They are interesting books, though, so today we'll talk about Vietnamese Street Food by Tracey Lister and Andreas Pohl, which is a very pleasant cookbook to look at. Spacious layout, attractive design, easy-to-read font, approachable photos.
|Vietnamese Street Food, a cookbook by Tracey Lister and Andreas Pohl.|
As is evident from the title, the subject is that of street cuisine in Vietnam. It is a stimulating mix - with some inclusions that are not typically served in the Vietnamese restaurants in Australia, such as duck rice porridge and eel salad, to name a couple. Some recipes call for more exotic ingredients that I imagine I would have difficulty procuring in Australia - green rice or frog's legs, for example; and I feel that in some cases, additional photos or clarification would've been helpful. But for the most part, I've found the recipes to look quite user-friendly - mind you, I do have an Asian background, which probably helps. I also like the handy reference pages on sauces and condiments - simple, basic recipes which form the luscious notes to so many Vietnamese dishes.
So far, I've tried two recipes from the book - one savoury, and one sweet. Both were easy, which, let's face it, is always a draw card for lazy ol' me.
Earlier this year, I tried the ca kho to - caramel fish with galangal. I knew from the moment I saw the photo that I wanted to try this. The beautiful, burnished caramel sauce looked simply amazing.
|Ca kho to, caramel fish with galangal, as seen in the cookbook Vietnamese Street Food.|
I have mixed feelings about the results, however. It was very tasty (reminiscent of a lighter version of Thai green curry, we thought), but it wasn't quite what I was expecting. The coconut milk called for in the recipe muted the intense caramelised flavour and appearance it might otherwise have had, and further research (i.e. looking up other ca kho to recipes online) suggests that, most likely, the recipe should've called for coconut water instead. I might try that next time.
|A questionable ca kho to, as attempted with the recipe from the cookbook, Vietnamese Street Food.|
Then, a few weeks ago, I tried out the tao pho - silken tofu in ginger syrup. This is a type of dessert I'm familiar with, as they are commonly sold in Malaysian markets and growing up I would often have them as a sweet breakfast on the weekends. The version in the book has an interesting difference, though - the addition of mandarin juice and jasmine flowers.
|Tao pho, silken tofu in ginger syrup, as seen in the Vietnamese Street Food cookbook.|
This imparts a fruity, floral dimension to the dessert, and a pretty fragrance. I did play with the recipe a little. Not having much of a sweet tooth, I greatly reduced the amount of sugar. I couldn't find jasmine flowers, either, so I substituted some good quality jasmine green tea instead. Not quite the same, but close enough. The end result was simple, comforting, and delicious.
|A successfully adapted Vietnamese-style tao pho - silken tofu in ginger syrup, scented with mandarin and jasmine.|
Despite the hiccup with the ca kho to, and a lack of a more comprehensive glossary to explain the ingredients that are not-so-familiar in the Western world, I have to say that I do still like Vietnamese Street Food as a cookbook. There's a leisurely, comfortable quality to it, with the recipe headnotes giving you happy ideas of what it would be like to live and eat in Vietnam. As someone with a keen curiosity towards regional cuisine, it's just the sort I enjoy flipping through, daydreaming about how good each dish would be. When I get around to it, I'll be trying more of the recipes - perhaps some of the more well-known Vietnamese favourites, like the pho, the spring rolls, and the banh mi... but you know, the barbecued pork and the fried rice cakes with egg are also calling out to me. We'll see!
You may purchase Vietnamese Street Food on Fishpond and also on Amazon.