A joyous book from the bright pink cover, to the ample humour and affirming comments sprinkled throughout.
Restaurateur and MasterChef celebrity Khanh Ong is an out gay personality who uses his cookbook to celebrate life and the memories that food brings. It is a joyous book from the bright pink cover, to the ample humour and affirming comments sprinkled throughout.
He divides his recipes into unique sections that fit with the theme of celebrating life, friends and families. Heritage Secrets begins the journey down memory lane with family recipes taken from his mother and grandmother. With his Vietnamese heritage, there’s plenty of variety to savour, from simple streetside corn on the cob and dipping sauces, to beef noodle soup.
The Family We Choose focusses on special meals to share with your friends, while A Broken Heart offers the pick-me-ups you need to feel better after a relationship ends. Sustainable Meals are those that look impressive but barely take any effort, which is a nice lead into Being Basic, the final chapter covering simple but healthy and flavoursome food.
Each section comes with its own introductory page that summarises what the section is about and the kinds of recipes you will find. Entrees, mains and desserts can be found in each section along with feature pages titled Let’s Talk Basics (eg “the best way to drink water” and Ong’s ‘death row meals”), or Ask Me A Question (such as ‘why chicken soup is always better when my mum makes it”).
While the book is colourful and visually fun, it doesn’t always get it right. Whoever decided that white writing on a yellow background was a good idea needs to consider a new career path. Even with good eyes, these pages are difficult to read and should never have past inspection from an amateur, let alone a professional.
Lauren Bamford’s photography, on the other hand, adds immensely to the book, not just for the images of the food, but for the personal touches of the author and his life. No doubt some of the latter images were contributed by Ong but they all add up to a celebratory collection of photos to keep the book upbeat.
In his opening remarks, Ong discusses how his book is “all about how food makes you feel, how it brings your friends and family together, and how it helps you connect with others.” He has succeeded in abundance.
Ca Phe Sua Da – Vietnamese Iced Coffee AKA The Best Coffee in the World (page 20)
In keeping with the spirit of the book, I opted to try two recipes to share with friends, and one to wallow in the self-pity of being single. Iced Coffee is a favourite with many, but Vietnamese Iced Coffee was something new for me to try. The sweetness is controlled by the amount of sweetened condensed milk used. This particular recipe is for one serve due but is easily adaptable to make multiple cups and the wonderful aroma of filtering coffee should be a part of the experience. Nice!
Hummus (page 146)
I am obsessed with hummus and make my own frequently. There were a lot of similarities between my own recipe and this one, with the main difference being that this new recipe was quicker, simpler and gave an equally good result. It shares a two-page spread with recipes for roasted capsicum dip and mushroom pate. I intend on sampling both after the success of the hummus!
Spaghetti for One (page 121)
If the name of this recipe sounds too depressing, there is a larger, more complex Spaghetti Bolognese to be found on page 78 under the The Family We Choose chapter. This single man’s spag bol is a simpler version appropriately housed within the pages of A Broken Heart. If the way to a man’s heart is through stomach however, this recipe is just what the doctor ordered. It makes enough for a big meal or one with leftovers for lunch the next day. Cooking it is straight forward and relatively quick for such a nice dish. I went with my preference for fettucine pasta over spaghetti, but the sauce was made as directed and quickly helped me find love (for the dish).
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Distributed by: Pan Macmillan Australia
Released: July 2020
- Sample some free recipes from this cookbook