We in the UK, and in London in particular, are blessed with ingredients from across the globe, and with restaurants from every continent. Indian food is popular as we prize its vibrant flavours, Japanese cuisine is demanding notice and presenting delicate tastes. Chinese restaurants have long graced high-streets and now there are authentic and classic dishes from that country found in most cities. The Food of Vietnam gives an insight into another cuisine.
A few restaurants have now opened up, and the ingredients for this fascinating Vietnamese food can be found in Asian stores and online, but it could be the next big restaurant and home-cooking trend. Luke Nguyen and his TV programmes have done much to raise awareness of Vietnamese dishes as well as the country, which is more accessible to the European tourist than ever.
Luke has penned several books and the latest addition to his list of culinary tomes is The Food of Vietnam. This guy must be considering retiring from cookbook writing as this masterwork seems like it would be hard to better! To call it a coffee table book would diminish its evident worth, although if one was to screw a table leg on each corner of this mammoth volume then one would indeed have a coffee table.
The Food of Vietnam appeals on so many levels. Yes, it’s a cookbook strewn with tempting plates and all achievable by the European home cook. It’s also a travelogue taking the armchair tourist on a delicious amble across the Vietnamese landscape. It’s a personal and family culinary history with anecdotes and humour that engage the reader in charming fashion. This would be a wonderful gift for anyone planning a trip to Vietnam or who has returned from an adventure there, as well as any home cook who would like to try this tapestry of Vietnamese recipes.
The book is divided by region and one notes the difference in produce and style of cooking. There is an abundance of seafood used and one can substitute one’s local fish for the more exotic originals. The vegetables are fresh and vibrant and healthy, showing influences from all Vietnam’s neighbours and the French as well, in this colourful collection. The cuisine is contemporary and exciting.
Luke Nguyen has a talent for painting a picture with words. Vietnamese food isn’t just a selection of ingredients, it’s just as much about culture, sharing, continuity and pride. He brings to life personal stories of ordinary folk who are selling food from carts and markets, and making remarkable dishes at home.
The Food of Vietnam is more than cookbook: it’s an introduction to a country and its people, who seem to be eating rather well.
The Food of Vietnam
Author: Luke Nguyen
Published: Hardie Grant Books
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018