- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Anthony Bourdain/Ecco; Reprint edition (March 15, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062293060
- ISBN-13: 978-0062293060
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 32 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #139,244 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Eating Viet Nam: Dispatches from a Blue Plastic Table Paperback – March 15, 2016
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“Holliday writes with exhiliration…[his] loving, laddish descriptions will make gonzo gourmands salivate.” (The New York Times Book Review)
From the Back Cover
“Graham Holliday is one of the great gastronauts, a charming and intrepid try-anything explorer who makes the rest of us food writers feel hopelessly inadequate (and woefully underfed). You’d be a fool to delve into Viêt Nam’s spectacular cuisine without him as your guide.”—Peter J. Lindberg, editor at large, Travel & Leisure A journalist takes us on a colorful and spicy gastronomic tour through Viêt Nam in this entertaining, offbeat travel memoir
Growing up in a small town in central England, Graham Holliday wasn’t keen on travel. But in his early twenties, he saw a picture of Hà Nội that sparked his curiosity and propelled him halfway across the globe. An ordinary guy who liked trying interesting food, he moved to the capital city and embarked on a quest to find real Vietnamese food. In Eating Việt Nam, he chronicles his odyssey in this enticing, unfamiliar land infused with sublime smells and tastes.
Funny, charming, and always delicious, Eating Việt Nam will inspire armchair travelers, those with curious palates, and everyone itching for a taste of adventure.
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In any case, this book is a departure from those excellent exploratory missions. It's more of a story about how Graham came to develop the Noodlepie blog, and why. For me - a reader of the blog for years - it's an interesting background story and it may also be very interesting to those not familiar with Noodlepie. It's very well written, engaging, and provides a lot of insight into the cuisine of Vietnam, particularly what makes it so unique and so great.
Unfortunately - and as Graham anticipates in the book - most of the streetside food sellers of downtown Saigon have been pushed off the streets and sidewalks and into storefronts or restaurants if they're to be found anywhere at all. That's a shame - although Vietnamese of my acquaintance think it's a good thing and that ridding the downtown streets of Ma and Pa food carts makes the city more advanced and "sophisticated". Still, on a very recent trip I very much missed the early morning pho carts at the back of the Hotel Rex, and I couldn't find a decent streetside bahn mi anywhere in District 1. Truly disappointing, and something that Graham discusses in this book.
But all is not lost, and there's a good book or blog to be written yet again. Because outside of Saigon's District 1, and venturing further into the ex-urban and rural streets of Southern Vietnam, there remains a thriving and ubiquitous street food market that offers everything and anything formerly offered in Saigon, and much that is not. I kind of wish that Graham had ventured 20 kilometers outside of Saigon to write about those places, which as before are ubiquitous, awesomely good, and cheap. There is little question that the people of Vietnam still love excellent and tasty cuisine. I wish Graham had written a little more about those places.
I don't understand the criticisms of the author in some reviews on Goodreads, saying that he treated the Vietnamese "paternalistically" or that he fits the stereotype of the "white traveler." It does disappoint me that he didn't learn more of the language during his time there--at one point he said that he didn't learn what "mang" meant in mang đi về--but it seems a bit silly to criticize him as though he is simply a tourist with no connection to the place.