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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: 9.4 x 7.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #110,511 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

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This is a great book, with well written recipes.
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.
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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48 of 50 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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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Me on January 7, 2003
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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