By Manos Angelakis

Simply Vietnamese Cooking

Simply Vietnamese Cooking

The cuisines of Southeast Asian countries are considerably similar because they all have roots in the same ancient heritage... Chinese cookery. Old and new influences from other culinary traditions -- for example, Indian for Thailand, French for Vietnam, Malay for Burma (Myanmar) -- differentiate the dishes of different countries and local seasonal ingredients play a major role in the development of each regional cuisine, but the universal ingredients i.e. rice, noodles, rice paper, fish sauce, five spice blend, ginger, garlic, cilantro, mint and chilies all present themselves in the dishes of each country.

Robert Rose Publishing has published a book by Nancie McDermott on easy to make authentic Vietnamese recipes that balance sour flavors with salty and sweet with heat from chilies. Stir fries, salads and soups are the basics here but there are also numerous recipes for grilling meat and seafood -- grilling is also a basic cooking method in China and South East Asia.

In the US there are plenty of Asian ingredients available in Chinese, Korean, Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese markets depending on which area you live in. For example, near me there are 2 very large Korean super-markets, 2 medium-sized Chinese markets, 1 Thai and 1 Indian market within 5 minutes driving from my home. If I decide to expand my range to within 20 minutes driving time, the variety changes to 3 very large Korean super-markets, 1 exceptionally large Japanese supermarket, 6 Chinese medium-sized markets, 2 Indian, 3 Thai and 3 Vietnamese markets.

When cooking any Asian dish, one has to remember that prep-time is much more important than in European cooking, because the emphasis is in preparing dishes with the shortest heat use. The entire Asian cooking is based on fuel availability -- fuel has been traditionally scarce in Central and Northern Asia -- therefore most dishes require short but intense heat as in stir frying and grilling.

I love good and flavorful food and I eat everything (with the exception of things that run faster than me, and tripe). I adore Asian cooking because it is interesting and puts meals together out of a mixture of smaller parts; fresh ingredients and intense flavors take priority over quantity.  

In this book you will find recipes that underscore the two assumptions that underline home-cooked Vietnamese dishes. One is that you will use plenty of unseasoned rice during the meal and the other is that you will use generous amounts of sauces either nuoc cham (everyday dipping sauce) or sauce from the many saucy dishes simmered in clay pots that comprise a large part of the Vietnamese cooking repertoire. 




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