probably doesn’t surprise you to know that Vietnamese cookbooks make up a fair
share of my cookbook collection. I've been collecting them for decades,
gleaning them not just for recipes and techniques, but also social history.
That’s how I justify owning books written in English, Vietnamese, French,
Chinese, and Japanese. (I can barely read Chinese characters and forget about Japanese!)
of the original VWK website constructed in 2002 was a page with short recaps of English-language
Vietnamese cookbooks that I owned. I pulled down the page when I switched to a
blog format in 2007 because I didn’t think people were all that interested. No
one seemed to notice until this year. Rick from the UK and another gal emailed
about the list. “Where did it go? Would you publish it again?” they asked.
put their request on my to-do list and finally had time to work on it over the
weekend. Here it is, with Vietnamese cookbooks that date back to 1968! I’ll try
to keep this list updated as I review more Viet cookbooks so bookmark this
page. Or, return to VWK and search for “Vietnamese cookbooks.” Hang on to your hat, this is a long list.
Vietnamese Home Cooking (2012)
Charles Phan and Jessica Battilana
A great book for fans of Charles Phan, the Chinese-Vietnamese chef/restaurateur
of the Slanted Door restaurant group in San Francisco. His debut cookbook,
written as a collaboration with Jessica Battilana, includes many of the dishes
served at the restaurant (hello Slanted Door’s shaking beef!) as well as Cantonese
dishes of his heritage. There are Thai recipes (his wife is Thai) as well as
ideas drawn from Japan. Techniques and recipes tend to be fussy, reflecting the
restaurant’s kitchen, not that of Viet home cooks. More in this review of the book. I also made
fresh bun rice noodles from Vietnamese Home Cooking too.
Street Food (2011)
Tracey Lister and Andreas Pohl
People are crazy for street food these days and Vietnam has much to offer. In
this photogenic book, Tracey and her husband take to the streets. They live in
Hanoi and have documented the beloved recipes savored throughout the country. The
recipes are easy to follow if you’re familiar with Viet cooking and Asian
ingredients. Futher details are in this Q&A with Tracey on Vietnamese
street food tips. For a sample recipe, try this vegan faux crab and rice
noodle soup (bun rieu cua chay).
Baguette and Banh Mi (2011)
I’m not one to say that
Viet food is an offshoot of French cooking as Viet cooks are not one to kowtow. That said, it’s hard to avoid getting into the Franco spirit when you’re
looking at colonial buildings in semi-decrepit states. This is Luke Nguyen’s
third book (his second solo work) and it parallels his television show. In the
book, he canvases traditional and modern Vietnamese food to paint a
picture of timeless fusion cooking. He recounts interactions with
Vietnamese, French-Vietnamese, French, and Vietnamese-French people and
includes their recipes, which range from street food to fancy plated fare. From
that mix of content, you get an interesting global perspective of Vietnamese
and Aspirations in Vietnam (2011)
yearn for a historic and rigorous look at the French colonial era in Vietnam, check
this work by historian Erica Peters. It presents the push-pull dynamic of the colonial
French-Viet relationship, all from the perspective of food.
The Songs of
I met chef and restaurateur Luke Nguyen in Sydney in 2009 and he was beginning a
new project – a food and travel television show. This book was the first of
several that he pumped out as works that accompany his series. The location photography
is compelling, though the recipe writing can challenge cooks who are not well
versed in Asian or Viet ingredients and cooking techniques. A beautiful
publication. The original book was released as The Songs of Sapa but it was reissued in 2011 as My Vietnam in the United States. I tried Luke’s recipe for roast pork here and was inspired to cook
okra his way.
Secrets of the Red
Lantern: Stories and Recipes from the Heart (2008)
Pauline Nguyen and Luke Nguyen
A lovely book from the brother-and-sister team behind Red Lantern, a charmingly
chic Vietnamese restaurant in Sydney, Australia. It’s an interesting book for comparing
and contrasting Vietnamese restaurant fare inside and outside of the motherland.
If you’re interested in the Viet diaspora, this book spotlights
Viet-Australians exceptionally well. For more, see this post
or try this recipe for red rice.
Wild, Wild East:
Recipes and Stories from Vietnam (2008)
Chef/restaurateur/travel television show host Bobby Chinn takes a brash and
unnerving approach to getting recipes from folks in Vietnam. He distilled his
experiences and insights into this book. Based in Hanoi, Bobby's work has nice
location photography. The recipe collection includes many modern takes on old
favorites. I included it in the 2008 round-up
of notable Asian cookbooks. Bobby has smuggled Phu Quoc fish sauce in his luggage for me. What a friend!
Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors (2006)
My labor of love for several years, this is a collection of 175+ recipes that
pays homage to old-fashioned methods and classic Viet dishes yet provides
readers with instructions on how to prepare the delectable foods in a modern
kitchen. Recipes cover the broad spectrum of foods, from the super simple (just
a few ingredients needed) to more elaborate time-honored treats like banh chung (Tet sticky rice
cakes) and banh nuong (moon cakes). For more details on my book, check this page.
The Little Saigon Cookbook: Vietnamese Cuisine and
Culture in Southern California's Little Saigon (2006)
Here's a book that covers Viet cooking as it is presented in Little Saigon, the
largest Vietnamese American enclave located in Westminster, California. A
southern California resident, Ann works in the finance industry and has put
lots of heart into this work in order to represent her community well. The use
of olive oil in the some of the recipes, however, is a bit odd.
& Easy Vietnamese: 75 Everyday Recipes (2005)
This is part of publisher Chronicle Books' series of quick and easy ethnic
cookbooks. The books are not designed to be in-depth or comprehensive, but
Nancie is a veteran writer and you're in good hands. Her first work, Real
Thai (1992), an
amazing book regional Thai cookbook that I still cook from.
A Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Family Recipes (2005)
Like Ann Le's book above, this one presents Viet food as it is prepared in the
Vietnamese immigrant kitchen in America. Ha Roda is a media arts professional
based in Los Angeles. She's not a professional food writer, but if you're
familiar with Viet cooking or are a seasoned cook, you can follow her recipes.
However, the use bouillon cubes, prepackaged seasoning mixes, and Kitchen
Bouquet are rather disappointing, though a fair number of Viet American cooks
use those prepackaged ingredients. Hippocrene Books, the publisher, should have
spent more on photography. The black and white images are unattractive.
Vietnamese Cuisine (2003)
French chef Corlou's cookbook contains gorgeous photography from Vietnam, where
he was based as key staff person of the Sofitel hotels. He was formerly the
executive chef at the Metropole in Hanoi. Corlou has an unending passion for
Vietnamese cooking (he's married to a Viet woman), and the book offers
traditional as well as modern recipes that he developed. The recipe
instructions are not in depth and somewhat hard to follow. However, it's a
sophisticated, lovely work. Pick up a copy at the Metropole in Hanoi. This book
isn't available online.
Home Cooking (2003)
Robert Carmack, Didier Corlou, Nguyen Thanh Van
A title in Periplus series on Asian home cooking, this work comes from
professional cooks based in Vietnam at the Hanoi Metropole Hotel. Carmack is
the professional writer. Beautiful photography, but the ingredients and
instructions aren't easily adapted to the American home kitchen. If you're a
seasoned Asian cook, this title is worth having.
Vietnamese Cookbook (2003)
A nice small book written by a Vietnamese-American career woman who offers her
contemporary, time-saving approaches to putting Viet favorites on the table for
her family. The
instructions can be breezy so beginner cooks may have a hard time.
and Lime: New Vietnam Cooking (2001)
A book from London’s Bam-bou restaurant that focused on modern Vietnamese food.
Beautiful photography, poorly laid-out design of recipes. The ingredients are
listed at the bottom of each page in a horizontal fashion. The recipes blend
Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese elements, which how the Bam-bou bills itself. Ah,
that explains the use of kaffir lime among the book’s essential ingredients
of the Vietnamese Table (2001)
This second work from Mai Pham, a restauranteur in Sacramento, CA, was very
well received by both the Los
Angeles Times and New York Times. The recipes
were developed from her travels and research in Vietnam. She gathered recipes
and flavors from street-food hawkers and Viet home cooks. The instructions are
well written and as usual, Pham knows her stuff. For those who've traveled to
Vietnam, this may be a great book to remind them of their eating adventures. It
doesn't mirror food from Viet-American kitchens, and that's not its objective.
For overseas Vietnamese, this book offers great information on how food and
culture are evolving in Vietnam. There's a nice discussion on herbs and
ingredients. Go to Pham's first book, The Best of Vietnamese and Thai
Cooking or check her
out at www.lemongrassrestaurant.com
Vietnamese Cooking: Food from a Family Table (1999)
Not particularly authentic, as the name suggests. The author is Cambodian
Chinese French, not Vietnamese. A lot of work went into this book, and Trang is
a capable recipe writer, having worked in the test kitchen at Saveur magazine. Nonetheless, you come
away wondering about how to best define authenticity. It's difficult to
understand who the author is. It made me want Trang to pen a book on her
experiences growing up in France and eating/preparing ethnic Chinese-Southeast
Asian food there.
Café Vietnam (1999)
A nice little paperback with cool photos. The recipes are based on foods
prepared in Vietnam, not what's cooked in America. As a result, the
ingredients, flavors, etc. are not what you may expect or may have experienced
in Vietnamese American homes, restaurants and delis. This work is part of the
Conran Octopus 'Café' Cookbook series.
Food of Vietnam: Authentic Recipes from the Ascending Dragon (1997)
Trieu Thi Choi, Marcel Isaak
Based on 'old world' recipes from a Vietnam-based chef, this book is best
understood and used by people who are familiar with traditional Vietnamese
cooking. Some of the ingredients, such as pork fatback, would put health-conscious
cooks off. Sometimes the proportions for seasoning are heavy handed. My mother
likes the recipes because the Vietnamese author "speaks" to her.
However, when Mom tried out one of the recipes, she cut out the fat and halved
the seasonings. There's a nice history section in this book about traditional
foodways. This work is part of a Periplus series of ethnic cookbooks.
Best of Vietnamese and Thai Cooking (1996)
Mai Pham owns Lemongrass restaurant in Sacramento, which offers diners Thai and
Vietnamese food. She's a competent cook who also does her research. This is a
nice book with traditional recipes. However, the inclusion of Thai recipes sort
of makes things confusing.
Flavours of Vietnam (1995,
Meera Freeman, Le Van Nhan
From Australia comes this work by professional cookbook writer Freeman and
restaurant chef Le. There's little cultural information on the recipes, and the
measurements are in metric. However, if you're familiar with Viet cooking, this
work is worth exploring.
Simple Art of Vietnamese Cooking (1991)
Binh Duong, Marcia Kiesel
Out of print but worth having on hand for the recipes, which blends traditional
Viet methods with a skilled restaurateur's modern cooking knowledge. Read the
instructions carefully to make sure everything makes sense. No photos
Foods of Vietnam (1989
One the first Vietnamese cookbooks in the U.S. Nicole Routhier is Vietnamese
French and was raised in Vietnam and Laos. New
York Times food writer
Craig Claiborne wrote the foreword. One of the oddities of this book is the use
of olive oil as an ingredient. Cream is suggested as a substitute for coconut
milk. Perhaps because Routhier wrote the book in the 80s, when Asian
ingredients were not easily available. Reprinted in 1999 with a new cover, it
stands out in terms of beautiful photography.
and Cooking Vietnamese: An American Woman's Experience (1990)
For an interesting perspective, try this book of 80 recipes written by an
American woman who married a Vietnamese man.
the Vietnamese Way (1985)
Chi Nguyen, Judy Monroe
A very small collection of 24 recipes comprise this title.
Classic Cuisine of Vietnam (1979
Bach Ngo, Gloria Zimmerman
Probably the first Vietnamese cookbook printed in America after the mass
arrival of refugees. For Vietnamese cooks who came during the first wave, this
book will remind them of the initial trials and tribulations of fixing foods of
their homeland. Though some of the ingredients have since changed as more
authentic ingredients are now available at Asian markets, the basic methods and
ideas for preparing Vietnamese food in an American kitchen still apply.
in My Stomach (1975)
This small spiral bound community cookbook contains recipes of super fresh Viet
immigrants to the U.S. who were staying at the Eglin Refugee Reception Center
in Florida in the spring and summer of 1975. It's a charming, sweet book that
offers hand-drawn illustrations, short pieces on Viet and Chinese customs,
along with recipes. If you're a cookbook collector or into tracing the
evolution of Viet cooking in the States, this one is a must to have.
Duong Thi Thanh Lien
I found this book in Viet bookstore in San Jose, CA. The author, born in 1933,
was a medical doctor and professor of medicine (pretty impressive for a woman
at that time!) in Saigon. It is bilingual, with Vietnamese recipes on one page
and its English version on the other. Dr. Lien discusses life as during the
various foreign occupations of Vietnam during the 20th century. Her writing
offers insight into how people cooked and ate in the pre-1975 era of Vietnam.
Like Miller's book below, this has significant historic value.
Jill Nhu Huong Miller
Find and buy this book for its historic value. Born in Vietnam, the author was
a language instructor for the US Armed Forces. There's a certain Hawaiian touch
because that's where the author conceived the book. Only a few recipes have
bilingual Vietnamese English titles, requiring a little extra energy to figure
out the original Viet equivalent.
Where to buy these books? From brick-and-mortar bookstores, online retailers, wherever you find books! The out-of-print ones will take some searching. If you know of some worthy or obscure work that I've missed, shoot me a message.