For my contribution to Delicious Vietnam – May edition, I have decided towrite about my favourite Viet cookbooks. For a cookbook addict like myself, surprisingly, I don’t own a lot of Viet cookbooks (in either English or Vietnamese). Only the best books stay on my shelf. And these serve as inspirations and ways of connecting myself to my root.
Up until 2006-2007, Viet cookbooks were so few and hard to understand. I guess before Asian cuisines become popular in the western world, describing native Vietnamese ingredients was not easy. Now, things have changed for the better! There are more ingredients available, and some excellent cookbooks on Vietnamese cuisine have been published.
Before proceeding, it’s worth noting that most of the following cookbooks are written in a way so that you can cook a good Vietnamese meal using readily available ingredients in the West. While some of the dishes may not be 100% authentic, they still capture the soul of the cuisine.
My major complaint is those books focus mostly on Southern Vietnamese cooking. The need for a more complete work on Central and Northern Viet cuisines is still there. And I’m patiently waiting.
It’s not easy to pick out which books are the best. But these are my personal favourites. You may spot the obvious Australian bias. After all, I live in the country!
In no particular order,
I dare say this is a classic book on modern Vietnamese cuisine. A milestone and a must have. Author Andrea Nguyen put much care into writing the recipes and techniques, which is fantastic for novice home cooks. Recipes include those popular ones at Viet restaurants and other home-cooking favourites.
Adorable and gorgeous! Sapa is a fantastic travel-cookbook, which detail Luke Nguyen’s experience in his home country. Compared to other Viet cookbooks, Sapa is more adventurous. The recipes are those Luke learned during his journey, so they carry a bit more authentic and local sense. I haven’t tried any recipes in the book, but the photos alone make me really homesick.
(My MIL said that Luke Nguyen was the most handsome young chef in Oz TV. Ha! Asian bias!! You, go, mom!)
(The name sounds more like a novel than a cookbook, doesn’t it?)
An interesting read, accompanied by fantastic and solid recipes for modern Viet cooking.
I love Red Lantern restaurant. I do. To this date, it remains one of the best Viet restaurants in Australia. It is not pretentious but focuses on the vibrancy of South Vietnamese cooking – fresh, lots of herbs and undeniably sweet.
This book, for me, is more than a cookbook though. It tells the story of Australian immigrant family, from the first generation arrived after the war until now. I enjoy the book immensely since it gives me much deeper understanding about the life and struggle of those Vietnamese living overseas. Another point of view, and I do feel moved.
Quite a basic book, full of familiar recipes. Published before ‘Into the Vietnamese kitchen’. No glossy photos, just plain text and illustration. The explanation was inadequate at points, but the recipes were good and solid.
This is my first ever Vietnamese cookbook in English and I love it still. The chicken pho is a must-try.
Bobby Chin is quite a character, isn’t he? A highly respected chef in Asia, true. But for some reasons his restaurant is not very popular among the local in Hanoi. (Oh, because it’s expensive. First reason!)
Regardless, I LOVE his cookbook (and it’s not because he shares the same name as my husband). Of all the cookbooks I have seen, this cookbook has the most Northern influenced dishes, the kind of food I grew up with. There are some lovely Hanoi-style recipes there with some local knowledge. What’s more? Some personal Bobby Chinn’s style twist on the dishes, which I totally approve. The photography is stunning, too.
A few years back Trieu Thi Choi (with Trieu being the surname) was like the Martha Stewart of Vietnam. She wrote a lot of books on cooking, sewing and flowers arrangement (Basically, how to be a Vietamese domestic goddess?) I don’t like her recipes much since they fall into the ‘formal’ Viet cooking category, which is heavily Chinese-influenced.
That’s said, this cookbook is a gem. There are a lot of good and authentic recipes. Not much insight and detailed explanation to the cuisine, ingredients and techniques though. It is more suitable for those who are already familiar with South East Asian cooking. Side note: the beef stew recipe is a winner!
Honourable mention Vietnam chapter in “Fire” by Christine Manfield
The secret is out. I adore Ms. Manfield’s cookbooks. I have all of her books, back to the Paramount era. Every single one of them is fascinating to read.
Anyway, Fire is also a travel-cookbook with C. Manfield’s personal touch. She displays an insightful knowledge about Vietnamese cuisines, with some advice on travelling and where to eat. The recipes are no where near traditional. Rather, these dishes are C. Manfield’s interpretation of Vietnamese flavours. C. Manfield’s book requires some basic cooking knowledge and the recipes are more complicated.
I hope this small Viet cookbook review will be of help for those who loves this cuisine. There are a few days left for Delicious Vietnam (deadline is May 10th). So join us if to celebrate the love for Viet cuisine!
Information about Delicious Vietnam – May edition can be found here.
Note: Photos of cookbooks are from fishpond.com.au