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Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table: Recipes and Reminiscences from Vietnam's Best Market Kitchens, Street Cafes, and Home Cooks Hardcover – July 31, 2001


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Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table: Recipes and Reminiscences from Vietnam's Best Market Kitchens, Street Cafes, and Home Cooks + Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors + Vietnamese Home Cooking
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 242 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Cookbooks; 1 edition (July 31, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060192585
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060192587
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.9 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,882 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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

This is a great book, with well written recipes.
TheChiliChick
My Mother-in-law (MIL)is Vietnamese which makes it difficult for us to find a great Vietnamese cookbook since we're always comparing it to her cooking.
Michelle
I cook from this book 3x a week and have a party with everything from her cookbook twice a month.
Michele Headen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 49 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 3, 2003
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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49 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Jadepearl VINE VOICE on November 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book works best for those who have access to very good asian markets and previous experience with Asian cooking otherwise, some of the recipes may be difficult to carry out since substitution of ingredients is not a very good option.
Layout --
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.
Information --
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.
Recipes --
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) .
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
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. Keep in mind that you have to have access to a Asian market in order to make some of the dishes, but what else would you expect? Her recipes call for common Vietnamese ingredients that may not be common in American kitchens. To make authentic Vietnamese food, you need Vietnamese ingredients. Most major cities will have some kind of Asian market.
Some of the recipes are time consuming but this is how it is done in Vietnam, women spent their entire day cooking. If you are trying to cook authentic Vietnamese, this is one of the best books to own. If you want an Americanize book, this may not be the one for you.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
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. The recipes are authentic and delicious! No fancy restaurant dishes are included here. The techniques and recipes are easy to follow. This is hands down the best Vietnamese cookbook. Regular Vietnamese folks such as myself could actually cook from this book on a daily basis. I bought 4 copies and gave them as gifts.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Tin on July 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
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. They're what you would expect to eat if you spent time in Vietnam. Also, the sections that give historical and culinary background information are great! If you only had one Vietnamese cookbook, this would be the one.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 16, 2002
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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