14 Asian American Picture Books About Food

14 Asian American Picture Books About Food

Being Asian means that you are all about food. Did you know that the greeting in Chinese, 你吃了吗? {Ni (third tone) Chi (first tone) Le (first tone) Ma(third tone), means have you eaten yet?! The family style serving platters set the tone; meals are meant to be eaten together!

dim sum

It’s no surprise that there are quite a few Asian American children’s books centered around food. But you’ll notice that there are two themes to these books; proud to eat Asian food and embarrassed by it.

Chinese bakery

I hope this list will help kids realize that their native foods should be celebrated! What are your favorite Asian American picture books centered around food?

No Time for Flashcards has a great post on 18 Picture Books about Food and I wanted to add to her Asian American book list with my favorites.

These are two I discovered through her list:

Yum Yum Dim Sum by Amy Wilson Sanger is a book that makes me crave dumplings something fierce but my daughter seems to like the rhymes and pink and red colors throughout. The book explains in a zippy text all about Dim Sum. It’s a board book targeted to babies.  It’s really useful to use to teach children about foods they may be unfamiliar with. There is even a little appendix with Chinese words for all the items mentioned in the book like tea, rice and tarts.

Everybody Cooks Rice by Norah Dooley is a fantastic book! The book follows a sister who is looking for her brother in their San Francisco neighborhood. As she goes from door to door each neighbor invites her in to eat some of their supper. Everybody is having some sort of rice dish even though they are all from different countries. My 6-year-old really enjoyed this book and understood the message well, my 3-year-old sat through it no problem too. There are so many future lessons about geography, nutrition, and travel packed in this one little book! Awesome find.


And here are our favorites!


Favorite Asian American Picture Books About Food

Where On Earth is My Bagel? by Frances and Ginger Park and illustrated by Grace Lin

My Korean American friend Sarah gave this picture book as a gift to my kids because both of our Korean surnames are characters in this book. My Korean American husband thought it was especially funny because our joke is that there are only a handful of Korean last names anyway and they are all in this book.

Sisters Frances and Ginger Park teamed up to tell this story of young Yum Yung who gets the notion of a bagel in his head and desperately wants to create one. He will need help from Farmer Ahn, Fisherman Kee, Beekeeper Lee, Baker Oh, a pigeon, and a bagel shop owner in New York City.

It’s illustrated by the inimitable Grace Lin! [picture book, ages 4 and up]

If you want to attempt making a New York style bagel yourself, here’s a recipe from Sophisticated Gourmet.

The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin

Grace Lin lived for some time in Somerville, a suburb next to Cambridge in Massachusetts and I picture her neighbors of different ethnicities inspiring this book. It could just be my fantasy, but I’m going with that.

A young girl complains that her garden is ugly compared to their neighbors. Her mother assures her that their garden is special too even though there aren’t pretty flowers or recognizable plants. When harvest season comes, her mother makes a heavenly soup that sends the neighbors over hoping for a trade. The ugly Chinese vegetables turn out to make the most delicious soup. Grace Lin includes the recipe as well in the very back of the book! [picture book, ages 4 and up]

Grace Lin also posts the Ugly Vegetable soup recipe here. Besides the Chinese vegetables, you will need dried scallops which can be found at a Chinese supermarket or here.

Hot, Hot Roti for Daja-Ji by F. Zia, illustrated by Ken Min

There aren’t many picture books that celebrate the foods from India or Pakistan which can make kids feel like their food is “weird.” I love that Hot, Hot Roti for Daja-Ji celebrates both a multi-generational family and the delicious homemade food from their ancestral homeland. Daja-Ji’s tells his grandson that he is able to summon up super human strength because of the hot, hot roti he enjoys! [picture book, ages 4 and up]

Roti is a flatbread and easy to make. Why not try making some at home while reading this book with your kids?

Dim Sum for Everyone by Grace Lin

A delightful introduction to Dim Sum in a simple book for preschoolers! It includes some  Dim Sum favorites like pork buns, fried shrimp, turnip cakes, sweet tofu and custard tarts. My kids’ favorite Dim Sum dishes include the pork buns, Little Neck clams in black bean sauce, Siu Mai dumplings, mango jello, and steamed pork bits in black bean sauce. [picture book, ages 2 and up]

I found this recipe for Stir Fried Clams in Black Bean Sauce from Christine’s Recipes.

Bee-bim Bop by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Ho Baek Lee

Bee-bim Bop is one of the Korean dishes that we notice that everyone enjoys. It’s meant to be a leftovers dish. Bee-bim Bop means “mix it up.” You take the leftovers from a traditional Korean meal of many small side dishes and mix it up with rice and perhaps a protein.

Linda Sue Park’s version is a jaunty rhyme where a mama and her daughter shop for the ingredients for Bee-bim Bop and then make it together. One thing I can guarantee; this book will make you hungry for Bee-bim Bop!

A lovely subtle touch by illustrator Ho Baek Lee is including the grandmother in a Hambok, a traditional Korean dress. [picture book, ages 3 and up]

This Bee-bim Bop  recipe from Food.com is meant to be a guide. If you don’t have all the ingredients, just make it with what you have. It will still be delicious! Leave the spicy sauce on the side for adults and replace with soy sauce for kids who don’t like  heat.

Jo Jo Eats Dim Sum by James Kye

Jo Jo isn’t Asian but she’s an adventurous eater who will try interesting and delicious food! Can you challenge your kids to eat like Jo Jo? I also love the collage illustrations in this picture book by James Kye that combine cartoon drawings with photographs.

Will Jo Jo try the chicken feet? Would you? I personally love them! [picture book, ages 3 and up]

Yoko by Rosemary Wells

Yoko is one of my very favorite picture books for kids. It manages to cover so much territory from bullying, fitting in, ethnic foods to starting school. Yoko’s mother packs her a beautiful Bento lunch every day full of Yoko’s favorite sushi but when kids in her class make fun of her lunch — “raw fish?! seaweed?! — her teacher , Mrs. Jenkins, has to come up with a plan. The solution? International Food Day where each child brings in food from their homeland. Will someone — anyone — try Yoko’s sushi?! [picture book, ages 4 and up]

Yoko loves cucumber maki and here’s a recipe to make it.

Halmoni and the Picnic by Sook Nyul Choi

There’s a theme in certain Asian American picture books about the second generation trying to fit into two worlds; the traditional culture of their parents and grandparents from the old country and their American school life. It’s not an easy balancing act and when kids don’t see themselves or their families in the media, it’s easy to feel marginalized and/or ashamed if your family is “different.”

Yumni’s class is going on a field trip to Central Park in New York city and her grandmother, Halmoni (Korean for grandmother), is one of the chaperones. Yumni is worried that her friends will make fun of the food her grandmother brings and her traditional Korean dress. Will they?! [advanced picture book, ages 6 and up]

My kids love the Kimbap their Korean grandmother makes them! It’s different from Japanese sushi in that it’s like Bee-bim Bop rolled up. Delicious! Here’s a recipe!

Round is a Moon Cake by Roseanne Thong, illustrated by Grace Lin

This simple board book uses Asian motifs and objects such as mooncakes, abacus, inking stones, dim sum, lucky money to identify shapes. [board book, ages 2 and up]

Our Chinese bakery in Chinatown sells mooncakes for Chinese holidays but honestly, I don’t like them. The filling of sweeting bean paste is too sweet and too dense. My adventurous eater, PickyKidPix, insisted on buying one to try, but she didn’t like it either.

Henry’s First-Moon Birthday by Lenore Look

It’s Jen’s little brother’s first-moon birthday and the entire family is scrambling to get ready. There’s so much to do from cooking a feast, cleaning to coloring eggs red. All of this to bring young Henry good luck. Jen’s a little jealous but by the end of the party, she realizes that she and Henry are a team like two matching socks! [picture book, ages 4 and up]

Jen drinks Jasmine tea with her grandmother. To try a cooking activity to go along with this book, try making Jasmine tea and dying eggs red.

Apple Pie 4th of July by Janet Wong

Janet Wong’s parents actually owned a mini-mart in rural Oregon that sold Chinese food to go.  This book is an apology to her father who gets really busy on the 4th of July selling Chinese food; a surge in business that surprised Janet Wong! Even on this most American of holidays, people do eat Chinese food!

The young girl in the story  feels a little left out that her parents are not celebrating July 4th in a more traditional way but she’s in for a surprise. [picture book, ages 3 and up]

Big Jimmy’s Kum Kau Chinese Take Out by Ted Levin

This is another homage to Chinese restaurant owners based on a Chinese take out restaurant in Brooklyn, Kum Kau. Their actual menu is preserved on the inside cover of the book.

Illustrated in realistic watercolor, it’s an inside peek on what goes on behind the scenes to run a restaurant. From ordering to prep to wok frying, Big Jimmy’s Kum Kau Chinese Take Out is hopping and the young narrator also has a job to do! [picture book, ages 6 and up]


For these last two picture books, go to a Chinese restaurant or order Chinese take out!

To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.

14 Asian American Picture Books About Food

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Can I add a favorite? Jama Kim Rattigan\\\’s \\\”Dumpling Soup\\\” (Little,Brown 1993)

    Plus, Jama is just a sweetie with a blog well worth following!
    Cathy Ballou Mealey recently posted…The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans (PPBF)My Profile

  2. These make me hungry. Perhaps they are ment for Asian children, but all children would have fun reading many of the books you listed — especially if they contain recipes! Love your original posts.
    Patricia Tilton recently posted…The Little Word CatcherMy Profile

  3. Giora

    I thought that the popular Chinese greeting is Ni Hau Ma. Nice collections of books and I like the interview with Janet Wong. After reading some of these books, did you kids learned to cook some of them?

  4. I love Asian food – at least what I have tried. Great book list!
    MaryAnne recently posted…Social Shopping with #AmazonCart on Twitter (a #cbias #shop )My Profile

  5. Asian food is great, but it’s so fattening here. I imagine the authentic food isn’t so fattening, yes? The people in Southeast Asia are like the tiniest and fittest people in the world. Heck, I should go over there and eat what and how they eat. I have no idea how they eat so much white rice, and still remain tiny. I need some lessons. Maybe I should get some of these books. I’m sure I could learn a thing or two.

    Plus, I LOVE white rice. YUM. It’s my favorite, and I haven’t had it for soooooooo long!

    Anyhow, what a fantastic book list – as always!

    Thanks for this!
    Lisa Nelson recently posted…Clean Eating Recipe – The Simple Breakfast BurritoMy Profile

    • Hi Lisa,
      We soak brown rice overnight and then cook it. You can also take half and cook with white rice (the white rice does not have to be soaked). It was an adjustment but now we are all eating brown rice since it IS much healthier!

      Many Asian food recipes relies on meat for flavoring rather than being the star of the dish with lots of veggies and/or tofu. Those dishes might be great for you in terms of clean eating. Like stir fries. My kids also like Vietnamese rice paper wraps. We grill beef (or you could use chicken or tofu), and slice into slivers. Then you dip rice paper in a bowl of warm water (my kids love that) and lay on a plate. Add veggies, some brown rice, herbs and roll and eat. I like fish sauce with lime as a dipping sauce. We julienne carrots and cucumbers for the veggies. I use mint and basil for the herbs.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Sphero is Worth Fighting OverMy Profile

  6. When I first saw this post, I immediately began craving some of my favorite Asian food. I think, though, I will be collecting some of them to pass on to my Kiddo and her brand new husband from China. Thanks for sharing this with us on the Kid Lit Blog Hop.
    Alex Baugh recently posted…It’s NOT Just a Dog! by Pam Torres Not just a review, but a Blog Tour AND Giveaway!My Profile

  7. We just read one our favs last night – Char Siu Bao Boy by Sandra S. Yamate – which means, of course, we’ll be picking up some bao today!
    Nadine recently posted…Story Time Books – 5/31/14My Profile

  8. Pinned this! Always looking for books that help us celebrate the Chinese culture, as 2 of my daughters are from China.
    Shecki recently posted…Our world this week – early JuneMy Profile

  9. Our favorites from this list are Dim Sum for Everyone and Yoko. I’ve read them more times than I can count! Unfortunately, the closest dim sum is a few hours away. Thanks for linking up!
    Anna recently posted…Creative Ways to Make the letter OMy Profile

  10. My 32 early chapter books about Katie Woo, feature a Chinese-American girl and her friends. The only book that features any food is “Katie in the Kitchen,” which shows Katie trying to cook dinner for her family–it’s Western food. She does make won-tons with her grandmother in “A Nervous Night,” when Katie has her first sleepover and her grandparents’ house.

    • Hi Fran,
      My rising 7th grader and her friends are HUGE fans of Katie Woo. She reads at a high level but they discovered the Katie Woo books when they were in 5th grade and took great delight in acting them out during library. My daugher was Katie Woo! I need to get my hands on your series! For a year, that’s all we heard about at dinner … how fun library was because the school librarian tolerates them acting out Katie Woo even though they are old for it. And they seriously are so attached to those books! It’s nice to meet you. I’ll tell my daughter I met the author of Katie Woo via my blog and she will finally give me some respect for blogging LOL!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Thinking and Stressing About College for My OldestMy Profile

  11. Wow! Thanks so much for posting about Katie Woo (especially on a day when I’m having trouble revising one!)

    I love the idea of your daughter and her friends acting out the books. It really makes me day! Please tell her daughter hello for me. I’m glad to meet YOU.

  12. Great food and book.Very good site.Chinese food is very tasty.
    recepti za kolace recently posted…Posni kolac sa jabukamaMy Profile

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