- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: William Morrow Cookbooks; 1 edition (July 31 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060192585
- ISBN-13: 978-0060192587
- Product Dimensions: 18.7 x 2.3 x 23.2 cm
- Shipping Weight: 721 g
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #293,643 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table: Recipes and Reminiscences from Vietnam's Best Market Kitchens, Street Cafes, and Home Cooks Hardcover – Jul 31 2001
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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.See all Product description
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the layout is done on a matte textured paper. The ingredient list is done in an orange-brown ink while instructions and other text is done in black ink. There are informational inset boxes such as, "cooking with claypots" and "how to enjoy pho at a restaurant". Pictures are more decorative and done in a sepia kind of black and white . There are brushstroke paintings of certain ingredients.
I think it would have been better with color photos of ingredients and of the country but that is just my personal preference.
More detailed in its information of ingredients and it does a great service in that category. Now, if one is shopping for the various sald herbs listed in the book it may prove difficult since there are only brushstroke painting of said plants. A marked improvement is listing some brands of ingredients which makes shopping a whole lot easier. For even more detailed information on ingredients I highly recommendBruce Costs's book on Asian ingredients.
These recipes cannot be done without access to a good asian market and also a devotion of time. Pham has tried to provide recipes that will work in less time and with less fat but if you are going to do "down home" recipes you might as well devote the true amount of time needed otherwise it will taste not quite right. The recipes are in some instances more aggressive with the spicing than her previous book (5 spice chicken) and sometimes not (dipping sauces) . If you have her first book compare the recipes and see which one appeals to you more e.g., pho though there are many recipes that are not in her book it still behooves you to compare if possible.
The book is both a personal memoir and cookbook of recipes. It tries to provide both a pesonal and cultural context for the recipes. She did this previously in her last book but she goes to greater lengths in this one. For those who are not into personal information this is an annoying feature but for others it provides interesting reading.
Many of the recipes listed are those found in markets and cafes and home so the quantity can be large or the amount of labor involved is more geared to a larger payoff of people helping and eating with you. Some recipes quite frankly, do not taste good unless cooked in quantity e.g., pho broth. If you live near good Vietnamese restauarants it might be better to buy the certain dishes than make them at home because of the time constraints. Also, if you are near Vietnamese stores you might have more convenience making some dishes with prepared items instead of making from scratch all the time.
Overall, I liked the book and thought it a good addition to my collection. My main fear was that the recipes would be recycled from her earlier book but that was not the case.
Get her first book if you are just starting on Vietnamese food and do not want too much robust or aggressive flavors and take this book for more background and experience.
Although her recipes appear to be simple and basic for a Vietnamese, they are not always straightforward for an American. What a native might find simple such as rolling an egg roll or preparing "pho" noodle soup could be very confusing for a foreigner. The best way to utilize this book (and any other cookbook) is to learn the basics from a native (Vietnamese in this case) before delving into the cooking of a complex meal.
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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