October 16, 2014

Little Vietnam by Nhut Huynh

Little Vietnam: From Lemongrass Chicken to Rice Paper Rolls, 80 Exciting Vietnamese Dishes to Prepare at Home
My rating: 4 of 5 spoons

My first introduction to Vietnamese cuisine was two sweet Vietnamese ladies who took my parents, my sister and I to a lovely Vietnamese restaurant in Anchorage, AK of all places. I, unfortunately, was very timid when it came to new foods at the time and played it safe, ordering mixed fried rice. Now, that fried rice was absolutely the best fried rice I've ever had (still to this day!), but I really regret not being more adventurous in my food choices. There was a soup everyone had before the meal that was amazing, but the name of it has been lost in the mists of time (that was over 20 years ago!). I've had a little opportunity to eat more Vietnamese food since then, but not near as much as I'd like. How exciting to get this cookbook to make my own!

This gorgeous book is well laid out with a comprehensive plan. It starts with 'A Passion for Vietnamese Cooking' with some facts and history. Four suggested menus are then given--Dinner, Lunch, An Elegant Dinner, and A Weeknight Dinner--each feeding 6-8 people. The author then gives his personal story of growing up in Vietnam through the Communist takeover and his eventual escape to Australia and life beyond. After this, we move into 'Setting up Your Vietnamese Kitchen', 'Stocking a Vietnamese Pantry' and a beautiful, illustrated guide to 'Essential Vietnamese Ingredients'. Now we get to the good stuff--recipes!

I decided to start of easy with a basic recipe. Just because I'm more adventurous now doesn't mean my kids are! I decided to make the Carrot and Daikon Pickles on page 27. I didn't have the daikon radishes and didn't want to make a trip to the store since I'm still recovering from the flu, so I halved the amounts of the pickling liquid and just sliced up two large carrots with a food processor. Personally, I like them. They are definitely not what I'm used to, but it's a nice, fresh yet acidic flavor that makes a nice accompaniment or just a little snack. My kids are still trying to make up their minds. I don't try to force my kids to like new and exotic things, but I do strongly encourage them to at least give them a try!

For supper, keeping in mind the reservations with the first dish, I decided to go with Vegetarian Fried Rice. Fried rice is always popular with my kids, and I wanted to make something they would enjoy--and get some great veggies along with it! I had some very small leeks I just pulled out of the last of my garden, so I used the small ends in place of part of the onion, and some of the green ends in place of the scallions. This is not your classic, greasy fried rice you find in a lot of Asian restaurants. I had a bit of an issue with my rice tonight, but other than the rice being a tad too wet, the dish was light and flavorful. My youngest wasn't a huge fan, but she is my pickiest eater. The other three all went back for seconds. I guess the pickled carrots grew on them as well as all four took a helping on their own.

Now that I made my family happy, I'm ready to branch out into more involved and unfamiliar dishes. I really want to try the Crispy Stuffed Pancakes, Fresh Rice Paper Rolls with Pork, Grilled Beef with Lemongrass and Rice Noodles and Mussels with Basil, to name a few.

This is a beautiful book with lots of gorgeous photos. I love that the dishes are usually photographed as they'd be served and not in high-fashion, stylized photos. Simple food served on simple dishes as they should be.

I received a copy of this book from Tuttle Publishing for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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