An ideal introduction to Vietnamese cooking that’s not too difficult but provides impressive results.
Feature image credit: Penguin Books Australia
Two-time MasterChef Australia contestant Tommy Pham uses his Vietnamese heritage and fond childhood memories as his inspiration for this family-orientated cookbook. It incorporates games, bright colours and 60 recipes to encourage young children to begin taking a healthy interest in the kitchen.
Pham takes the fear out of cooking what some consider to be complicated dishes. Each dish, whether Vietnamese or something inspired by Asian cuisine, is straight forward, using ingredients that are easy to come by locally. He promotes healthier eating by decreasing the more traditional volumes of salt and fish sauce but encourages cooks to adjust the levels according to taste.
His introduction sets the scene for family moments in the kitchen, and this is complemented by a smattering of family photos, There is also an entire section of the book dedicated to food-related games for young children to improve their motor skills, experience textures and colours, and generally get familiar with the kitchen environment until they’re old enough to start helping with the meals. As with the recipes, the games come with Tommy’s Tips for that little bit extra.
The chapters are divided into Main Meals, Protein and Veg, Soups, Noodles, Snacks, Sweets and Hacks. Another chapter focuses on more complicated meals, but even these are easy to read and follow. For anyone keen to dabble in Vietnamese cuisine, this is an ideal starter that’s not too difficult but provides impressive results to satisfy any lover of the cuisine.
Thịt Kho – Vietnamese Braised Pork Belly (page 5)
Braising is a common way to cook meat in Vietnam, although not my preferred style of cooking. This traditional dish, however, is a Vietnamese classic both for those growing up in the culture and westerners sitting down in their local Vietnamese restaurant. It couldn’t be simpler or cheaper to make, with 10 of the 12 ingredients already in my pantry. Pham’s cautionary note in the book’s introduction comes into play here, with my preference for a stronger taste, but even this lightly flavoured recipe is utterly delicious. There was barely any prep involved, and most of the hour was spent just keeping an eye on what’s cooking on the stove. I’d chosen this recipe to challenge myself, expecting something frustrating and difficult, but the only disappointment was that I got an A+ on my own scorecard for acing it! So easy and one to remember for my next dinner party.
Easy Fried Rice (page 13)
Yeah okay, it had to be done. Who doesn’t like fried rice, especially when the word “easy” is attached to it?! Day-old rice is best here but throwing cooked rice into the fridge for a couple of hours will also suffice if you haven’t prepped it the day before. Mixed frozen veg makes this recipe even easier although you’ll get more flavour from chopped up fresh vegetables. Personal taste is a question of, well, taste. Half my guests adored this recipe, while the other half, including myself, suggested adding a splash more soy sauce next time. That’s the joy of exploring a new recipe though: You learn how to tweak it next time for your personal preferences. This wonderful, basic recipe made a lot of rice, much more than I anticipated, so there was ample left over for leftovers!
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
The views expressed in this review belong to the author and not Glam Adelaide, its affiliates, or employees.
Distributed by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: July 2023