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Secrets of the Red Lantern: Stories and Vietnamese Recipes from the Heart Hardcover – 15 Oct 2007

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Murdoch Books; 2007 Reprint edition (15 Oct. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1740459040
  • ISBN-13: 978-1740459044
  • Product Dimensions: 21.5 x 4.1 x 26 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 421,806 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Most recipe books promise (as a matter of course) sumptuous recipes, but Secrets of the Red Lantern (subtitled Stories and Vietnamese Recipes from the Heart) really does deliver that, and a lot more besides. Pauline Nguyen's parents presented these recipes night after night at the highly successful Vietnamese restaurant The Red Lantern, and these were recipes which had been perfected and passed down over many years. The great majority of these recipes are easily achievable, utilising a relatively small range of ingredients; they include such delights as Pho Bo Tai Nam, a beef soup with sawtooth coriander and Vietnamese basil, or pork belly (Thit Ba Roi). All are presented here in a concise and accessible fashion.

But recipes are not all that Secrets of the Red Lantern has to offer. This is more than a cookbook: it is a candid and often moving story of Pauline Nguyen’s family, beginning with their dangerous escape from Vietnam during the war and their ultimate settling down in Australia. The love of food is something more than a professional necessity for this family: it helped to assuage their home sickness, and even reconciled differences within the family (these personal passages are quite as beguiling as the more practical cookery aspects of the book). Most of all, though, this is a feast of the most tantalising of foreign recipes, burnished with food and personal photography -- and it is the latter which conveys the very individual nature of the food so resplendently on offer here. --Barry Forshaw

About the Author

Pauline Nguyen, along with recipe writers Luke Nguyen and Mark Jensen, are the proprietors of the respected Sydney restaurant, Red Lantern. They hold in their hearts and their heads the Nguyen family's amazing stories and food secrets.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By T. Moss on 25 April 2009
Format: Hardcover
I agree this is a stunning book with wit, reverence and lyrical descriptions, which make it a delight to read. I do have a real problem, however, with the technical material. On the whole, the recipes are superb and typical of the characteristic fragrance and lightness that makes Vietnamese my favourite cuisine. Unfortunately, there are several mistakes, with ingredients missing from the method or vice versa, steps missing and a bewildering list of very unusual ingredients. I know what perilla leaf is, but I doubt many other UK, US or Aussies do without serious research. I have no idea what nem powder is, neither does anyone in my local oriental delis and "half a packet" is hardly a helpful measurement.

It is a great shame, and the blame ultimately lands on the doorstep of the editor, who should have included a glossary and fewer errors to make this into a more user friendly book. It would get five stars in that event.

I would certainly recommend the book if you love Vietnamese food as I do; the recipes are unusual and seem to be more from the heart and home than other more professionally put together books. Because of the occasional frustrations, I would only recommend to a serious cook.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Hammond on 17 Nov. 2007
Format: Hardcover
"Secrets of the Red Lantern" is an absolutely stunning book, the recipes are scrumptious and so is the food photography. The story behind the recipes and the story of the author's family history are amazing and gut wrenching. What a wonderful mix of family history and Vietnamese recipes, truly one of the most beautiful and unique "recipe" books out there. From the material cover of the book, to the personal photography and candid memoirs this is definitely one to add to your collection.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Nickov on 2 Jan. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Firstly, this is a stunning looking book. Beatifully made, beatifully presented, with beatiful pictures. A work of art, and one of the many cookbooks available now that are simply a joy to look and read through, without even trying the dishes.

The text in the book exists in two forms; partly as a collection of recipes and partly as an autobiographical piece detailling the authors' family history - in the main their fleeing Vietnam during the war and subsequently settling in Autralia and opening up a successful food business. A lot of it details with the hardship they endured en route to their success and a difficult family life and one absolutely feels for them given some of the horrors they encountered. It does all, admittedly though, read something like one of the many David Pelzer-esque "traumatic life-story" novels that have become enormously successful over the past 10 years or so and are ten-a-penny in any major chain of bookstores. Which is fine, if that's your type of thing. It's not especially my type of thing however, and I'd add that it's simply not written well enough to warrant a particular draw for anyone who'd choose to buy the book for the autobiographical aspect. There are simply better books elsewhere that are written in this genre.

And so onto the recipe and food section. I'd long wanted an authentic collection of Vietnamese recipes, and this is unquestionably what you get here. A marvellously extensive range of varied and delicious sounding meals all well written and photographed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. H. Murray on 21 Oct. 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is a fabulous book.
I visited Vietnam with my wife and two other couples in September, 2008. We just loved the people, the food and the history we encountered. It was everything and more that we expected. While there, and while three of us (the wives) were being pampered at our resort in Hoi An, the other three of us (the husbands) went on a cooking course where we met some people from Sydney who told us about this fabulous Vietnamese restaurant in Sydney's Surrey Hills - "The Red Lantern".
When we returned home we discovered the family who had built up and were running the Red Lantern had produced this fabulous looking book.
In Australia we have a shared, if somewhat unfortunate, recent history with the people of Vietnam due to the Vietnam/American war. Our view of this shared history tends to be one sided and focused on the Australian soldiers who fought there and were so poorly treated when they returned home. With this fabulously presented book we see so much more than a collection of recipes. It provides an insight into the lives of the other casualties of this war once the Americans and Australians withdrew. It provides a glimpse into the ordeal endured by those Vietnamese who decided to abandon their home country and all they knew to seek a life elsewhere - somewhere with a completely different history and culture. The stories provide a very human insight into growing up Vietnamese in suburban Australia and, through the author's observations, you detect a growing appreciation of the hardship and fear that her parents must have faced and the bravery they must have shown to leave Vietnam with such an uncertain and dangerous future. Then, once in Australia, how hard they worked to adapt and to provide for their family.
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