Blog Bookshelf

COVID 19 Cookbooks

Last two and half weeks have been life changing. I haven’t had to cook at home for more than 2 consecutive meals since I started working in the restaurant industry. I dug out some of my favorite cookbooks and adopted couple news ones. I look for cookbooks that could help me formulate simple meal plans, ranging from making a broth for noodles, to baking a cake for myself and friends. I rarely follow a recipe verbatim, except in baking, yet these cookbooks give me ideas for using simple and common ingredients. I only hope to create contents that could be just as resourceful and helpful as these cookbooks. Please enjoy my selections:

  • Ratio, by Michael Ruhlman
    This is not a traditional cookbook, but a great reference to basics in cooking and baking. The title of the book says it all…cooking and baking is all about combining the right ratios of ingredients in order to make a dish shine. Not only does the book teaches textbook ratios, but it also goes in depth about choosing the right technique for recipes. One of the most fascinating lessons I learned is by using different mixing methods, my baked goods could end up tasting very differently in texture when given the same ratio of ingredients.

  • River Cafe Cookbook by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers
    River Cafe Cookbook is one of my favorite cookbooks because its recipes are so simple and easy to execute as a home cook. River Cafe is a well known English-Italian Restaurant in London. The River Cafe’s food is seasonal driven. The chefs cook with local farm produce, meat, and dairy while paying homage to rustic Italian dining. My favorite section in the book is on cooking poultry. While making a Sunday Roast (chicken) is a British tradition, some recipes use popular Italian ingredients such as sage, prosciutto, lemons, or parsley to elevate the simple dish.

  • Momofuku Cookbook by David Chang
    I love Momofuku’s cookbook because of its eccentric recipes of combining Asian flavors with American Ingredients and Western Cuisine. The book is divided into three sections based on the first three Momofuku restaurants in New York, Noodle Bar, Ssam Bar, and Ko. I must have read David Chang’s ramen recipes a dozen times, and the recipe never fails to inspire me to add depth and flavors (not more ingredients…big difference). Also, though some ingredients are unobtainable in retail, such as foie gras, most of the recipes are simple and serve as guidelines to cook simple food.

  • A Girl and Her Pig by April Bloomfield
    I have read this cookbook front and back few times. Chef April’s recipes are thorough, yet easy to execute. Although the title of the book might suggest a heavy collection of meat recipes, a good portion of the cookbook dedicates to making salads and roasted vegetables. My favorite recipe in the book is Caesar Salad. Her flavors are bold and portions are generous; a hearty bowl of Caesar Salad might just be the perfect dinner choice when I don’t have the patience to cook.

  • The Art of Simple Food by Alice Water
    This is one of the first cookbooks I own. I’d highly suggest this book to all levels of cooks. Most of the recipes have only 3 to 5 ingredients, excluding the seasonings. Alice Water is known as a pioneer in promoting Californian Cuisine, which focuses on sourcing and cooking local ingredients. Her cookbook covers a broad range of repertoire, which is helpful to anyone who is either looking to begin or advance his or her household culinary skillset.

  • The Whole Beast, Nose to Tail Eating, by Fergus Henderson
    Another great cookbook written by a British chef. As the book title suggests, Chef Fergus Henderson is an advocate in using and eating every part of animals. Nose-to-tail eating is also a lesson on managing food waste. When our budgets are slim and costs are high, we could be creative in utilizing all part of ingredients in our meal. One of my favorite recipes in the book is “Roast Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad”. I will not be able to get my hands on bone marrow in retail, but the essence of the dish is animal fats mixed in with herbs and pickles…kind of like eating a grilled cheese sandwich with dill pickles.

  • All the Presidents’ Pastries, by Roland Mesnier
    Last but not least, this is a memoir written by Pastry Chef Roland Mesnier, who served under 5 U.S. Presidents, from Jimmy Cater to George W. Bush at the White House. At the end of the book, Roland gave out 12 recipes that were favored by the Presidents. During his time as the Pastry Chef of the White House, Chef Roland often made elegant desserts for banquets and receptions. Nonetheless, the recipes at the end of the book are for “home cooking”; these were desserts served to the First Families on daily basis. Did you know Bill Clinton is allergic to chocolate?

Enjoy my selections! Let me know if you have any great suggestions on cookbooks!


2020 Books Read

The Shock Doctrine, by Naomi Klein
All the Presidents’ Pastries, by Roland Mesnier
Shoe Dog, by Phil Knight
The Calloway Way – Results & Integrity, by Charlie Field
Range, by David Epstein
Normal People, by Sally Rooney
Ego Is The Enemy, by Ryan Holiday
The Force, by Don Winslow
The Fifth Risk, by Michael Lewis
Bad Blood, by John Carreyrou
Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee
Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson
Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee
How to Be an Anti-Racist, by Ibram X. Kendi
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan
Home Game, by Michael Lewis
Free Food For Millionaires, by Min Jin Lee
Liar’s Poker, by Michael Lewis
Pelosi, by Molly Ball
Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami
Stories of Your Life, by Ted Chiang
Eat a Peach, by David Chang
My Own Words, by Ruth Bader Ginsburg




2017 Books Read

*Sunset Park by Paul Auster
Invisible by Paul Auster
*Moon Palace by Paul Auster
The Still Life of Woodpecker by Tom Robbins
*One Small Step Can Change Your Life; the Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer, Ph.D
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
*Man in the Dark by Paul Auster
Sophie and the Rising Sun by Augusta Trobaugh
*High Output Management – Story of Intel by Andrew S. Grove
*Thanks for the Feedback – Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen
*Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
*The Letting Go E-book by Leo Babauta
*Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
Travels in the Scriptorium by Paul Auster
Oracle Night by Paul Auster
Leviathan by Paul Auster
DotComSecret by Russell Brunson
The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis
Drown by Junot Diaz
Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie
*Trevor Noah – Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
To Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Mr. Vertigo by Paul Auster
*Blink by Malcom Gladwell
Exactly What to Say by Phil M. Jones
*Memoirs of Geisha by Arthur Golden
*The Art of Eating In by Cathy Erway
*The Devil in the Kitchen by Marco Pierre White

*-books are highly recommended.


Ratio by Michael Ruhman

I have finally picked up Ratio, a cookbook written by Michael Ruhman, and read it from front to end for the first time since I made the purchase nearly 5 years ago (part of my unproductive splurge with my ever mounting credit card bill). The book provides basic ratios for common recipes and demonstrate the convenience of knowing these formulas.

I have always been a conservative cook, meaning that I like the tedium of practicing and learning the fundamental of cooking before I unleash my creative juice and innovate dishes. Ratio was an enjoyable read; I reviewed basic recipes I had often practiced and gained knowledge on food or techniques that I rarely use. Ratio is a great book for either a professional or home cook.

I have been a professional chef for eight years, and I have spent majority of my time learning and perfecting (and never perfecting) stock and sauce production. I am humbled and fascinated by some of the basics taught in “Ratio”. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Sweat vegetables before adding water enhances the depth of vegetable stock (why have I not ever thought of it…and I do that for all the animal stock!)
  • Only add aromatics/aromats in the last hour of stock making in order to maximize the yield (aromatics soak up a lot of liquid from prolonged cooking)
  •  The stock should be kept at between 180F~190F (82.2C~87.8C) during the
    making process, which is below simmering. Therefore…don’t simmer your
    stock. (I am in shock…aren’t we all taught to simmer our stock at one point or another? But what is a simmering temperature…has anyone ever asked that?)
  • Leeks and its relatives give body to the stock (Something not so noticeable…but worth of exploring. I am guessing the structure comes from the slime in between the layers of leaves)

Have a great weekend chefs!