15 November 2014

Experimenting with Vietnamese Food

My husband and I like Asian food. We are slowly making our way through all the Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Thai restaurants in our town. We have sampled 4, and have about 16 to go. We may never accomplish this goal because we are poor and eating out is a rare and special occasion. So when I got The Slanted Door, we were very excited to try out the recipes.

This was more then just a cookbook though. The Slanted Door is a famous Vietnamese restaurant in California, and the book chronicles the restaurant's origins to the present day. There is a lot of backstory on the dishes, what makes it special and how they came to first serve it. If you like history with your food, you'll really enjoy this book. We were more interested in the recipes themselves, and not in the exposition.

The most successful recipe we tried was the cashew chicken. It called for ingredients we could easily get and didn't have any special equipment to cook with. The combination of cashews and raisins with oyster and fish sauce made for a savory meal, and we've been repeating those flavors in our stir fry and rice dishes ever since. The least successful dish was the rice cake. They were suppose to be crispy bite sized rice and mung bean cakes with shrimp on the top. Ours turned out pasty and bland with not a ounce of crispiness anywhere. The rice cakes called for a special pan, the kind that you use to make escargot in, which we did not have. Instead, we tried it with a mini-muffin pan. This is the source of our epic fail. If you get this book and want to try the rice cakes, don't use a muffin pan. Either skip it, or buy (or borrow) the special pan. I'm certain the pan is the key to rice cake success.

A big factor in our recipe selection process was which ingredients we could get a hold of. The preface says that most ingredients can be found in any Asian market. This may be true if you live in a city, but if you're in a small town, you may be ordering special ingredients over the Internet to make some of these work.

Overall, this is a gorgeous book. It has a beautiful cover, and each recipe is accompanied by a full page glossy picture of the dish.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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