I’m so excited to be featuring a book by Cameron Stauch, someone I’ve known (first online then in real life) for years. Cameron’s lived an interesting life – you only have to glance at his Amazon author page to see he’s got a lot of stories to tell – and recipes to share!
When I first met Cameron, he was part of the kitchen team that cooked for the last three Governor Generals of Canada in Ottawa, where his dishes featured Canadian heritage ingredients. He has cooked for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth & the Duke of Edinburgh; the Prince of Wales & the Duchess of Cornwall; the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge; the Emperor & Empress of Japan and many other foreign dignitaries and international business leaders.
Currently based in Bangkok, Thailand, Cameron has been lucky enough to work in kitchens all across Asia and North America over the past 18 years. Before he moved to Bangkok, he lived in Hanoi, Vietnam, where his wife Ayesha (a Canadian diplomat) was posted, for several years. This experience (eating and cooking Vietnamese food) led him to write his first book, Vegetarian Việt Nam, which highlights the tradition of vegetarian Vietnamese cuisine
From the publisher:
In the years he spent living and cooking in Vietnam, Cameron Stauch learned about a tradition of vegetarian Vietnamese cuisine that is light and full of flavor. Based on recipes devised over centuries by Mahayana Buddhist monks, the dishes in Vegetarian Việt Nam make use of the full arsenal of Vietnamese herbs and sauces to make tofu, mushrooms, and vegetables burst with flavor like never before.
With a lavishly illustrated glossary that helps you recognize the mushrooms, noodles, fruits, and vegetables that make up the vegetarian Vietnamese pantry, Vegetarian Việt Nam will unlock an entire universe of flavor to people who want healthy, tasty, and sustainable food.
If you’re at all intimidated by the idea of Vietnamese cuisine (“too many ingredients”, “too complicated”, “too many hard-to-find ingredients” etc…) this is a wonderful starting point for you. Cameron includes a handy “How to use this book” section in the introduction which points you to two “must read” areas of the book – the Glossary and the Pantry section.
There’s a wonderfully detailed “Brief History of Vietnamese Culinary and Cultural Influences“, a section on “Practicing Vegetarians in Today’s Vietnam” (which includes information on how to find vegetarian food when you travel in the country)as well as an excellent section on “Menu Guidance” where Cameron shares ideas for incorporating vegetarian Vietnamese dishes into your weekly meal plans (with some suggested menu plans). The Pantry section includes 18 recipes for staples from stock to dipping sauces, powders (rice, mushroom) to rice crackers – items you might not be able to find pre-made where you live. Many of these recipes are used in other dishes in the book (Cameron calls them “building blocks”), so it’s a great place to start to familiarize yourself with the sorts of ingredients you’ll be using, especially if you’re not lucky enough to be “a scooter stop away from a Vietnamese pantry vendor.”
Beyond the very helpful introductory and Pantry chapters, there are eight chapters (Tofu and Seitan; Rolls, Banh Mi, and Street Snacks; Vibrant Salads; Light Soups; Bowls of Noodles; Grains of Rice; From the Market and Garden and Drinks and Sweets) and a fabulous Appendix, For the Traveler. This has to be one of my absolute favourite parts of this book – outlining how to find vegetarian and vegan foods in Vietnam, how to order in restaurants and from street food vendors, how to deal with gluten sensitivities and there are even a few phrases to help you out when you’re dining out in Vietnamese restaurants. You’ll be well prepared for your next trip to Vietnam after reading this! As well as the recipes in each chapter, there are all sorts of helpful tips and tricks. I found, for example, the Tips for Preparing and rolling Rice Paper Rolls super useful when I made the Rainbow Rolls with the Petits Chefs), and there are tips for chopping your fruit and vegetables into matchsticks too. Cameron also includes ingredients substitutions which is really helpful for those people who don’t have access to some of the fresh ingredients called for.
On that note, the Glossary is a mine of information as well – divided into different food categories with a lot of details to help you decode Vietnamese ingredients and some great tips for helping you find the correct ingredient in your local Asian supermarket (hint: don’t rely on the package labelling – write down the Vietnamese name of the ingredients you’re looking for as well as the English one to make sure you’re getting the right thing!).
Vegetarian Viet Nam is a fascinating and delicious read – beyond the gorgeous images (not of every dish) and recipes, the book is filled with Cameron’s experiences cooking and eating in Vietnam, bringing the recipes alive and giving them context. It reads almost like a travelogue (so, food and travel = two of my favourite things!). As Cameron says, this is a book to digest “in a kitchen, in an armchair, or in preparation for travel [to Vietnam]”. This is a delightful read and a pleasure to cook from.
Canadian readers – win a copy of Vegetarian Viet Nam thanks to Penguin Random House Canada. Details here.
Disclosure: I purchased Vegetarian Viet Nam myself. The publisher has kindly provided one copy for a giveaway. I was not asked to write about the book, nor am I being compensated for doing so. All opinions 100% my own.
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MY BOOK! In the French kitchen with kids releases July 31, 2018! Click here for pre-order details!