Customer Review

9 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book that falls a little short, March 30, 2009
This review is from: Secrets of the Red Lantern: Stories and Vietnamese Recipes from the Heart (Hardcover)
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Red Lantern is a restaurant in Australia. Secrets of the Red Lantern is a combination cookbook and family autobiography. I had high hopes, but while beautiful, I feel the book falls a little short in both regards.

The family stories can get intensely personal and be very sad in parts. Although the stories can be interesting, it is difficult to fully understand the impact without knowing the author--it's a little like picking up the diary of an unknown person.

The recipes are not especially clear in parts, and may require a little experience to guess at what might be required. While the food will probably turn out okay regardless, the point of a cookbook of formerly-secret family recipes is to give the full detail of what makes them special. There are also some entirely unfamiliar ingredients that are not explained and no substitution is given. It may be that the ingredients and techniques are more commonly understood by Australian readers. The flavors are okay, but not especially exciting. Maybe the flavors would be more exiting if I had guessed correctly on some of the missing detail.

Overall, this book would be three stars if you bought it only as a cookbook and if the recipes had clear instruction. However, given that it is also an autobiography, I felt it needed to be rated on that aspect as well. I just wasn't ready for such intensely personal stories with my cookbook.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 12, 2010 9:59:50 AM PDT
Just because the book doesn't appeal to you, doesn't mean it isn't worthy of a better rating. Furthermore, perhaps some coaching in Vietnamese cooking would help with your lack of familiarity with some of the ingredients.
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