Instead of doing my usual cookbook review this week, I’m giving a recap of some of my favourite books that I’ve reviewed over the past year (well, year and a bit). After all, Christmas is coming and many cooks will welcome a gift of a new book to give them inspiration in their kitchens. My favourite cookbooks are the ones where you hear the author’s voice. Yes, of course the recipes are the most important part of the book, but knowing something about the author makes them a lot more interesting. With that in mind, my first two picks were easy. You can hear the rage in Taiwanese-Canadian Mandy Lee ’s words as she writes in her book The Art of Escapism Cooking (2020) about how much she detested living in Beijing. She hated the Chinese capital so much that, “Due to my general reluctance to say the word ‘Beijing’ on a regular basis, I like to and often do call Beijing by the nickname I chose for it – Richard, derived from a Proto-Germanic root meaning ‘hard ruler’. But more important, ‘Dick’ for short.” She channelled her fury into the Lady and Pups food blog, which led to a book deal. Even if you don’t love Lee’s writing voice as much as I do, you can still enjoy her recipes, which include Sichuan hot chicken, crackling-studded pork belly burger, saliva chicken meatballs, Chongqing melted cheese, mala smoked meat with tahini mustard, and chicken paitan ramen. Another cookbook favourite is Butcher + Beast (2019), by Chinese-American chef Angie Mar. The chef and owner of Beatrice Inn in New York doesn’t shy away from showing what many people would consider to be gory scenes of food, which, unless you are a vegetarian or vegan, means the cold, hard fact that animals die for what’s on your plate. So you will literally see blood and guts as you page through the book, and Mar gives recipes for dishes of boudin noir, whisky-aged beef (12 bottles of whisky, preferably French single malt), wild boar tagliatelle, and pork liver pâté. In The Way of Kueh (2020), Singaporean food writer and cooking instructor Christopher Tan shows the enormous breadth of kueh. These Asian cakes are made out of all types of flour, take many shapes, can be baked or boiled, fried, roasted or steamed, and are eaten at all hours of the day – not just as a teatime or after-dinner treat. Most people in Singapore, Malaysia and other countries where kueh (however it is spelt) are eaten buy them, but Tan argues that making them yourself is much better. Try jian dui (sesame-coated puffed balls made with glutinous rice flour), kueh tu tu (steamed cakes filled with coconut and gula melakah) and chee kueh (savoury steamed cakes topped with preserved radish and shallots). One cookbook that you’re going to have a difficult time getting into your hot little hands by Christmas is among the most important, at least if you’re living in Hong Kong and want to support the local food and beverage industry. Add Oil (2020), by Victoria Chow, Janice Leung Hayes and Charmaine Mok, has recipes by Hong Kong chefs, restaurateurs and mixologists, with proceeds benefiting the establishments that contributed. There was an initial print run of only 200 copies, which quickly sold out. You can join the mailing list to be notified when the book is republished.