Five Great Cookbooks for Spices

Serious Heat

Andrea Lynn, senior editor of Chile Pepper magazine, shares thoughts and observations from the fiery food world.


I'll give myself any excuse to buy a new cookbook, even with all the recipes floating online. There's something intoxicating about sitting down with a cookbook and being thrown into a world all of itself, drawn in by the recipes, stories, and photos. Here are five good reasons to buy a new cookbook and add spice to your cooking. Check out our picks, after the jump.

1. The Asian Barbecue Book: From Teriyaki to Tandoori by Alex Skaria: With this book's down-to-earth explanations, any home cook can add some new flair to their grill repertoire. The book eases readers into new adventures in cuisine. But what makes this book an instant classic on our already crammed shelves is the variety of recipes. Need a quick marinade for that flank steak? Turn to page 40 for a bounty of meat-soakers like spicy soy marinade. The chapters are split into sections by type of meat. One of our favorite recipes was for porterhouse steak crusted in Sichuan peppercorns, soy sauce and sugar, served with a sesame chile dipping sauce.

2. Chop, Sizzle & Stir by Nadia Arumugam: This slim volume draws on a wealth of Asian cuisines—Vietnamese, Indonesian, Chinese, Japanese and Thai—to present nearly 40 flavorful reasons to break out the wok. Try the Indonesian fried rice—ramped up with the fiery Asian paste, sambal olek—or indulge in crispy stir-fried squid spiced with the sharp fruitiness of green peppercorns. Complement the spice with a milder side dish like brown rice accented with macadamia nuts and sesame oil, or egg noodles tossed with stir-fried scallions.

3. Modern Spice by Monica Bhide: Traditional flavors with a fresh twist that shine, Modern Spice brings Western insight into the exotic (yet made simple) dishes of her native Indian cuisine. Born in India, Bhide takes her first-hand knowledge of traditional dishes and updates it for today's cook. "The secret to great Indian food is to understand the spices," she says, and dedicates an entire chapter to explaining the essentials of a modern-day Indian pantry. Our favorites: the Indian-style chili, the wings coated in a mint and ginger rub and Hot, Hotter, Hottest Shrimp.

4. Spice & Ice by Kara Newman: When Kara Newman was asked to write the High Spirits column for Chile Pepper magazine two years ago, the spirits writer thought she'd have trouble filling space. It didn't take long to realize that a significant number of bars and restaurants had at least one spicy drink on the cocktails menu to entice the more adventurous customers. "There was more to write about than I'd ever imagined—enough to fill a book, which eventually become Spice & Ice," she says. Along with spicy recipes like the Zapple, which contains habanero-infused apple cider, Newman also gives insight about concocting the perfect spicy cocktail.

5. The Spice Bible by Jane Lawson: The ultimate spice guide with entries from ajowan to wolfberry, also includes origins, uses, storage tips and recipes. This is an absolute must-have for any cook who dabbles in a wide array of spice—or even someone curious to learn how. The cookbook is organized in an easy manner to track down the questioned spice, along with beautiful photography for the enticing and original recipes.