Hardcover: 344 pages
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing; 1st edition (August 1, 2008)
Product Dimensions: 11 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
Shipping Weight: 3.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
Best Sellers Rank: #793,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books) #53 in Books > Cookbooks, Food & Wine > Asian Cooking > Vietnamese #857 in Books > Cookbooks, Food & Wine > Cooking Education & Reference > Essays #7734 in Books > Cookbooks, Food & Wine > Regional & International
This is one of the most beautifully crafted books I have seen with a fabric cover designed to resemble silk. The thick pages are very pale gray with a silhouette pattern of leaves and branches in a slightly darker gray with a thin border near the top of the cherry blossom pattern from the front cover. But still the text has good contrast and is very easy to read. There is also a ribbon page marker.The book is part family memoir and part cookbook. The ten chapters are titled from the family stories with recipes contained within. The recipes are only loosely organized by type, though there is a recipe index in the back. Beautiful photographs throughout, family pictures and many but not all of the finished dishes.There is a large variety of recipes, basic building blocks like stock, master sauce and scallion oil to an assortment of salads, soups, seafood, poultry, beef, pork, some goat and five desserts.The recipes can contain unusual ingredients that are only available at a good Asian market. I enjoyed learning in particular about some of the fresh herbs I had seen in the markets but never knew how to use them because so many Asian cookbooks adapt the recipes to use more familiar ingredients. There is a limited glossary and suggested substitutions for some of the harder to find ingredients but no pictures of them so I did an internet search to learn what they look like and also other substitution ideas like using lemon basil for rice paddy herb.There are also many recipes that require only basic ingredients available at any market like the sublime and comforting Caramelized Ginger Chicken that uses only fish sauce, ginger, garlic, red chile, sugar, onion, chicken stock, scallion and cilantro.
Before we get to the incredibly intimate biography of Ms. Ngyuen, bear in mind that as I write this, I'm sipping -- no, gulping -- my second batch in the last ten days of Pork and Watercress Soup (p.65). So simple, so good -- the first made with my own homemade chicken broth, the second with a supermarket broth. Of course, the homemade broth is the winner, but don't let that stop you from this incredibly easy, delicious soup. Two suggestions: First, do the skimming before adding any seasonings; second, grind your own pork if you have a food processor. I just realized that, in my long life, I have never bought supermarket ground pork -- those curlicues -- ugh!And before I continue with the recipes, I must tell you that I found the autobiographical section remarkable, informative and, in the end, quite uplifting. The author's tale of her life's journey is almost embarrassing in its honesty. She relates a story of incredible hardship and sorrow that we here in America seldom, if ever, have experienced. I feel privileged that she shared her story with me. Here's looking at you, kid!Okay; back to the recipes. The caramelized white perch (p.95) would have been delicious had I had decent fish. So should I recommend it as a way to dress up something basically awful? No; it's such an easy method and so good that one should honor it with a really fresh fish.The third recipe I tried was the shrimp with tomato, fish sauce and black pepper (p.60). In spite of the frozen supermarket shrimp I used (I know -- and I agree) it was so good that I ate one and a half portions at dinner, and could hardly wait to eat the leftovers the next day for lunch.I have marked eight recipes to try in the future. I know they will be good.
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