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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
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
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 morePublished on Aug. 30 2007 by An H. T. Nguyen
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 morePublished on July 17 2004 by Tin
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 morePublished on Sept. 14 2003
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 morePublished on Feb. 27 2003 by B. Panetta
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 morePublished on June 28 2002
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 morePublished on April 29 2002 by elisa bernhard
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 morePublished on Jan. 25 2002 by alainviet