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Communion: A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam Paperback – May 1, 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Fay writes a poignant, funny and engrossing tale of food, culture and tradition in a country obviously so dear to her heart." --Zester Daily, September 3, 2010

"An extraordinarily personal book." - Evan Kleiman --KCRW's Good Food, August 7, 2010

"Kim Fay has literally written the book on Vietnam (twice)." --NBC LA's Feast, August 4, 2010

"Kim captures the nugget of great food writing. Ingredients are important--yes--but context is so much more so." --Rambling Spoon, June 16, 2010

"Fay evokes her favorite dishes with language that lingers in the mind as beloved tastes linger on the palate." --Gastronomica, Spring 2011

In Communion, Fay takes readers on a more personal culinary journey. There are a handful of recipes, but the focus is on her delicious prose, which will leave the reader yearning for an authentic taste of Vietnam. --Library Journal, March 1, 2010

About the Author

Kim Fay
Pacific Northwest native Kim Fay first traveled to Southeast Asia in 1991. She spent four years living in Vietnam and has traveled back frequently, writing about the region. As an expert on travel literature and Vietnam, she has been a guest speaker on NPR and has written for numerous publications, including Travel + Leisure. She is the creator and series editor of the To Asia With Love guidebooks. She lives in Los Angeles.

Julie Fay Ashborn
Julie Fay Ashborn’s travels through Southeast Asia inspired her photography in To Asia With Love, To Vietnam With Love, and The Little Saigon Cookbook. She was raised in the Pacific Northwest and now lives in Los Angeles with her husband Clive, daughter Charlie, and son Oliver.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Things Asian Press/Global Directions (May 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 193415914X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934159149
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.7 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,171,161 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Sometimes I think American women travel to discover the taste of good food and to rediscover "The Art of Eating," as M.F.K. Fisher termed it in her classic volume of travel, cookery, and enjoyment.

When I first discovered that book, I carried it with me everywhere and read it every chance I got--waiting at doctors' offices, at soccer practices, at traffic lights. A friend saw me with it and asked, "Doesn't that title frighten you?"

She was a woman who was substantially overweight; I was a woman who was constantly on a diet, but M.F.K. gave me an inkling of what food and eating could be I didn't discover that art until I went to Thailand where eating was an act of pleasure, not one of guilt, shame,and fear.

Although I am sure that Kim Fay's relationship with food was much less troubled than mine, it is quite clear from her book that she discovered how much immense pleasure came from good food, freshly prepared, and eaten in the company of friends, during her four years of living in Vietnam.

Missing this dimension to her daily life when she returned to the states, Kim returns to Vietnam with her photographer-sister to explore that country's food--its history, its preparation, its flavors, from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. The result is a wonderful mixture of travel memoir, food literature, and cultural history, served up with a generous helping of humor and a number of tantalizing recipes.

Kim and her sister Julie are joined by Kim's friend Huong, a fashionable and opinionated woman with a stunningly healthy appetite and a talent for finding the best places to fulfill her ravenous desire for good food.
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Format: Paperback
Let me begin with disclosure: this review comes with attachments. I share entangled endeavors with Kim Fay, author of the newly released Communion: A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam. Her publisher, ThingsAsian Press, will publish my next two books. And I have contributed essays to Kim's guidebook series, To Asia With Love. Though Kim and I have never met in person, sticklers for objectivity would argue that I cannot write an unbiased review of her book.

But I can write a fair review.

And in fact I've waited months to do just that. Back in October, with days growing shorter and winds colder, Kim sent me a draft of her manuscript--double-spaced type on 8 ½ x 11 paper, no photos except a rough copy of the book's cover. But now I have the real thing, nearly 300 pages of intertwined essays and full-color photos taken by Kim's sister, photographer Julie Fay Ashborn. It is one of the heftiest, most beautiful food and travel books I've seen from Asia. (The type is a bit tiny--my parents would have trouble reading it--but the photos are big and bold.)

"I thought about how much better food tastes when it fits into a narrative." With this, Kim captures the nugget of great food writing. Ingredients are important--yes--but context is so much more so.

Communion doesn't simply tell us what Kim thought about the crispy fried eggplant she ate in Hoi An. Instead, it guides us through the life of Miss Vy, the restaurateur and instructor who opened her history to Kim. By the time we reach the recipe for that eggplant, "as delicate and flavorful as Miss Vy," we know all about the chef's upbringing, her family's post-war struggles through Doi Moi, and her thoughts on communism, poverty and sexism. In turn, I am all the hungrier for her food.
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Format: Paperback
Fay is not from Vietnam, she moved there for the adventure of living in a foreign country and writing a novel, and stayed for 4 years. She taught English while living there and was befriended by one of her students named Dung, and subsequently was taken in by Dung's Vietnamese family. Fay fell in love with the country's food when she was living on her own in a family run guesthouse, and discovered, outside the door, a street vendor selling chargrilled pork, with wilted water spinach and rice. Dung's mother introduced her to traditional cooking, and Dung and her sisters opened her eyes to all types of Vietnamese food in the city of Ho Chi Minh.
Fay returned to the States not having learned to cook anything Vietnamese, but she was living in Los Angeles, as was Duyen, a sister from her Vietnamese family, so while inconvenient she was able, along with Duyen, to seek out and satiate her cravings for Vietnamese food. Fay grew hungry to learn how to cook Vietnamese food, but using cookbooks and taking classes in LA was not satisfying her, so she hatched a plan to return to Vietnam to learn how to cook Vietnamese food, but the ultimate goal was to become an expert on Vietnamese cuisine in all regions of the country. Ten years after first leaving Vietnam she returned, armed with a `bucket list' of foods, restaurants, and chefs. She brought along her sister as her food photographer, and a friend named Huong that she knew from her prior life in Vietnam who signed up as their interpreter, and the journey was on.
Communion is very helpfully broken out into chapters for each major city in Vietnam. From every city she shares at least one recipe, except for the city of Hue. This seemed odd, because in Hue they have a clam rice dish that Fay covets.
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