Many cookbooks are produced to be timely and of-the-moment. They inspire people to dive into trendy dishes or a celebrity’s personal recipe collection. In the publishing world, those are categorized as “frontlist” works that sell well upon release. Then there are “backlist” cookbooks that are crafted to stick around for years and sell steadily. Some cookbooks may straddle both categories if they’re constructed well. I’m a fan of both but my shelves tend to favor backlist books that I intend to keep forever.
Kian Lam Kho’s Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees is a backlist book that’s written and designed to inform you on a lifetime’s worth of Chinese cooking. It’s gentle and quiet, like Kian is in person. There is a ton of information to glean and I’ve yet to find enough time to totally immerse myself in it. Ingredients such as red yeast rice is part of the book, which appeals to my Asian ingredient geekiness. Maps, cutting techniques, regional explanations and little nuances fill the 350+ pages. Yes, there is photography too. It’s a book to own, read, and dirty-up.