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

Video: Chemo Kitchen – A Cookbook for Chemotherapy Patients Suffering from Taste Change

The Chemo Kitchen Cookbook is a collection of recipes written by award-winning chefs, created specifically for people going through taste-change during cancer treatment. Let’s help steal back some joy in food, and win little battles with taste while doctors fight the war.

Watch video (2:11 minutes) . . . . .

Gels, Foams and Purees: Cookbooks Serve Up Recipes For Those Who Struggle To Swallow

Jill Neimark wrote . . . . . . . . .

In 2007 Diane Wolff, an Asian scholar about to move from California to New York City, got a call from her mother: Dementia had made it hard to take care of herself. Couldn’t Diane move to Florida instead of New York? “My mother was beautiful and headstrong, and even in her old age I thought of her like Scarlett O’Hara,” says Wolff. “She needed me, and I packed up and moved to Florida.”

In 2010, however, her mother’s dementia led to a swallowing disorder called dysphagia. When Wolff tried to source soft foods, or recipes for those with dysphagia, she came up virtually empty handed. “Commercially available pureed foods were horrible. One caregiver compared them to dog food, and I think that was being kind.”

Working with dietitians and speech pathologists, Wolff — who cared for her mother until her death in 2013 — began to develop a suite of techniques and recipes for pureeing delicious, nutritious foods, from pizza to roast chicken. Today she is known as “The Queen of Puree.” With 12 self-published books — including The Essential Puree: The A to Z Guidebook — a blog, and a busy schedule training caregivers and medical professionals, she is helping pioneer a new approach to an increasingly common disorder. The essence: simple, intensely flavorful food that is easy on the throat and packed with good nutrition.

Each year 1 in 25 adults experience a swallowing disorder. Dsyphagia has many causes — ranging from dementia to stroke, surgery and neurological disorders — but no matter the origin, the ability to safely consume foods is essential, according to speech pathologist David Fagen, at Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Port Charlotte, Fla. Some 60,000 dysphagia sufferers die each year, mostly from aspiration pneumonia, which is caused when food or saliva is inhaled into the lungs. Those with dysphagia can also lose interest in eating if foods are too bland or swallowing is too difficult, leading to weight loss and poor nutrition.

Wolff says there are essential tricks to a successful puree. One key is the careful application of flavor through sauces. “When you puree a food,” she explains, “you increase the surface area by a factor of thousands, and you lose flavor. It tastes bland. Sauce becomes the all-important medium to carry flavor. A simple half-cup of sauce can make a puree delicious.”

High-fiber foods will need to be strained after pureeing, and swapping ingredients can be essential. (A polenta pizza crust works well, whereas a traditional wheat flour crust does not). High-speed blenders are best for breaking down the cell walls of fruits and vegetables and liberating the nutrients within. Thickeners such as xanthan gum can be purchased either in gel or powder form; they allow liquids and purees to be thickened according to the patient’s ability to swallow, as determined by a speech language pathologist.

Another tip for caregivers: Before cooking, bring ingredients, such as vegetables and fruits, in to the patient, so they can see and smell them. Present the entire dish before it is pureed, as well. Prepare seasonal foods — the iconic dishes of summer, fall, winter and spring. “Engage all their senses during meal preparation. Just because the form of the food has changed, doesn’t mean eating has to be boring and tasteless,” says Wolff.

Wolff isn’t the only food professional addressing dysphagia. Peter Morgan-Jones is executive chef at the HammondCare Foundation in Australia, which operates facilities for patients with dementia, aged, and palliative care needs. He has published three cookbooks for people who have trouble chewing and swallowing, or even using cutlery; his fourth — coauthored with palliative care specialist Roderick MacLeod of the University of Sydney — is forthcoming in late May. Many of his ingenious recipes draw on molecular gastronomy, utilizing whipping cream canisters to create “molecular foams” soaked in flavor but as light as air, dissolving on the tongue.

“I first tried a foam on my friend’s son, who had been on a feeding tube for eight years,” he explains. Morgan-Jones blended fresh strawberries and ice cream, passed them through a strainer, and added a binding agent. He then frothed the liquid into a foam. “I put the bubble on his tongue and though it was full of fragrance and flavor, it just disappeared without swallowing. His eyes lit up.”

Morgan-Jones utilizes thickening agents, such as agar-agar and xanthan gum, to create gels that can be easily consumed. He offers recipes for finger food, since some individuals suffering from dementia, arthritis or neurological conditions have difficulty using cutlery. His ingenuity extends to beverages: vodka and tonic ice blocks, a jellied mulled-wine ice cube, and a jelled Scotch-on-the-rocks that can be consumed by dipping cotton swabs into the blend, freezing them and then sucking gently. “It’s a new way of having a favorite tipple,” he says.

Morgan-Jones believes the visual impression a food makes is essential: “If you present someone with dementia a bowl of orange mush, they won’t know if it’s pumpkin, carrot, or squash. But if you mold it into the shape of a carrot, or pour a puree of pear into a pear-shaped mold, it will look familiar.”

Using Morgan-Jones’ books, Peter Welfare, a HammondCare chef, created a chicken drumstick satay and a pureed fruit salad for a 51-year-old mother of two with early onset dementia. She was living on ice cream, custard and fruit, and was facing a possible feeding tube because of her difficulty eating. The pureed chicken was molded into the shape of drumsticks; similarly, the pureed fruit was set on yogurt and sculpted to look like the fruits themselves. “It was a smashing success. She ate it all,” reports Welfare.

Individuals with swallowing difficulties are often presented with a difficult choice, says Prudence Ellis, a senior speech pathologist with HammondCare. “They can eat and drink safely but lose the pleasure of food, or they can choose quality of life with delicious meals that may trigger choking or aspiration,” Ellis says.

With cookbooks dedicated to dysphagia, that impossible choice may be changing. Ellis recalls treating a passionate wine lover with dysphagia. “All he wanted for Christmas was a Shiraz, which is a popular wine made from a dark-skinned grape.” By modifying Morgan-Jones’ Scotch cotton swabs, Ellis was able to provide the patient a Christmas drink. “I brought him joy, instead of taking from him something he loved.”

Source: npr

This Slow Cooker Cookbook by A James Bead Award-winning Chef Has Delicious Gourmet Recipes

Deena Shanker and Polly Mosendz wrote . . . . .

The season of the slow cooker is nigh.

Once relegated to the back of the deepest kitchen cabinet, the inexpensive, no-frills appliance is taking its rightful place as a stalwart of the cold weather home cook. U.S. sales are up 50 percent, from $473 million in 2007 to $712.5 million in 2016, according to data from Euromonitor, as are consumers’ options. Buy a basic two-mode, two-quart slow cooker for less than $20, or choose among an array of $200+ Wi-Fi-controlled, timer-enabled, seven-plus-quart, multitasking machines.

Recipe searches show that people are actually using, or planning to use, their new pots. There are over 20 million slow cooker recipes on Pinterest, making them one of the most popular types of recipes on the content-sharing site, according to a spokeswoman. Interest over time, as measured by Google Trends, has gone from a score of 16 out of 100 in January 2004 to 99 in the same month this year. The recipes show a 143 percent year-over-year increase in saves on Pinterest. The possibilities have never seemed so endless.

The beauty of slow cooking is in removing, not adding, complication. The best recipes are those that require the least amount of work. Simply throw the ingredients in, turn the slow cooker on, walk away, and be done with it for anywhere from one to 24 hours. But just as easily as a cooker can turn a tough piece of meat into a succulent one, with the wrong recipe it can also yield a pile of bland, brown mush instead of the promised warming winter stew.

In The Chef and the Slow Cooker, out Tuesday from Clarkson Potter, the James Beard Award-winning cookbook author and restaurateur Hugh Acheson offers his take. “The beauty of the cooker is that it’s a shortcut that doesn’t sacrifice quality or taste,” he writes in the introduction. It’s “a device that makes life more productive and enjoyable by freeing you up to do other things.”

With recipes from such a decorated foodie, far from the masses of Pinterest, the promise is not just low-effort meals but the impressive, gourmet kind that will lead your dinner guests to exclaim, “You made that in a slow cooker?”

Acheson’s recipes can generally be broken down into two main categories: the standards (short ribs) and the surprises (poached cod). Where Acheson excels is in his use of the slow cooker to offer improvements on, or variations of, the standards that don’t substantially increase prep time or cost—and in techniques most home cooks might not have considered.

A two-hour chickpea-and-eggplant stew (plus 35 minutes of prep time, assuming you ignore Acheson’s call for dried beans and go with the much easier canned version) fits well into a Crock Pot cook’s repertoire. Even without featuring a single particularly rare ingredient, the result is a spicy, complex, and vibrant meal that will not only please on day one but make for hearty lunches all week and even freeze well. The vegetable stock ingredients list doesn’t need to be followed exactly; using an assortment of vegetable ends stored in the freezer is a tried-and-true method, though adding a lemon makes for a nice twist. The technique turns an annoying chore into a painless one.

The short ribs, paired with maple syrup-dosed mashed sweet potatoes, were classic, as the recipe promised, yet elegant. The port wine sauce elevated the dish, making it slightly more complex than the old school version. The dish also lacked the mushiness that makes many slow cooker recipes, while yummy, not particularly photogenic. These ribs had Instagram appeal.

Where Acheson falls flat: Rare, expensive ingredients, such as ground black cardamom in a recipe for apple butter, or exactly 10 dried juniper berries in the braised short ribs, appear to be so indispensable that no substitute is recommended. Nor will certain time-consuming prep work, such as chopping three onions two different ways, ultimately make a noticeable difference in the final product, 12 hours of cooking later. In a recipe for tomatillo salsa verde, a companion to pork tacos, the chef calls for “coarsely chopped” ingredients, only to later have them thrown into a blender, where they will be pulped.

The beer-braised pork tacos, a beloved cuisine among carnivores, were surprisingly complex for a recipe that called for drinking five cans of beer as you wait for the meat to cook. The end result was delectable and enough to feed a small army. Good thing, since a pricey, eight-pound, bone-in pork shoulder is used as the base.

As with other recipes in the book, some ingredients were hard to come by (lard, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce), and again, substitutions weren’t listed. Unsure whether Crisco or butter would suffice as a replacement, the home cook may travel to a half-dozen grocery stores and receive a shaming from just as many store clerks, who wonder why, in the age of clean eating, lard might be necessary.

Those cooking for a family will appreciate the quantities in which Acheson works, but home cooks feeding fewer than a half-dozen mouths, or looking to avoid trays of leftovers, might be disappointed by the lack of halving directions in the book. Reducing the short ribs recipe, for example, seemed pretty simple, as the ingredients were all listed in round numbers (six pounds to three, four sprigs of fresh rosemary to two), while cooking time was a bit of a mystery. The recipe called for a lengthy 12 to 15 hours, and while six hours certainly seemed too short, is the full time necessary for half the meat?

The home cook will need to make such decisions alone. Those with the time, sense of adventure, and deep pockets to hunt for gochugaru, or Korean chile, for their poached cod will probably enjoy cooking with a new spice. Those without can be consoled: You can’t taste it. Same with the suggested garnish of edible flowers.

But poaching cod in leeks, celery, butter, and vermouth produces a delicate flavor and silky texture in just the right amount of time—an hour and 20 minutes—to cook whatever else you decide to serve it with. It takes the slow cooker from an advance-planning-only appliance to part of the weeknight rotation.

And a $20 machine works just fine. No Wi-Fi required.

Source: Bloomberg

The Complete Guide to Jewish Food, and What on Earth That Means

Deena Shanker wrote . . . . . . .

All too often, and to the dismay of everyone who knows better, Jewish food gets boiled down to bagels, matzo balls, and brisket.

These are staples, to be sure, but they all hail from the same part of the world—Eastern Europe—while Jews have, at one point or another, populated almost every corner of the earth. Thanks to their historic roles as both merchants and, often, refugees, Jewish cuisine encompasses flavors from Tunisia to Toronto, India to Israel, Babylonia to Brooklyn.

Joan Nathan, a two-time James Beard Award winner and the author of 11 cookbooks, is already well known in Jewish kitchens.

But her latest book, King Solomon’s Table, out today, is a crowning achievement. Six years in the making, it is filled with recipes from all over the globe, the stories behind them, and the histories of both how Jews influenced the local cultures they were part of and how those cultures left indelible marks on Jewish cuisine. Nathan tracked the legends of the biblical King Solomon and his global trading empire to create a cookbook with recipes for all occasions and for people of any religion, though the ancient Jewish dietary laws create a common, mostly unspoken thread throughout the book.

Nathan spoke with Bloomberg about Jewish history, culture through cuisine, and how much stands to be lost with the loss of every immigrant. Here are excerpts of that conversation, edited for clarity and space.


Many of the recipes in King Solomon’s Table are quintessentially Jewish—the chopped liver, the fried artichoke. Others seem more of a place than of a culture, like the leafy green salad with vinaigrette or the Minestra di Fagioli. What makes a food Jewish and not just a food that Jews happen to eat?

Jewish food is wandering food, but the essential quality is the allegiance, at least in the back of your mind, to the dietary laws. Also, Jews have always been merchants, since the time of King Solomon, when they went out to the then known world looking for gems, spices. They were looking for whatever was new. Even today, we are obsessed by food. The third quality is that we’ve been kicked out of so many countries, which is so relevant today, and that we’ve had to adapt to the regionality of other countries, but always with the dietary laws in mind.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were at the Russian Embassy for a dinner, and it was very Russian. One of the dishes was a really good hard-boiled egg with scallions and chives, and as we left the Embassy my husband said to me, “That was Jewish food.” And I said, “No, Eastern European Jewish food is Russian food. It’s what the Russians ate.”

This cookbook is a reminder that the Jewish story is an immigrant story. I can’t imagine that when you wrote this book you knew what would be going on in the world when it came out.

No, I absolutely didn’t. I started out thinking I’d write something on modern Jewish food, but I didn’t realize the complexity that I was going to find. So I probably spent six months working on the introduction [tracing the Jews’ history through biblical Israel to Babylon, Europe, Africa, the Mediterranean, North America, and modern Israel]. I’m so pleased people are reacting to that, because to me it really pulls the book together and shows what Jewish food is.

I think [the anti-immigrant fervor] is so ill-advised. For one thing, it’s because of immigrants we’ve got all these new foods. But also, everyone in America is an immigrant, unless you’re Native American. Everybody. And so I think it will create a Dark Age of cuisine, if nothing else.

One theme of the book is fleeing. Jews are often on the run, from the Spanish Inquisition, Nazi Germany. It’s well timed for Passover, another story of Jews on the run. Did Jews save Jewish foods, or did Jewish food save the Jews?

That’s a good one. I think this is a comfort that Jews have gotten. My mother just died, she was 103, and you know I miss her a lot, and going to synagogue and listening to the prayers, and also the music and the foods, were really comforting to me. And I realized, throughout history when people were trying to persecute the Jews, the Jews got stronger. Instead of escaping their religion the way a lot of people did, they got strength from their religion.

Today, in a world where everybody is trying to become homogenized, a sweet-and-sour cabbage that was served year after year makes you who you are, in a sense. And the stories around food also make us who we are. Eating together is a comfort, and I think that’s so important, and that we need it desperately. So, it’s both.

With talk of apocalyptic bunkers and the Doomsday Clock, any life lessons for your readers, from someone who has traced the history of a people that have seen many, many historic upheavals and survived to tell the tale?

We’re just passing through a phase, I hope.

The book is mostly classics, but it includes a few modern reinterpretations, like savory hamentaschen. Is there a tension between maintaining the authenticity of a revered classic and revitalizing it?

I think that sometimes revitalizing is a little dumb, because a good recipe is a good recipe. The savory hamentaschen was such an unusual recipe, I saw in Joy of Kosher. I thought it was really kind of cool. But other than that I had just good, traditional recipes.

I’ll give you a quick example. When I was working on this book, I heard about this dish, blueberry buns shtritzlach. It’s an iconic Jewish recipe in Toronto. I found an old recipe for it and I thought this is OK, it’s not great. Then I had to ask, would I put it in the book? And this young woman who sometimes stays at our house [Sarah Weiner, executive director of the Good Food Awards] walked in when I was testing the recipe and said, “That looks just like my grandma’s shtritzlach.” And I had never heard of it in my life, and she said, “But hers is better.”

So we made hers, but I realized it still needed a little more butter to make it really good, so I changed the recipe slightly and it was delicious. Authentic it might not be, but it was very close to it. And that to me is really important.

The best part is that the two recipes I had for this came from women who lived in towns 30 miles apart in Poland. And I realized they both had religious families and left before World War II. When the Germans came in, the Jews, because of their clothes, were very visible and were wiped out immediately. I’ve often thought about wiped-out recipes.

There are a lot of Passover recipes in this cookbook, both for the Seder and for the rest of the week. A lot of people think of Passover food and groan. By including these recipes in a year-round cookbook, are you suggesting we eat Passover food year-round?

For me, Passover [whose rules forbid leavened bread] is a time of year—talk about your origins—when you can try to go back before processed foods of the ’50s and look at some of these old recipes and have fun with them. A flourless chocolate cake is good all year round—it wasn’t something made for Passover. Same with the Persian cardamom cake and the hard-boiled eggs with spinach.

Shortly before my mother died, I came to visit her, and I brought with me my new book. And it’s heavy. I’d thought, should I bring it, should I not bring it? So I brought it. My mother looked at the book, she was so excited. She went through the book and said, “I love your book, it’s just amazing, and I hope you get some real attention from it.” And then she said, “And you started with my mother’s egg recipe with spinach.”

And I said, “What?’”

And she said, and this is a 103-year-old mind, “Yes, you’ve got my mother’s spinach recipe.”

She didn’t have a great relationship with her mother, or she felt she didn’t, and she was trying to make up for it in later years, and she said, “Yes, it’s her recipe.”

She was saying it was a way for me to remember her mother. She didn’t know she was going to die the next day. And now I have to find that recipe.

And what is Passover? It’s memory.

Source: Bloomberg