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Nickov (UK)

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Secrets of the Red Lantern: Stories and Vietnamese Recipes from the Heart
Secrets of the Red Lantern: Stories and Vietnamese Recipes from the Heart
by Pauline Nguyen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 17.00

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Flawed Beauty, 2 Jan 2009
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. Vietnamese cookery is often, so it seems, quite involved and involves preparation of numerous stocks, sauces and condiments to go into many dishes, and the book is well laid out in this respect, with the requisite recipes for these component parts being displayed on the opposite or following page of the book, making it easy to understand the various stages of cooking. The recipes are, in the main, easy to follow although they do perhaps require some prior knowledge and expertise of cooking in order to follow them completely successfully, although this is not a particular criticism.

The recipes are, I'm absolutely sure, entirely authentic, but this is what can sometimes pose problems. The recipes often demand authentic Vietnamese ingredients (hop bap, betel leaves, etc,) and often offer no explanation as to what these are. It can take quite a bit of research to find out what indeed they are, even for someone who considers themselves to be quite savvy, food-wise. I'm lucky to live near a large Oriental Supermarket, but have still found it impossible to obtain some of the ingredients so I'd imagine that for someone not living near one this would be a huge problem. Also, bear in mind that the authors have settled in Australia and so the recipes often include ingredients native to Australia, (e.g. perilla, saw-toothed coriander, blue swimmer crabs, Balmain bugs, Barramundi etc.) which also take a bit of research and creative thinking to come up with alternatives. What this book desperately needs is a glossary, to explain what some of these weird and wonderful things are, and also perhaps to suggest alternative ingredients in the event of not being able to find them. A list of stockists for UK readers would also be of huge help!

So, in short then, a beautiful, fascinating and diverse selection of truly authentic recipes, interspersed with a lot of autobiographical filler which could have been improved dramatically with a few thoughts for those who might find it difficult to track those ingredients down.

The Great Ecstasy Of Robert Carmichael [2005] [DVD] [2006]
The Great Ecstasy Of Robert Carmichael [2005] [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Danny Dyer

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful. Avoid., 31 May 2007
Utter rubbish. Tries to be clever, fails. Cliched panned cameras, cliched use of surround sound and displaced musical score. Extremely poor acting. One of the most pointlessly brutal scenes ever seen, purely to create controversy. Unbelievable and insubstantial script. Yet another film with unrealistic drugs scenes. And above all it's got Danny Dyer in it (which I didn't know when I hired it), who is currently the biggest idiot in Britain.

The Descent [DVD] [2005]
The Descent [DVD] [2005]
Dvd ~ Shauna Macdonald
Price: 4.29

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good effort for a Brit horror flick!, 14 Feb 2007
This review is from: The Descent [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
Not having seen Dog Soldiers, and having been let down recently by other supposedly good horror flicks, I wasn't sure what to expect from this...but turned out to be pleasantly (not sure if that's the right word here!) surprised. A believable cast (yes, most of them are very annoying, but then extreme sports types nearly always are, aren't they?!), and a fairly believable story, combined with good plot structure and tension build up. The sense of bewilderment, disorientation and claustrophobia are well done. I'm a little claustrophobic, and the idea of even going into those caves at all terrifies me, never mind getting lost and then getting attacked, so maybe the film has a little more impact on me than it might others, in that regard! The horror element of the second half of the film is handled well, and should satisfy any horror fanatic's wants and needs.

A couple of points concerning storyline holes though (SPOILER ALERT): Firstly, these "once human" creatures who became trapped down there apparently come to the surface to hunt. So if they could get to the surface, then they weren't really trapped were they? Why didn't they all just go home?

Secondly, they'd adapted to the perfect dark of the caves by becoming blind and developing superhuman hearing. Fair enough, although their ears hadn't massively grown, which is what happens in evolutionary terms in the animal world, and more importantly, their sense of smell hadn't developed, which again would happen in real life, to make up for them being deprived in one of their other main senses. It actually seemed as if these animals couldn't smell at all, nor feel things, as in one scene a creature actually crawls obliviously over two of the trembling girls!

However, if you are prepared to ignore these rather daft minus points, then you'll be rewarded with a fairly decent attempt into the horror genre.

Severance [DVD] [2006]
Severance [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Danny Dyer
Price: 2.75

14 of 31 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Utter drivel, 8 Feb 2007
This review is from: Severance [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
Can't say much more than that, really. Pap of the worst quality. Poorly directed, badly acted, predictable, unbelievable, and every character unlikeable with no depth to them at all. Bad, obvious jokes, and total lack of suspense or any scares at all caps this off as a very poor film. Comedy horror is very difficult to do well, and there have only ever been a few good examples (Shaun of the Dead is very good, but it's not a comedy horror, it's simply a comedy with a few zombies in it). I like horror films, personally, but I didn't like this. The whole thing felt like an article in Loaded or Nuts and I suspect that it's the sort of thing that would appeal to your average lads' mag reader, but anyone with a bit more intelligence would do well to stay well clear. Awful.

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