz Phillips

Want to feel like you’re on a walk in Jamaica with a local, talking to his friends and sharing plates of food? Then this is the cookbook for you.

Riaz Phillips is a writer, video maker, and photographer. He was born and raised in London, but he’s passionate about the Afro-Caribbean food he ate growing up. So passionate that he self-published his first book. Belly Full: Caribbean Food in the UK is an in-depth look at Caribbean people and restaurants around the UK. It tells the oral histories of the chefs, butchers, grocers, and bakers who bring the food of a warm island to a cold one.

That same curiosity about people, what they eat, and how they cook infuses this book. It’s loaded with gorgeous photos that transport you to warmer climes and recipes with narrative vignettes woven into the headnotes. It’s delicious food, yes, but there’s always a story there, too.

You’ll find the recipe you expect; jerk chicken is there for you. But there are also creative possibilities like Macaroni Cheese spiced up with his 10-ingredient all-purpose seasoning and a sprinkling of desiccated coconut added to the buttered breadcrumbs on top. And spiced patties, the irresistible hand pies with golden pastry so buttery-crisp, ‘you just have to accept the pastry flakes are going to get everywhere.’ {more}

My grandmother Mavis always cooked. I can still hear the sound of her flickering gas hob boiling a pan of water in her Hackney estate flat in East London. From among the supermarket shopping bags in her trolley always emerged more bags: brown paper ones, bright lube, or red and white-striped plastic bags in which plantain, Scotch bonnets, green bananas, and yams were nestled. As a child, I didn’t give this a second thought. It wasn’t Jamaican food, it wasn’t Caribbean food, or anything foreign, it was just food… — Riaz Phillips


Sri Lanka

Rambutan: Recipes from Sri Lanka - Cynthia Shanmugalingam

> Cynthia Shanmugalingam

Author Cynthia Shanmugalingam was born in Coventry, England, in 1981. Her Sri Lankan parents left the island in 1983 when the civil war started. But her father kept Sri Lanka alive in their house, bolstered by annual trips to the island to visit relatives, play in the lush landscapes, and eat their favorite foods.

Fast forward to 2021: Shanmugalingam opened the restaurant Rambutan in London and, the following year, released this cookbook. Both Bon Appetit and the Los Angeles Times named it one of the best cookbooks of 2022. That is no surprise at all.

Comprehensive without being overwhelming, this book features recipes from all corners of the country and the different specialties of the Tamil, Sinhalese, Muslim, and Burgher communities: spicy curries, stir-fried dishes, fragrant coconut rice, lamprais — pronounced like lump-rice — a composite of delicious components like curry, rice, fried bits, and condiments all wrapped in a banana leaf.

Aside from the recipes, there are nine helpful, charming essays about Sri Lankan cuisine and culture. Why nine? In Hindu mythology and Sri Lanka, it’s a special number: nine fundamental emotions, the festival of nine nights, and nine Sri Lankan provinces. She offers advice on how and when to temper spices while preparing a curry, and she explains how Sri Lankans eat at a dinner party. Spoiler: There’s a lot of food.

She also vividly describes Muslim street food in a way that will make you want to go to Sri Lanka immediately. Then, in the second half of that essay, she recounts a tragic day during the already tragic civil war when Tamil Tigers killed Muslims praying in a mosque. One of the strengths of this book is Shanmugalingam’s transparency about all that’s lovely and all that’s problematic in her home country. {more}

Wise-cracking male friends of my parents noticed developments in my sister and started to ask her — never my brother — ‘What can you cook? Rice? An egg? Dal? before collapsing into insulting giggles. Mocking her for being too Westernised to know even the most basic of dishes, she would roll her eyes, admit she couldn’t cook dal, and go back to listening to Whitney on her Walkman… From all this, we can learn three things. One: listen to Whitney, not to gross dudes. Two: hair is freedom. And three: Sri Lankan dal, or parippu as it is called in both Tamil and Sinhala, is considered an idiot- proof recipe, the hardest to mess up of the Sri Lankan repertoire, and one of the first dishes a young cook learns to make. My sister is now a doctor, a mum of three, she has her own swimming pool and she’s a fantastic cook. She didn’t let the sexist trolls get her down on dal and you shouldn’t either. — Cynthia Shanmugalingam



Rose Water and Orange Blossoms: Fresh & Classic Recipes from my Lebanese Kitchen - Maureen Abood

Maureen is Lebanese-American. She grew up eating Lebanese food cooked by Sitto, the Arabic for grandmother. In this charming, practical book, she shares delightful stories about her family’s relationship with food, her life-changing trip to Lebanon, and her formidable Sitto.

All the greatest hits of Lebanese food are here, and family stories are woven into every recipe, beginning with the ubiquitous and essential laban (yogurt). ‘The story goes that [Sitto] didn’t want the marriage, didn’t want to go to the United States, and didn’t want to leave the boy she was in love with in Lebanon behind. She cried rivers, but in the end, entered the arrangement, got on a boat, and started a new life. I think of the laban as her safety blanket, her piece of home.’ That poignant story flows into a short essay with practical advice for making your own homemade yogurt.

Helpful tips, grounded in Abood’s personal experience and cooking school training, are sprinkled throughout the pages, like how to seed a pomegranate or how to choose the best grape leaves for stuffing. It’s all very amiable, and the way she talks about sharing food with the people she loves will make you very hungry.

Now, the recipes: There’s toum, the seemingly magical sauce made with lots of garlic, olive oil, and ice water that you can eat on everything. Her recipe for whipped hummus with minced lamb is like eating a hummus cloud. There are nibbles for a meze platter, like warm dates with almonds and lime zest or potato salad with lemon and mint. She also goes deep into different types of kibbeh — that’s ground meat, usually lamb, mixed with spices and bulghur wheat and cooked in different ways.

Abood’s stories will make you feel like you have a helpful Sitto by your side in the kitchen. {more}

Sitto loved to tease and laugh and poke fun. She’d nod to me as I scored and cut through her crisp, fragrant baklawa with a knife so dull it must have never been sharpened (but was used so much she never put it away, leaning it on the side of the sink instead), and tsk me into toughening my hands to pull charred eggplant for baba gannouj from the oven bare.

Sitto reached in there with adept fingers that met no heat they couldn’t take, and got her well-chosen (firm, not too big) eggplant going. She flipped it barehanded; she pulled it out with bare hands, and sort of threw it onto the kitchen counter as if to say: ‘Take that, you hot smoky eggplant. I am Sitto, and I am in charge.’ — Maureen Abood



Tasting Paris: 100 Recipes to Eat Like a Local - Clotilde Dusoulier

Tasting Paris
> Clotilde Dusoulier

This book from native Parisian Clotilde Dusoulier reads like a travel guide and cookbook fell madly in love — in Paris, n’est-ce pas — and created a beautiful handbook that embodies the best of both.

From the first page, breezy writing whisks you away to Paris: ‘There are so many ways a day can unfold in Paris. Will it begin with a flaky croissant dipped in café au lait, or a slice of rye and red miso bread from the city’s most innovative baker?’

Inspired by the recipes on restaurant menus in every arrondissement, each page of this book is a temptation: full-page photos of landmarks; colorful, rustic, tempting food; essays that show that the city, even for life-long Parisians, holds a particular kind of romance.

The recipes are organized by daypart with short essays, like this love letter to the morning: ‘a bakery, shelves loaded, the warm smell of croissants wafting out of the sidewalk vents; and a neighborhood café, where a handful of customers gulp down expressos at the zinc counter.’

Or this ode to the afternoon: ‘Le goûter is a prime moment for indulgence… to bite into a warm apple turnover as you walk from one appointment to the next, brushing flaky crumbs from the front of your jacket…‘

The author is like an encouraging sous chef who’s always at your side, offering tips and expert advice so you can ‘adopt the smug air of the cook who can whip up a bistro classic in minutes.’ The instructions are clear, her words are encouraging. Who wouldn’t want to spend a day in Paris eating things and talking about life with this woman? {more}

What I think of most when I wander my hometown is food: Saint-Germain-des-Prés, to me, means macarons from Pierre Hermé and Les Halles roast chicken from the Champeaux brasseries. The Tuileries, bordered on the north by rue de Rivoli, bring to mind Angelina and thus hot chocolate, and the cafés near Porte Dauphine, where I spent my student years, evoke the satisfying croque-madame, the velvety yolk dripping down the crust of the bread. Barbés seduces with couscous; Belleville comforts with Chinese rice soup… it’s all here waiting for you to hop off at the closest metro station, push open a door, and walk in. — Clotilde Dusoulier



Thai Street Food: Authentic Recipes, Vibrant Traditions - David Thompson

Thai Street Food
> David Thompson

If Pad Thai and a comforting bowl of curry are all you know about Thai food, prepare to have your mind blown. Michelin-star chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author David Thompson will take you to the streets. To eat. And it’s sublime.

Should you look for this book at your local bookshop or library, it will definitely be shelved in the cookbook section. But it’s really a coffee table travelogue that also happens to feature expertly written recipes. A monster of a book at almost 6 pounds, the pages are packed with gorgeous photos of Thai people and dishes and ingredients in colorful Thai markets. And the writing! The prose has the urgency of a traveler who fell in love with the place but also has deep knowledge to impart. In short: It will make you want to travel to Thailand immediately.

The heart of this book — and the mecca for street food in any Thai city or town — is the market: cacophonous, vibrant, bustling, it’s where neighbors meet for daily chats, and food vendors serve some of the best food in the world. Noodles, pastries, and deep-fried bits and bobs of dough and other savories that are unlikely to be cooked at home are the treasures of the market and the recipes in this book.

While learning about ingredients and simple cooking techniques, you’ll also get an entertaining introduction to Thai food culture, history, and how the community works. The book’s organization reflects how the market’s personality — and the dishes on offer — changes throughout the day, from morning to noon and night.

Passages in the book take you inside the curry shops and how they function; there’s a primer on noodle dishes and noodle soups. If you like to think about food and read about food, these essays are like prose poetry. You will long for scratch-and-sniff pages as you crave a made-to-order stir-fry from a scorchingly-hot wok. {more}

Even a fleeting visit to Thailand can leave you in no doubt of this: Thais are obsessed by food, talking and thinking about it, then ordering it and eating it. Markets brim with produce and snacks. Streets often seem more like busy restaurant corridors than major thoroughfares for traffic. Food sits happily at the center of all occasions and celebrations: births, weddings, making merit, dispensing generosity, and repaying obligations. — David Thompson



Victuals: An Appalachian Journey with Recipes - Ronni Lundy

> Ronni Lundy

Here are five words to sell you on this remarkable travelogue cookbook: Sweet and Savory Banana Pudding. That’s just one of the dozens of irresistible recipes in this collection of stunning photographs and life-affirming stories of foodies in the mountains, farms, and small towns of Appalachia.

Author Ronni Lundy is a legend in the world of Southern cooking. She’s a founding member of the Southern Foodways Alliance and has written ten books on Southern food and culture. For this book, she drove more than 400 miles of Appalachian backroads in a Chevy Astro, visiting home cooks, chefs, and farmers to learn how they’re bringing the old ways into the present.

Lundy was born in the tiny railroad town of Corbin, Kentucky; her family moved to the big city of Louisville a few years later. They referred to Corbin as ‘up home,’ and she says she didn’t grow up in the mountains, but is of the mountains. This allows her to be a sharp observer, bringing deep affection and a curious nature to the conversations that give this book its heart.

The recipes and stories are organized around keystone ingredients like salt or corn or beans. Each section opens with a profile of someone passionate about Appalachian ingredients. There’s a farmer whose cornmeal and grits are so sublime, customers drive hours to stock up. And Ian Boden, the founder-chef of the restaurant The Shack in Staunton, Virginia. His menu combines local ingredients with his Jewish Eastern European roots. He is the genius responsible for the aforementioned Sweet and Savory Banana Pudding. (Recipe here; treat yourself.)

Like the literary equivalent of swapping stories while shucking corn, this book is friendly, welcoming, and filled with real talk. It’s also beautifully photographed: The food looks like something you want to eat right now, and the people look like people you’d be happy to find at your table. {more}

I had a little rocking chair out on the porch where I joined the women on summer afternoons as they taught me how to properly string a bean while they told stories. I sat next to Johnnie in the swing as she sliced sourish June apples for drying — my mouth watering as I dreamed of the crisp fried apple pies my aunt Minnie would make come fall… I was urged to eat my fill at the tables teeming with summer squash, sliced cucumbers, simmered beans of many kinds, and corn cut straight from the cob only moments before it landed in a bacon-scented skillet. — Ronni Lundy


Retro Americana

Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book - Betty Crocker

Betty Crocker's Cooky Book
> Betty Crocker

This technicolor marvel was originally published in 1963, and it remains a kitchen necessity for anyone who loves cookies. Sure, you can find cookie recipes on the internet or in magazines at holiday time, but they can’t compete with this old-school classic.

Although Betty Crocker is a fictional character created by an advertising agency in 1921, her baking advice is legit. In addition to hundreds of rigorously tested recipes, this cookbook includes troubleshooting tips for baking disasters, advice to perfect your cookie-making technique, guidance to plan holiday baking, and a how-to for an afternoon tea for 12, 50, or 100 guests. It’s a fascinating look at American cooking in the post-WWII era.

But let’s be honest: The recipes are why we’re all here. Divided into categories that include ‘Holiday Cookies,’ ‘Family Favorites,’ ‘Company Best Cookies,’ and ‘Betty Crocker’s Best Cookies,’ there are treats for every occasion. Forget modern recipes that churn out hubcap-sized cookies with giant chunks of mix-ins. These are old-fashioned recipes with traditional appeal and charming names. Snickerdoodles, Magic Carpet Cookies, Coconut Belles, Hurry-Up Chocolate Chip Drops, Gateau Bonbons, and the inspirationally titled Dream Bars. In our family, we make Snickerdoodles (page 23) and Russian Teacakes (page 25) every Christmas.

The design is delightfully dated, and the text describes a romanticized version of life in the kitchen, but there is nothing like the smell of freshly baked cookies to warm your heart. This book still delivers that in spades. {more}

There is no aroma quite so inviting as that of cookies baking, whether ginger or chocolate or caramel. And there is no snack quite so satisfying as two or three fresh-from-the-oven cookies with a cool glass of milk. Nor is there a gift quite so welcome as a lovingly wrapped package from home, brimming with cookies. — Betty Crocker

Top image courtesy of anurakss/Shutterstock.

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