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Authentic Vietnamese Cooking: Food from a Family Table Hardcover – December 8, 1999
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Authentic Vietnamese Cooking offers remarkable insight into the history and details of this seemingly simple yet enchantingly sophisticated cuisine. Author Corinne Trang shares the story of her family, starting with her grandparents, who emigrated from Hunan, China, to Cambodia and then to Vietnam. Eventually, Trang herself made homes in Paris and New York, as well as Asia. The resulting blending of cultures and culinary traditions in her family is a common experience for Southeast Asians who, over the centuries, have had to flee from one place to the next to survive despotism, hunger, and war.
Trang clarifies the distinctions between dishes from the three regions of Vietnam. There is the Simple North, where stir-fries are common and the seven-course beef meal, Bo By Mon, originated. The Sophisticated Center features Chao Tom, shrimp paste grilled on lengths of sugar cane created to please the wealthy families of Hue. In the Spicy South, sea trade with India, plus Cambodian influences, led to the development of aromatic, golden curries. Today, the Vietnamese serve them with Banh Mi, the light, crusty Saigon baguette made with rice and wheat flour.
In addition to the four groups of condiments essential to Vietnamese cooking (sweet, pungent Nuoc Cham, vinegared vegetables, sate, and table salad), Trang gives recipes for rice-paper-wrapped Summer Rolls, filled with rice noodles, pork, and shrimp, and Mint Rice with Shredded Chicken. Requiring only rice, chicken stock, shallots, fresh mint, and cooked chicken, it has the clean and layered flavors typical of Vietnamese food. Western sensibilities may recoil at Trang's brief, honest discussion of the exotic meats served in Vietnam, including dog, snake, and monkey, served mostly to demonstrate machismo or status (no recipes are given). Christopher Hirsheimer's artistic black-and-white photos enhance the poetic simplicity of Trang's deeply involving text. --Dana Jacobi
From Publishers Weekly
Vietnamese cuisine, which fuses French and Chinese traditions, is no stranger to the American palate, and food writer Trang, raised by a French mother and a Cambodian-born Chinese father, is ideally suited to become its latest proponent. Subtly combining such familiar ingredients as chilies, cilantro, garlic, star anise and lime, Trang also calls for rarer components like Thai basil (for which Italian is no substitute), lotus seeds, and dried squid and shrimp. Though home cooks will have to scavenge Asian markets for ingredients, they will not be intimidated by the recipes. The dishes are as intriguing as Pineapple and Anchovy Dipping Sauce for beef and as familiar as Chicken Curry. Stuffed Fish is a carp or sea bass filled with a redolent paste of pork, reconstituted shiitake mushrooms, ginger and fish sauce. Spicy Beef and Carrot Stew with its five-spice powder, lemongrass and coconut milk has evolved from the classic French dish, Boeuf aux Carottes. Because most Vietnamese main-course recipes call for sugar or another sweetening agent, the desserts are traditionally fresh fruits. Trang, however, does offer recipes for Toasted Coconut Ice Cream and Sesame Rice Dumplings. Her inspired, often simple dishes will nicely stretch the boundaries of home kitchen fare. (Dec.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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1 - the recipes are relatively authentic; 2 - very easy to understand
This and Pham's _Best of Vietnamese and Thai Cooking_ should be the references bought though Routhier's _Foods of Viet Nam_ is considered a standard.
Pham's recipes are more westernized but background information is good and recipes are sound.
I have yet to track down independent publications from Australia but I would say this comes closest to the recipes garnered from personal interviews with Vietnamese home cooks.
Vietnamese cooking allows variation making room for available ingredients and influences (it is the best of fusion). So if the Trang recipe does not resemble the very traditional recipes of family it still contains the basic outline.
You will encounter recipes usually not covered such as pork pate and other delicacies.
I was also impressed that Trang decided to discuss exotic meats including dog. Usually Vietnamese and Asian cookbooks in general avoid the topic completely but Trang decided to confront the issue (bravo). Trang is quite correct that eating of certain exotic meats is restricted to males (aphrodisiacs) and interviews with Vietnamese cooks confirm this.
An essential reference for Vietnamese cookbooks but keep in mind that the home recipes are still varied and that this it is not an exhaustive source book.
Another thing to keep in mind that this book does not cover in great detail techniques regarding preparation of meats (asumption is made that you already know to slice against the grain for beef)
The most glaring flaw of meat preparation and options is demonstrated in the pho ba recipe which does mention the use of tendon but not its preparation. It skips tripe as well. Discusses condiments as sidebar but does not tell you what condiments to use with pho (hoisin, chili paste, nouc mam, lemon wedges).
A good recipe source but not definitive in technique. I would have on hand a book devoted to Asian preparation practice in conjunction with this book.
Overall, the best available American books for a Vietnamese collection are this book, Pham's _Best of Vietnamese and Thai Cooking_ and Nicole Routhier's _Foods of Viet Name_ or _The Best of Nicole Routhier_.
Recommended but not definitive.
About the people complaining about eating dogs, I don't eat dogs and don't like meat in general even though i am not a vegan nor a vegetarian. I have a few comments. Why do dogs have such a special status compared to cows, pigs, chickens, ducks, deers, snakes, etc...? In the U.S. dogs are more pure bred and are highly regarded as pets. In other countries, they are just another domestic animal like a cow or a chicken. Most people don't eat dogs as everyday meat, dog meat is like specialty meat such as snake or deer that only men or adventurous minded people would dare try. You don't see people complaining about eating the other animals such as cows or chickens. Some people have one of these animals as pets too. I think if you are going to complain about people eating dogs, then don't be a hypocrite and mention other animals too. Otherwise i don't think they should be saying anything.
Most recent customer reviews
this book is a mess, from front to back