Any cook with an interest in Asian food will love this book from the Slanted Door's Charles Phan. I've had my copy of "Vietnamese Home Cooking" only a few weeks, but it's already well-thumbed. I've been on a real binge, making his green papaya salad with rau ram, peanuts and crispy shallots numerous times. That goes for pork and shrimp spring rolls with velvety peanut sauce (the secret is a little glutinous rice and red miso) too.
For the Hollywood Bowl, we made bánh mi filled with lemongrass pork roast, which Phan describes as a "cheater's version of porchetta." I now crave it at least once a week.
I haven't found a clunker yet. My favorite (so far) is duck legs braised with fresh bamboo shoots, Virginia ham and shiitake mushrooms.
Recipes include shaking beef, water spinach with shrimp paste, clams with crispy pork belly and Thai basil and irresistible chicken satay with peanut sauce. It's a big book and one that I'm looking forward to getting to know even better in the new year.
The recipes are eminently doable. Writes Phan, "My hope was -- and is -- that this book helps cooks understand the Vietnamese aesthetic, our way of cooking and eating." Although he has a growing string of restaurants, he says, "I consider myself a glorified home cook. The food that we serve at the restaurants is mostly my (and my family's) home cooking ... interesting without being challenging; it is simple, honest and straightforward, yet incredibly flavorful."
Who wouldn't go for that? And while you're buying as it a gift for someone else, buy yourself a copy too.
"Vietnamese Home Cooking" by Charles Phan, Ten Speed Press.
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