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Pleasures Of The Vietnamese Table [Hardcover]

Mai Pham
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 19 2001

A land of vibrant cultures and vivid contrasts, Vietnam is also home to some of the most delicious and intriguing food in the world. While its cooking traditions have been influenced by those of China, France, and even India, Vietnam has created a cuisine with a spirit and a flavor all its own.

Chef and restaurateur Mai Pham brings to life this diverse and exciting cooking in Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table. Born and raised in Saigon before emigrating to the United States, Mai has often returned to her native land to learn the secrets of authentic Vietnamese cooking, from family, friends, home cooks, street vendors, and master chefs. Traveling from region to region, she has gathered the simple, classic recipes that define Vietnamese food today: Green Mango Salad with Grilled Beef, Stir-Fried Chicken with Lemongrass and Chilies, Caramelized Garlic Shrimp, and especially pho, the country's beloved beef-and-noodle soup. With more than 100 recipes in all, Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table offers home cooks the chance to create and savor the traditional flavors of Vietnam in their own kitchen.

Filled with enchanting stories and stirring black-and-white photos of life in Vietnam, Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table provides a captivating taste of an enduring culture and its irresistible cuisine.


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Product Description

From Amazon

When Mai Pham--chef and owner of the renowned Lemon Grass Restaurant in Sacramento, California--left her home and her grandmother in Saigon in 1975, just days before the city fell to communist rule, she never thought she'd see either again. Happily for her, she returned 20 years later to rediscover her roots and reconnect with her 100-year-old grandmother. Happily for us, she's written Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table, in which she shares that journey--and the vibrant cuisine of her homeland. She weaves a stirring tale of rediscovery; of visiting with cooks in market stalls and street cafés and home kitchens; and, perhaps most importantly, of rediscovering her "favorite food on earth," pho, the noodle soup often referred to as the national dish of Vietnam.

Pham begins with a chapter on dipping sauces, condiments, and herbs, which, she explains, are the true backbone of Vietnamese cooking. She explores culinary variations: the "rice bowl" of the southern peninsula and the French- and Indian-inspired foods of Saigon; the more robust style of the cooler central region of Hue; and the straightforward style of the mountainous north. And she shares the simple, classic recipes that define Vietnamese food. Green Mango Salad with Grilled Beef is at once salty (from the ubiquitous fish sauce), sweet from the fruit, and tangy and spicy from Chili-Lime Sauce. Ginger Chicken is bright with the flavor of ginger and spicy with dried chilies; caramel sauce adds body and an intriguing sweet and smoky element to the dish. And of course, one can't forget the beloved pho, which gets a whole chapter to itself. The traditional Hanoi-style Vietnamese "Pho" Rice Noodle Soup with Beef is fragrant with anise and ginger and thick with velvety noodles and delectably rare beef suspended in the hot broth.

Featured throughout the book are black-and-white photographs of the country and its people, stories of Pham's childhood, and enchanting tales of the history and people of Vietnam that, taken together, highlight a rich and vibrant picture of the ancient cuisine of this complex country. Helpful guides to the Vietnamese pantry and cooking techniques, along with a glossary, menu suggestions, and a list of resources for the more exotic ingredients make the book extremely useful to even the uninitiated. --Robin Donovan

From Publishers Weekly

Pham (The Best of Vietnamese and Thai Cooking) recently began making a yearly visit to her relatives in the Mekong Delta and found treasures in the culinary heritage of her homeland. She already had plenty of experience cooking Southeast Asian food (she co-owns and cooks at the successful Lemon Grass Caf‚ and Restaurant in Sacramento and has taught at the Culinary Institute of America), but this was a chance to reconnect with her family. Artfully arranged with beautiful photographs, this collection of recipes is a celebration of family traditions as well as the popular national dishes of Vietnam. A list of basic pantry elements describes important tools, such as the clay pots used for making Kho (braised meats), condiments and the intricacies of rice paper, including how to make your own with an improvised fresh-rice-wrapper cooker. She also offers recipes for salads, steamed rice cakes, delicacies such as Rice Rolls with Shrimp and Wood-Ear Mushrooms and a variety of noodle dishes with fresh herbs, grilled pork, shrimp and shaved beef. In addition, the book includes many steamed, poached, simmered and grilled seafood dishes and a whole chapter of vegetarian specialties inspired by Pham's grandmother, all enlivened with the keen flavors of shrimp paste, lemongrass, fish sauce and lots of ginger and garlic. An excellent introduction to Vietnamese food for all skill levels. B&w photos and illus. (Aug.)Forecast: Vietnamese cooking is increasingly popular, with restaurants opening nationwide, and Vietnam is a tourist destination for many Americans. Author appearances in five major cities will help this book find the commercial success it deserves.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
I'm Vietnamese, and I've been looking for an authentic Vietnamese cookbook for a long time. "Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table" contains deliciously authentic recipes that could be duplicated at home. This book also has lots of great background information regarding each recipe. Other people complain that this book has no pictures of the food, but I really don't need the pictures because I've grown up eating the same food, so I know what they should look like. If you need pictures of the food, then I suggest Nicole Routhier's "The Foods of Vietnam", which has beautiful pictures of the foods. I find that Nicole Routhier's recipes are just a little bit more elaborate than Mai Pham's recipes, so I prefer to cook using Mai Pham's book. If you know Vietnamese food well enough, you could leave some ingredients out of Nicole Routhier's recipes, and they will still taste delicious. For example, Nicole Routhier uses milk to make fresh coconut milk, but Mai Pham uses water instead. I think using water to make coconut milk is simpler and also more authentic. I recommend Mai Pham's "Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table" for anyone interested in cooking authentic Vietnamese food. I also recommend Nicole Routhier's "The Foods of Vietnam" for its beautiful photographs of the food and also for many of its recipes. You can't go wrong buying these two books, and I do think you need both books in order to have a complete understanding of Vietnamese cuisine.
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4.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books. Jan. 7 2003
By Me
Format:Hardcover
Mai Pham's "Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table" is one of the best international cookbooks that are available today. Of all those cookbooks pertaining to Vietnamese cuisines, this is the most authentic so far. As a Vietnamese American, living within the spitting distance from Little Saigon (Westminster), I want to learn how to cook such delicate dishes as Bun Bo Hue (Hue spicy noodle) and Banh Beo (Rice cakes).
The recipes are quite easy to follow, contrary to those reviewers who claim that the directions are difficult to comprehend. I did several dishes from this book, such as Pho and Cha Gio (egg roll), they come out all right (not perfect).
I truly sympathize those who do not live near a Vietnamese supermarket. All the ingredients are readily available at most Vietnamese supermarkets (not Chinese, not Japanese, nor Thai, nor Cambodian, and so on). Vietnamese cooking is mostly based on improvisation. That means taste as you go. If you have not tasted some of the dishes that you try to cook, I strongly suggest that you should have some knowledge of those dishes. Be patient! First time never comes out exactly right. As you practice, it will get better.
Finally, I love those narratives of Mai's childhood with Vietnamese foods. Those are precious and rare, especially concerning Vietnamese culture. After all, food is a great part of one's culture.
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By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This book is great! The author describes the lifestyle in Vietnam when she was a little girl, and the lifestyle of Vietnam now. Although this has nothing to do with the recipes itself, it does allow the reader have a better understanding and appreciate the background and history of what they are making.
My mother-in-law is Vietnamese from Hue and cooks extremely well. There is a language barrier between the two of us, and because of the lack of communication, she judges me by how well I cook. There are quite a few dishes that she makes that I have not been able to find anywhere in my five other cookbooks that were surprisingly in this one, such has the Hue Chicken Salad. This book has a great variety of recipes that are familiar to her, and even has some recipes that she has eaten as a teenager in Vietnam but does not know how to make herself, like Bun Rieu (which are in many other cookbooks).
Even though there are lots of pictures of the country side and of the market stands, there are extremely limited pictures of what the food should look like. If the reader follows the recipe carefully, it does allow the reader to have a good idea of what it should look like.
I do appreciate the few pages in the front of the book with pictures of some of the herbs and spices that are used in Vietnamese cooking. It was extremely helpful and saved a lot of time when looking in the grocery story. Also the description of these herbs also gave quick details of what they taste like, so the cook can omit these garnishes if it is not to the liking of their palates.
I will not say that this cookbook is for just anyone. The reader should be willing to try something new and fresh. The author of this book does not just use the recipes just from her own family like all of the other books I have.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Educational Feb. 24 2002
Format:Hardcover
The Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table is an educational, touching, well-written book. I was born in Malaysia, grew up in Southern California and had my first bowl of pho in my early twenties. Ever since then, pho and bun (rick sticks with grilled pork) are two of my favorite vietnamese noodle dishes. In this book, Ms. Pham gives an encompassing historical, geographical, culinary background of Vietnamese cuisine. Her personal trips back to Vietnam reminds me so much of my own family in Malaysia. Her visits to special stalls known for only 1-3 famous dishes are like those of Malaysia too. For the reviewers that are "annoyed" by the personal and geographical information should be ashamed. Enjoying different ethnic cooking is much more than relishing the food. It is understanding some history, culture, and influences of the people that have created it. With this book, I have a greater understanding of the regional differences and also some interesting history of how/why pho has a beef broth base. I am disappointed with some of the illustrations in the book. The section on ingredients and especially herbs should be in photos. It was hard to see the differences in the herbs sometimes (although some are similar to Malaysian herbs-we call it by different names and a photo would clarify lots). I am eager to try some recipes that I am hankering for (hard to find a good Vietnamese restaurant in Michigan) and will share what I learn with readers in the future.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Authentic Vietnamese cooking
Mai Pham never disappoints. Her recipes are easy to make, delicious and authentic. This is a great book for those looking for an authentic Vietnamese cookbook.
Published on July 23 2009 by Mikenna
4.0 out of 5 stars pretty good book
i've tried two recipes in this book so far and the food turned out great. the recipes require more time than most, but i am speaking as a new cook. Read more
Published on Aug. 30 2007 by An H. T. Nguyen
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive, authentic, the real deal
I was skeptical when I saw this book but after reading the recipes and trying many of them, I can say that, as a Vietnamese person, the recipes are truly authentic. Read more
Published on July 17 2004 by Tin
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Vietnamese street foods!
What more can you ask for? The author went back to Vietnam and collected recipes from the best street-food vendors and home cooks, and she compiled them into this gem of a book. Read more
Published on Sept. 14 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy Tasty Recipes!
This book is full of wonderful recipes. They are easy to make and taste just like they would if you ate out at a place that specialized in this cuisine. Read more
Published on Feb. 27 2003 by B. Panetta
5.0 out of 5 stars Great if you like really authentic Vietnamese
This book is really great if you like truly authentic Vietnamese. I am Vietnamese and I really liked the cookbook. I found the recipes to be more authentic than her first book. Read more
Published on June 28 2002
1.0 out of 5 stars This book is not for me!
My best friend recently gave me this book for my birthday. As a keen fan of Vietnamese cuisine, I was rather excited and could not wait to try out the recipes. Read more
Published on April 29 2002 by elisa bernhard
4.0 out of 5 stars Another success story.
The author left Saigon right before its fall in 1975 and twenty six years later she is an author, a chef, and the owner of the Lemon Grass Restaurant in Sacramento, CA. Read more
Published on Jan. 25 2002 by alainviet
5.0 out of 5 stars Historically accurate and delicious recipes
This is the only cookbook I've found with a recipe for Bun Bo Hue. Although in vietnamese version you often use pig feet, Mai Pham's version is delicious. Read more
Published on Jan. 4 2002
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