The Classic Cuisine of Vietnam Cookbook Samples One of the Most Outstanding Food Cultures on Earth

Susan Yung wrote . . . . . . . . .

The Classic Cuisine of Vietnam was first published in English in 1979 (the French edition came out a year earlier), and it’s interesting to see how, apparently, the food was perceived by outsiders back then.

In the introduction, Bach Ngo and Gloria Zimmerman write, “Anyone under the illusion that Vietnamese cookery is a mere variation of Chinese cuisine will discover what a fundamentally different style it has – and unforgettably different delight it is.

“A similar comparison could be made between French and Italian cuisine, each using many of the same raw materials with sharply varying techniques and, just as important, different flavourings and spices, with infinitely different results.

“As the four-thousand-year-old Chinese culture produced a cuisine world renowned for its exquisite sophistication, Vietnamese culture, zealously guarded and nurtured over the same time span, has given birth to a cuisine no less sophi­sticated. Craig Claiborne, eminent food critic of The New York Times, hails the Vietnamese kitchen as ‘among the most outstand­ing on Earth’.

“In France, the temple of haute cuisine, Vietnamese restaurants now far outnumber Chinese, not only in Paris but through­out the rest of the country, and the tide of discovery has moved across the Atlantic. Food-conscious Americans, both young and old, are now joyously discovering Vietnam’s delicate and beguiling food-making art.”

Ngo, who was born in Vietnam, and Zimmerman, an American cooking school teacher specialising in Asian cuisines, are justifiably proud of the cuisine, which is far more varied than the food served at typical Vietnamese restaurants abroad. At these places, without even looking at the menu, you know you’ll find fried spring rolls, fresh spring rolls (often called “summer rolls”), beef or chicken pho (above), lemongrass chicken, beef or pork (if it’s a fancy place, they will have lemongrass quails) and banh xeo (turmeric-scented rice flour crepes filled with vege­tables, shrimp and pork).

You can find most of those dishes in the book, but also recipes for bamboo shoot omelette, steamed pork, cabbage with meat and dried jellyfish, stuffed chicken necks cooked in coconut milk, beef simmered with coconut water and lemon­grass, crab stuffed with pork and cellophane noodles, barbecued beef wrapped in fresh rice papers, duck rice soup, boneless stuffed whole fish, stir-fried beef with cauli­flower and golden mushrooms, papaya soup with pork hock, and banana leaf cake.

Source: SCMP

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