It 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!)
Part 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.
I 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).
Indochine: 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 cuisine.
and Aspirations in Vietnam (2011)
If you 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 listing.
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 unfortunately.
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.