You might be forgiven for assuming that traditional food in Vietnam would be a variant of the typical Asian fare that you might know of and love. You might not, however, have realised that there is a very definate French connection!
In what looks like a hybrid between a richly-decorated travel book and a picture-rich cookery book, the author takes the reader to Vietnam to discover just how much of an influence French cuisine has in the country. For the avoidance of doubt this is not a faux-innovative fusion type of book, looking at combining the traditional food cultures of two disparate nations, but a gastronomic, historic, cultural, present-day consideration of something that not many people possibly know.
The author noted during many visits to the country that the deeper you look into things, one realises just how integrated French culture overall is in Vietnam. Whether it is the stereotypical wearing of French-speaking people wearing berets or the rich aromas of coffee and butter from cafés and patisseries, French-ness is not a stranger or cultural imposition. A natural cuisine fusion has occurred and not many people thought anything of it!
As part of the author's own 'cultural journey' he spoke to people from all classes of society: chefs, bakers, high society and ordinary people alike and through this has gathered a tremendous cache of recipes and over 100 of these are presented as part of this culinary travelogue. The recipes are stated with their original Vietnamese name and are accompanied by a free English translation to assist those whose grasp of Vietnamese is not entirely up to scratch.
When you look at the varied range of recipes you can see they are relatively easy to follow, despite many of them being particularly unfamiliar or involved, so they should not be beyond the reach of the talented, enthusiastic cook to reproduce at home. These recipes should not, at first, be rushed even if many of them are quite simple to make as you should really envelop and try to experience the entire theme or feeling that accompanies them. Of course, should you enjoy the dish, subsequent attempts might become more "workmanlike" in their execution, although at that stage you are making food rather than necessarily experiencing a journey.
This book is truly a work of love. A joy to behold. Even if you are not particularly enamoured by French or Vietnamese/Asian food. Maybe after reading it though you might have changed your opinion. To the gastronome this can be a form of nirvana. To the traveller it can get you looking for your passport. For the travelling gastronome it could be dangerous.
Indochine is a stylish, design-rich book that sets the standard for this type of work on all possible levels. This is not a book to rush through, neither is it something you dive into when you need to get the family meal ready in a short time. Treat the book with respect, consider it carefully and reverently and you will get A LOT back in return.
C'est magnifique! Nó là tuyệt vời. Maybe you should have this at home!