Tamarind Crab and Secrets of the Red Lantern Cookbook giveaway!

by on January 23, 2009

crab-recipe-asian-vietnamese-tamarind

It’s not often that I can get excited about a cookbook enough to want to snuggle with it on the couch and to read it cover to cover.  Most of the time, I’ll scan through a cookbook and bookmark particular interesting recipes that jump off the page. But I found one book that not only had me hooked from the very first page, but had me laughing, crying and stomach growling at the same time. If anyone saw me, they’d think that I was an emotional, starving wreck who just got dumped by her boyfriend. Thank goodness I only read this book at home!

How could I let a cookbook get me so emotionally distraught? I always thought I was tough, strong and emotionally stable, but when I start tearing up during a chapter with the soy chicken drumsticks recipe, I must either be nearing menopause or this must be a really damn good book. In this case, it’s definitely not heat flashes that’s making me crumble, but poignant food stories that I can really relate to.

I blame all my beautiful rainfall of tears on Pauline Nguyen, Luke Nguyen and Mark Jenson, who have collaborated on an amazing cookbook called, Secrets Of The Red Lantern: stories and Vietnamese recipes from the heart. All of these three talented chefs share their delicious family recipes in a beautifully photographed cookbook that bleeds of rustic elegance, traditional flavors and divine family recipes. The fabulous fabric feel of the cover and the handwritten script throughout the book makes it so much more personal.

It’s the poignant family stories by Pauline, that trace back from her family’s struggles to escape Viet-Nam, to re-settle in their new home in Australia, and finally to their current success, The Red Lantern restaurant in Sydney. The often sad, but honest narratives that Pauline shares about her family’s struggles were what really tugged at my emotions, and it was her humorous, uplifting stories of overcoming all their cultural challenges that made me giggle away my tears.

I’m connected to this book because so many of Pauline’s childhood stories brings back both haunting and happy episodes of my own childhood growing up. Both of us being children of Vietnamese immigrants, she and I grew up with the same family traditions, restrictions and cultural conflicts, even though we grew up on opposite sides of the world. Reading Secrets of the Red Lantern was like reading about myself and my own family.

So, is this a cookbook or a memoir?  It’s both.

It depends on  how you want to approach it. It you’re looking for great traditional and modern Vietnamese recipes, this book has a diverse selection to be inspired by. The rustic and artistic photography is eye candy. If you’re looking to read a memoir and passionate stories about a family’s struggles, hard work to overcome all obstacles, and their road to success, you’ll find yourself emotionally connected to the poignant narratives. Even if you’re not Vietnamese, Pauline’s memoirs will give you a candid glimpse of what it’s like to grow up in a busy, bustling Vietnamese household and the inspirations to her cooking.

Secrets of the Red Lantern has two independently wonderful attributes, the recipes and the family stories. If you’re solely interested in cooking Vietnamese food, you’ll be pleased with what these chefs have to offer. But if you’re wanting to delve a little further into family stories and tradition, the memoirs will have  you appreciate their family recipes on a deeper, more delicious level. – Diane

We’d like to give away a copy of this beautiful book to one lucky winner! We think there’s something special in this book for everyone. Whether it’s just the recipes, the stories, or both, it’s a wonderful book to add to your collection!!

So comment below for your entry for this cookbook drawing or tell us what features you like in a cookbook. Do you like recipes only? Or a little bit of both recipes and stories?

Here’s a bit of a sampling of the deliciousness that you may be inspired to cook after reading Secrets of the Red Lantern.

crab-recipe-asian-vietnamese-tamarind

Crab in Tamarind and Plum Sauce ( Cua Sot Me)

One of the easiest and tastiest dishes that I've made so far from Secrets of The Red Lantern is the Crab in Tamarind and Plum Sauce (cua sot me). It's just one of the many drooling Vietnamese dishes in this great book. For this crab recipe,  I added more chili's for extra heat and reduced the amount of sugar in half for the sauce. As you can tell, I'm a fire and salt hound!
adapted from Secrets of the Red Lantern

Ingredients:

For the tamarind plum sauce:

  • 4 1/2 ounces tamarind paste, without the seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 cup plum sauce
  • 1/2 cup oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar

For the Crab

  • 1 whole Dungeness crab (about 2 -3 pounds)
  • 6 scallions ( green onions)
  • 5 red chili peppers
  • about 3 Tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 cup tamarind and plum sauce
  • 1 large handful cilantro leaves

Directions:

Make the Sauce

  1. In saucepan, water, tamarind paste, plum sauce, oyster sauce and sugar. Bring to a boil and combine well.
  2. Set aside.

For the Crab:

  1. Clean crab and remove legs from body. Here's a great crab cleaning TUTORIAL.
  2. Cut the scallions into 1" lengths and finely slice the chilies.
  3. In large wok or large deep sauce pan, add oil. Let oil heat for a few seconds , then add crab. Cook crab for about 5 minutes by stirring them in hot pan, then add chili's and half of the scallions and toss well to combine ingredients. Add the tamarind and plum sauce.
  4. Bring sauce to boil and continue cooking crab for about another 5 minutes, or until crab is cooked (depending on how big the crab is). Remove crab  to platter and garnish with remaining chopped scallions and cilantro leaves.
Recipe Source: WhiteOnRiceCouple.com.

Hello! All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use our images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or simply link back to this post for the recipe. Thank you. And remember in making the recipes, if using table salt instead of kosher or sea salt, make sure you reduce the salt amount.


All comments will qualify for this drawing and this contest will end on  Thursday, January 30 at midnight Pacific Standard Time, perfect for the Lunar New Year! If you stumble! or twitter this giveaway and link it back to a comment here, you’ll get another entry! The winner will be announced on Sunday, January 31, 2009.

This giveaway has ended & the winner will be announced on Sunday, January 31. Thank you for sharing all your wonderful thoughts!

Find out who the winner is on this post, along with a Tamarind Shrimp recipe that was inspired by this Tamarind Crab!



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{ 99 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Phoo-D January 23, 2009 at 4:31 pm

That sounds like a wonderful read. I enjoy cookbooks that have both stories and recipes because I feel that every recipe has a story behind it somewhere.
Phoo-D

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2 Missy January 23, 2009 at 5:45 pm

For cooking purposes, I like lots of pictures. But I really enjoy “reading” story books with recipes.. and I usually find some great cooking inspiration there as well. I loved On Rue Tatin and Under the Tuscan Sun. I think my most recent story type is probably Gluten Free Girl.

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3 Cynthia January 23, 2009 at 5:52 pm

I desperately hope that I win this book. If I don’t win I am definitely going to purchase a copy. This sounds like the kind of cookbook I like. I want more than just the recipes. Thanks for pointing out the book.

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4 katie January 23, 2009 at 5:58 pm

Sounds incredible. I like cookbooks that are a combination of both because then you get a sense of who the author is – the best ones feel like you’ve made a friend by the end. The Seventh Daughter was kind of like that (and it didn’t hurt that the recipes I’ve tried have all been really good!)

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5 Connie January 23, 2009 at 6:18 pm

A cookbook with the personal touch elevates it to a new level. I definitely love BOTH, but the recipes should be top notch! From the sounds of it, this fits the bill. I’m excited to try some of these recipes!

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6 Melissa January 23, 2009 at 6:24 pm

Oh, this looks like an incredible book to spend an afternoon and then a lifetime with! I love a good picture cookbook but have been so inspired to cook recipes that come along with stories and history. The crab is making me salivate so I better move away from the computer now!

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7 Carrie Oliver January 23, 2009 at 6:34 pm

Diane, I usually prefer cookbooks for the recipes, not the prose. But I think that’s because the prose is often impersonal. Based on your description, I’d love to READ this book, not just expand my cooking horizon. I think the problem would be that I’d be reading the stories and then driven to cook, and I would get nothing else done!

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8 Carolyn G January 23, 2009 at 6:43 pm

I like cookbooks that are personal to the author. I want to make food they made or tasted and it inspired them. I want a story behind the food I make.

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9 ts January 23, 2009 at 6:51 pm

My favorite type of book – stories and food.
I would like to read this story as our family took in a family from Vietnam in 1975 after my parents read about the conditions at the refugee camp at Camp Pentleton. The family of four joined us in our modest 3 bedroom house that summer. I went back to college that fall, but they stayed with my parents the rest of the year. I really don’t know the whole story, but the Mom’s cooking was no doubt my first exposure to Vietnamese home cooking.

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10 monkeyhousemama January 23, 2009 at 6:52 pm

Wow. Thanks for sharing news about this cool cookbook. It looks inspiring in many ways. For me, food is so much about family–the one I have now and the one I grew up with. Secrets of a Red Lantern looks like an amazing memoir, cookbook and tribute to a family, who can inspire us all.

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11 Heather January 23, 2009 at 6:19 pm

hmmm. i like the recipes and the stories, but sometimes my favorite part are the pictures. i have definitely gutted cookbooks with so-so recipes and taken the pictures out and framed them. they make great decoration for my kitchen! this cookbook sounds great :D

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12 The Gourmet Girl January 23, 2009 at 6:25 pm

Reminiscent of Marcus Samuelsson’s “The Soul of a New Cuisine.” Like you, I enjoy getting to the heart and soul of chefs. We do that with our Upclose and Personal Interviews. Reaching into the depths of the ‘chef,’ laughing and crying together.
Thank you for bringing what appears to be a fantastic book to our attention.

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13 Julia January 23, 2009 at 8:13 pm

This sounds like a great book! When I was in Vietnam, I was looking for that perfect cookbook… and I found a few good ones… but none really gave a sense of the people, the food and the culture. I will definitely be buying this one…. Thanks for letting us know about it!

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14 Bill January 23, 2009 at 9:36 pm

It looks like a wonderful cookbook. I usually enjoy the cookbooks more if has other things besides recipes and pictures. And memoirs only makes the cookbook better. It helps you understand the author.

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15 Danielle January 23, 2009 at 9:41 pm

I like recipes and stories both. This cookbook is already on my to-buy list, actually, but it’d be a treat to get it sooner than I’d otherwise get around to picking it up!

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16 Eva January 23, 2009 at 9:56 pm

First and foremost, the photos of the food attracts me. Then it’s the healthiness of the recipe. Then comes the stories. They’re all good though, I can’t say that I’d nix any one of the components.

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17 Jen Yu January 23, 2009 at 10:31 pm

Did someone say CRAB!?! I’m so there! That looks fantastic (crab…. augggggggg). But the book is what sounds amazing to me. I love cookbooks that aren’t JUST recipes, but something more meaningful. I still crave Vietnamese food from YOUR house. Oooh, I miss you guys. Send love to my favorite So Cal puppers!!! xxoo

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18 desiree@lookiloos January 23, 2009 at 11:18 pm

Great give-away. Thanks so much.

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19 canarygirl January 24, 2009 at 1:35 am

Ooooh! Thank you so much for pointing out this book! This is the very best kind of cookbook, where we get a real sense of the family that shares how the food came to be through the stories of their lives. I never win anything, so I’m putting this right into my Amazon cart! The crab looks incredible—I too, am a fire and salt kind of girl! :)

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20 diva January 24, 2009 at 3:48 am

lovely looking crab!! i like the sound of this cookbook. i find cookbooks that have depth and remain longest in my mind and heart are ones with a story, with real people in it, with real people behind it. i’m already liking this cookbook enough to start looking it up on amazon.co.uk – although i’ll hafta put it on the wish list! :) the cover is amazing and the title is really sexy. i hafta say, i like pictures of blossoms. my dedication even carries me through to having it tattooed on my body. x

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21 Happy Cook January 24, 2009 at 4:07 am

I love crab made like this, in Indian we make them more spicier.
I don’t get crabs like here which is a realy pity. So have to wait till i am ack home to eat delicious crab curry etc.
I love if they write stories about the recipes. I have few indian cooking books with stories and recipes.
I do think when you make dishes from these bookes you re live the story yourself.

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22 Lisa@The Cutting Edge of Ordinary January 24, 2009 at 5:26 am

I hate a cookbook without photos! I won’t even pick it up. Having stories or intro’s is a total plus. If I can sit and read it like a novel…then it’s a great cookbook.

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23 flfarmgirl January 24, 2009 at 7:09 am

We love to cook, collect cookbooks and to travel often to foreign lands by preparing their dishes. I am ready for a trip to Vietnam through this cookbook. Please let me win!

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24 Eva D January 24, 2009 at 7:18 am

I like recipes first but I also like a little story behind where they got the recipe or how they use it. Its fun it find out that in a little village on vacation in Fiji etc. The story sometimes makes me want to make the recipe more than the recipe itself

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25 Danielle January 24, 2009 at 7:27 am

Pretty much anyone can put out a book of recipes but to tell the story behind the recipes takes some one special. Grace Young is another such person that enjoy reading. Her books, “The Wisdom of the Kitchen” and “The Breath of a Wok” give us a glimpse at China and Chinese-America. “Secrets of the Red Lantern” appears to be another such book only set in Vietnam and I would love to get my hands on a copy ;).

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26 Aaron January 24, 2009 at 7:38 am

How do you clean a live crab?

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27 Kate January 24, 2009 at 7:59 am

I like a story with some recipes, but I don’t think I’ve ever come upon a cookbook that tells stories! I do like cookbooks that have a personal feel to them – cookbooks that you know have actually been written by the author, not just manuscripted out to the printer and shoved out to the masses. I like a cookbook that talks to me!

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28 Sylvia January 24, 2009 at 8:07 am

I take cookbooks to bed with me so I love it with the author includes anecdotes and stories. This book sounds wonderful.

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29 mikky January 24, 2009 at 7:07 am

your crabs look so amazing and tasty!!! happy chinese new year… :)

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30 PeachyMango January 24, 2009 at 8:40 am

I love this dish but have never made it at home before. Thanks for the recipe! The book also sounds really good.

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31 we are never full January 24, 2009 at 9:25 am

i like a bit of story, but i really like more history along w/ pictures in my cookbooks. this book sounds like it’s laid out similar to “the lost ravioli’s of hoboken”… my husband would prob. read this cover to cover and laugh, cry and then cook. he’d kill me for writing this. shit he’s comign, gotta go.

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32 Minti January 24, 2009 at 10:14 am

Sounds like a good read and a fun cookbook. Would love to get my hands on it.

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33 sharon January 24, 2009 at 10:54 am

I like stories and recipes. But, I love Vietnamese food

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34 Nate January 24, 2009 at 10:58 am

First of all, a cookbook has to be USEFUL. It features recipes that are approachable to the home cook and ingredients that are available to most. It should talk in depth about certain culinary techniques used in the preparation. It should have a glossary that describes exotic ingredients.

Secondly, good photography, especially detailing the aforementioned techniques, is welcome.

I don’t think the voice or the story is necessary, but if good writing can highlight the good food, then all the better.

Question about the tamarind and plum sauce. If I don’t have plum sauce, can I use hoisin?

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35 Chez Us January 24, 2009 at 10:01 am

I love books with a story especially ones that you relate to, because of a memory or maybe a special place. The crab looks great – cannot believe we canceled our trip down there and missed that!!!!

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36 Lori Lynn January 24, 2009 at 11:15 am

Oh, your crab dish looks fabulous! I love cookbooks, I’ve amassed quite a collection. I have a darling cookbook by Ann Le, The Little Saigon Cookbook, I love her Pho Bo recipe. She writes about Vietnamese culture in SoCal’s Little Saigon.

The Red lantern sounds excellent, my only requirement is that cookbooks have some photos, you know, to Taste With The Eyes…
LL

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37 Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) January 24, 2009 at 12:05 pm

I remember having some sort of tamarind crab dish at a hawker stall in Singapore. Don’t know if it was similar to this recipe, but I’m surely going to give this one a try.

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38 Christelle January 24, 2009 at 12:42 pm

A cookbook must have pictures that make you hungry straight away, the recipe need to be ones you’ll love to do often or without having to by things that are particularly hard to find. The recipe must be clear and well written, there should be only one recipe per page, so that flicking through will give a quick idea of where to stop first.
Also some tips, options and technical/method details must be given. The little story/anecquedote is a brilliant plus.
And most of all, the recipe must allow the reader to make the dish without failing….

Voila! :)

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39 Maya January 24, 2009 at 12:55 pm

I love memoirs and cookbook in one. I have just finished reading Fuschia Dunlop’s book and enjoyed it very much. I found myself starving everytime I picked up that book.

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40 toontz January 24, 2009 at 3:55 pm

I love cookbooks with stories. I love community cookbooks just for that reason. You get a personal glimpse inside the cook’s life, if just for a little bit of time (kind of like food bloggers)!

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41 Kristen January 24, 2009 at 6:18 pm

I would LOVE to have this one! I have seen it and drooled all over it…

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42 pam January 24, 2009 at 7:35 pm

I love reading cookbooks. I read them almost like novels, from cover to cover. I especially enjoy reading cookbooks that have meaning to me, and since my three daughters are adopted from Vietnam, I really enjoy reading about their culture and the food they knew for their early years in life.

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43 Louise at Livin Local January 24, 2009 at 8:43 pm

Ohmigosh! Summer day, nice glass of iced tea, sitting on the back deck with a stack of cook books. Sometimes I’m looking for a quick recipe and writing notes about possible tries in the front cover. But most likely, its time to read and reread the stories. It is all about the stories, isn’t it?!

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44 Renee G January 24, 2009 at 9:27 pm

I love cookbooks and it looks like this would help me expand my cooking horizons.

rsgrandinetti(at)yahoo(dot)com

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45 helen January 24, 2009 at 10:19 pm

Diane, I’m like you – I scan and bookmark and try to digest a cookbook as fast as I can. I do appreciate a short blurb before a recipe; really, just tell me it’s wonderful and I’ll try it.

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46 My January 24, 2009 at 10:24 pm

I would love to win this cookbook. It sounds like the perfect cookbook with a bit of culture, recipes, and beautiful photos.

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47 matt wright January 24, 2009 at 10:55 pm

Heya guys
I just wanted to comment and say this looks freaking awesome. I have been wondering what to start with from this book, it is really pretty expansive, and has some amazing looking stuff. This I think is going to be it (I didn’t actually notice the recipe in there when I flicked through).

Since I have the book, please don’t enter me into the drawing! Just wanted to say you guys rock, and this looks like awesome food.

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48 RuthAnn January 25, 2009 at 1:33 am

that picture is beautiful! I like cookbooks with stories, and stories with recipes. I became interested in food and cooking after reading “Heartburn” way back in the 80s.

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49 Susan January 25, 2009 at 2:40 am

I collect cookbooks, mostly Asian. I used to love cookbooks for the photos of the food but a friend gave me a cookbook last year which was a compilation of recipes from people who contributed a recipe that had a story behind it. The story, usually about a page to page and a half long would describe the recipe and what it meant to the contributor. It was hard to put the book down and so I hope to win this book and if I don’t I’m buying me one!

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50 deeba January 25, 2009 at 3:01 am

The dish looks awesome, & the connection you feel with the author & the book touches my heart. That’s just how a good cookbook should be…more than just food. A lot of warmth, character & a ‘connection’ deep down…be it in the past, the narrative or the style! Your post is beautifully written. I almost touched the book through it!

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51 MaryAnne January 25, 2009 at 4:55 am

I like pics of the finished product….not step by step.

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52 Carol January 25, 2009 at 5:52 am

I love a little back story on a recipe. I LOVE regional cookbooks the most.

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53 sue bette January 25, 2009 at 5:02 am

Ah! This cookbook is on my wishlist, it looks wonderful. I’m big on a solid introduction that gets into the details about the authors cooking philosophy, history, or other information that helps define a context and a style. And you can’t go wrong with good food photography!!

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54 pigpigscorner January 25, 2009 at 6:43 am

Looks really deilcious! and the book sounds like a good read!

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55 Victoria January 25, 2009 at 6:45 am

What a thought-provoking question! Since I have been cooking for a long time and since I have an extensive collection of cookbooks, what I want in a cookbook is different from what someone just learning how to cook and beginning to build his or her cookbook library wants. I don’t need any basic how-to-cook books at this point (but for someone who does I recommend How to Cook by Delia Smith, a superb English book rather unknown in the States.) Also, since this is a good year to cut down on spending (and since I have effectively run out of shelf space), my 2009 New Year’s resolution is to choose new cookbooks carefully. But I do feel it’s important to keep adding to my collection because I want to support people who write cookbooks – and I wouldn’t be able to keep myself from buying books anyway, so why try?

So the first thing I ask myself is would I like to get into bed late at night with a cup of herb tea and this book and start at the beginning to read it cover to cover?

To answer that question yes, the book must be interesting to read, not just a collection of recipes, but the recipes do have to tempt me into wanting to try them. They need to stimulate my senses enough that they almost jump off the pages at me. They must conjure up scents and tastes and textures. I have to want to stand in the kitchen with the writer and get on with it. And the book must be beautiful – but that doesn’t mean glitzy. The Spice Merchant’s Daughter: Recipes and Simple Spice Blends for the American Kitchen is a glorious little book I got for Christmas. It is interesting in content – filled with anecdotes and the personal history of Christina Arokiasamy, who is a spice merchant’s daughter; it has great recipes that I am looking forward to trying; and the pages just plain old feel good to the hand. All this, and the book has no pictures at all. That was one of the top three books I got in 2008; the others were A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes and Angela Hartnett’s Cucina: Three Generations of Italian Family Cooking.

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56 Melissa January 25, 2009 at 7:10 am

This sounds like a neat book. I love recipe that come along with stories. I have an Irish cookbook that sounds similar to this.

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57 Ed January 25, 2009 at 8:59 am

For me, an amazing cookbook should have not only interesting (and clear) recipes, but also personal (and possibly historical) narratives. Furthermore, I consider it a plus when a book goes into the history of the food itself (the etymology of its name(s), its possible (foreign) origins, and its historical and cultural significance).

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58 Von January 25, 2009 at 9:17 pm

I’m a visual person so naturally pictures are a must in a cookbook. After that, I scan the ingredients to see if the flavor combos make sense. Then if there is an accompanying story that is entertaining and compelling, then that is icing on the cake for me. Hope I get lucky and win if not I’ll have to buy it – your description of it got my interest!

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59 ren January 25, 2009 at 8:32 pm

What i look for in a cookbook is pictures and stories :) I need a high proportion of pictures to recipes, as the pictures do so much for the recipe. I also like recipes with stories, or quips, or notes from the chef- like Belinda Jeffrey’s bake and mix, or Nigella’s feast. You feel like you’re part of their kitchen!!

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60 Amy January 25, 2009 at 10:44 pm

I love a cookbook that has lots of pictures and stories. This looks like a great cookbook!

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61 Peter January 26, 2009 at 7:29 am

Amazing how media, memories, travel, people can inspire us to cook. You have a good start with crab but I’m imagining the aromas in your kitchen.

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62 Cindy January 26, 2009 at 10:11 am

Sounds like a great book. I love both stories and recipes in a cookbook, but I rarely buy one that doesn’t have great photos. The photos are the ‘icing on the cake’!

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63 Jessica January 26, 2009 at 11:49 am

I like cookbooks that have both recipes, photos and stories. Great recipes are critical, but the photos always capture my attention and really make me want to make me recipe. Stories make the food real and a good story makes the food taste better.

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64 madalyn January 26, 2009 at 2:02 pm

What a fabulous book! Cookbooks with fabulous photos always make me want to cook more. And the stories really connect me with the food.

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65 Kelly January 26, 2009 at 8:17 pm

What a great find! I too like to read cook books from cover to cover… It’s suspensful (wondering what lurks behind the next page) and romantic (wondering what I will fall in love with next). – Kelly, Round Rock Tx

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66 Allison Day January 26, 2009 at 9:19 pm

Of course I love cookbooks with great pictures… food porn is a must! :D I generally buy cookbooks for the recipes, but I really love reading well-written, personal stories that accompany the recipes.

I hadn’t heard of this cookbook before this post, but now I want it I want it I want it! Son always has trouble remembering his childhood in Vietnam except for in bits and pieces, so I’d love to be able to learn more about how life is in Vietnam – even better when the story comes with fantastic recipes that I know he’ll love! Even if I don’t win, I hope I can convince him to buy me this cookbook… considering a certain romantic holiday is coming up… ;)

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67 Allison Day January 26, 2009 at 9:22 pm

Also, posted about it on Twitter: http://twitter.com/sushiday/status/1151200112 :)

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68 Vicki January 26, 2009 at 9:29 pm

I used to be all about the recipes, but I’ve grown to love the stories and the history too. And I find myself passing on cookbooks that don’t have good photos – pure text or drawings just don’t make me hungry.

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69 Saffron January 26, 2009 at 10:13 pm

I lusted over this book (the artwork! the story! the recipes!) for hours when back in Australia over Christmas, but ultimately had to put it back on the shelf as my suitcase was already full of *ingredients* (sigh). I love cookbooks with great recipes placed firmly in their historical and cultural setting. The use of authentic ingredients is a must: Hunting down unusual ingredients is all part of the fun, now, isn’t it!? Pictures are not so important to me; my very favourite cookbook, Claudia Roden’s epic Book of Jewish Food has no pictures of the recipes, but provides more than enough worded imagery to render them unnecessary anyway. Claudia, along with Tessa Kiros and Diana Henry are my go-to authors for evocative cookbooks that spirit you away to far-off home kitchens to meet the people who cook in them.

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70 Maddy January 27, 2009 at 5:20 am

I enjoy reading cookbooks for so much more than the recipes – I recall as a young kid finding some old Time Life books hidden away and learning about how the Chinese Cultural Revolution resulted in the loss of so much of the high cuisine, an aspect of the Cultural Revolution that had never occurred to me.
I’m still ploughing through David Thompson’s mighty tome (maybe a bit too much information!), but I enjoy dipping into new and chatty books all the time.
I love succulent photography as well

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71 Hailey January 27, 2009 at 9:32 am

Many say they eat to live, but for me, I live to eat, because food is the only thing that can give me a taste to different parts of the world, from China to the other end Argentina. With just one bite, there can be so much reason to how a meal was created, whether it be through struggling times or happy days for celebrations such as weddings. Which then leads to traditions being created that lasts from generation to generation. I would LOVE to win this book for the simple fact that every time I make a meal from it I can be reminded of the history and how the recipe came to life. Perhaps many people never thought of food as being part of the melting pot we have come to be throughout the U.S. today. Every where I go, there are different types of restaurants with a mixture of races who seem to enjoy the food. What better way to begin the start of assimilation and learn to appreciate people’s culture! I believe that this book will do just that, appreciate what they are eating, its not too often a book like this comes along!

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72 Paula K January 27, 2009 at 10:15 am

I definitlely enjoy reading and cooking with cookbooks that share a story, but it isn’t a must. Good looking photos of the recipies are also key. Cooking is so much more to me than just preparing food. It’s about good memories and sharing something good with your loved ones.

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73 maninas January 27, 2009 at 10:18 am

Definitely stories + food. Food without stories just doesn’t taste as good. I love the knowing the context for the recipe, a bit of history where relevant, a few extra tips. I like to have a balance between the interesting and the informative. With unfamiliar cuisines, I appreciate every tip I can get, and I love cookery books I can learn from. One example is Julie Sahni’s Classic Indian Cooking. She is a very good teacher, and a warm person, both of which really come through when you’re reading the book. The recipes are great, but the only thing that’s missing are the photos.

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74 Tina January 27, 2009 at 1:20 pm

I like recipes and stories- lots of times I just read all the way through my new cookbooks before I even think of trying any of the recipes. It’s like getting a new novel.

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75 Abby January 27, 2009 at 2:24 pm

I think sometimes people forget how close food, memory and culture are related. Everything we put in our mouths becomes personal. Memory and food is something I think about often, why we like certain dishes, how we have come to like them. How food, something we taste and smell can evoke all the other senses, images and sounds of the past. A cookbook that can accomplish those things is always more than a book of recipes but a recollection and memoir. Letting other taste and feel another person’s food history.
BY THE WAY: that crab looks so awesome. I want some right now!!!

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76 Anastasia January 27, 2009 at 2:58 pm

I love photos of all of the recipes, stories about why the author choose the recipes, and recipes that are kind to those that may not have every ingredient on hand. There are so many cookbooks out there, it’s hard to choose one, so I usually decide on eye-candy and recipes that look tasty enough for me to spend time cooking them.

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77 anh January 27, 2009 at 6:11 pm

OMG, this book sounds like an absolute gem! I love cook books and I love memoirs, so a book like this would definitely be a hit with me. Hopefully I’ll be lucky enough to win, but if not I’m so gonna go out and purchase this book. Thanks for the write up =)

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78 Lisa January 27, 2009 at 8:04 pm

I just wanna snuggle up on the couch with that crab.

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79 Tuty January 27, 2009 at 10:12 pm

As far as Tamarind Crab, definitely an intriguing dish and I love crab albeit a mess to eat…

I borrowed the Red Lantern book from our local library last November and this book is such a hot item… I can’t renew it since so many readers are putting this book on request. I hope I can win this book because I enjoy reading the story behind the dish and tasting the food.

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80 Rajee January 28, 2009 at 6:05 am

It’s very hard to get book like this one becos it has story and food. Sounds Interesting. Gong Xi Fa Chai!

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81 Sy January 28, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Being a Vietnamese and trying to get back to my roots. Blogging (especially food)sites has been instrunmental to find the dishes of my youth. I left VN when I was 10. The stories will make the book more interesting. Anyone can find recipes on the web, but the the author’s journey will be a treasure.

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82 Melody C. January 28, 2009 at 1:21 pm

Happy new year! This crab recipe looks scrumptious! Even if I don’t win, I’m going to try to find this book. Books that tell a story and include food are my favorites, especially when they talk about a culture far removed from mine. It helps me understand.

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83 Fiona January 28, 2009 at 2:15 pm

Photos are definitely a big selling point but I have found that it really is the story (told well) that makes me actually get into my kitchen and cook.

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84 Marc @ NoRecipes January 28, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Mmmmmm…. I’ve been seeing so many crab recipes and I wish we could get descent dungeness crabs out here. I’m not much on cookbooks, but if I don’t win this one, I’m going to get it on amazon, sounds great!

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85 maggie rivers January 28, 2009 at 3:36 pm

a friend made a fermented black bean crab similar to this . . i like a balance between recipes, stories and photos. great website!

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86 Hélène January 28, 2009 at 8:14 pm

This sounds like a wonderful cookbooks. I never heard of it. Thanks for talking about it. Love that crab dish.

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87 Alex January 29, 2009 at 1:20 am

I’ve been looking for a good Vietnamese recipe book for some time now and this one looks great. I can’t wait to try out the crab recipe!!!

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88 Hui Peoh January 29, 2009 at 7:13 am

Hello Diane and Todd : Happy Lunar New Year.

I was led to your site by Tea and Cookie and I`m very intrigued and awed by the amount of effort you put into your garden. Many of the plants introduce are all very familiar to me. Bookmarked your site right away! And the food definitely look yummy ;)

I was born and raised on a little island in South East Asia called Singapore. My memories of childhood was mostly of food and eating; come to think of it I was eating on an average of 6 meals a day: breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, tea time, dinner and finally late night supper before heading off to bed. (It`s amazing I didn`t become obese with so much food. This is probably the virtue of Asian food: eat and stay fit!) Food was so much an integral part of our live that we don`t greet friends or relatives with a “How are you?” but inquire of each other well being with a “Have you eaten?”

However, I can only reminiscence on these lovely memories now. I left my beloved Island-country for Undergrad studies in the States and later married and migrate to Japan. Every now and then I would crave for the lovely smell of spices and all those exotic food that I`ve taken for granted as a kid.

Whenever I`m hit with those pang of cravings for the food I love, I find myself in the kitchen cooking up a storm, improvising and substituting ingredients to get as close to the dishes I love. Surfing the web for recipe of food that I grown up with. During one of the “hunts” I stumbled upon “The Raffles Hotel Cookbook”. It features many food that I love and has since become one of my favorite cookbook. I`ve tried several recipes in it which have brought me many compliments among mine Japanese and Americans co-workers. It`s more of a history like cookbook with plenty of lovely pictures both of food and the hotel: past and present.

Your description of the Red Lantern is making me want to possess and thumb thru the book right away (^^) Vietnamess Noodle soup is one of my favorite food and the rice paper roll too! I definitely need to get a hold of this book to get to know more about the food and culture. I strongly believe that culture, language and food cannot go without one or another; in order to capture the true essence of the cuisine one need to understand the culture to truthly appreciate the taste.

Please, please, please choose me as the winner. It will definitely make a very good Anniversary present for me. My husband and I held our traditional Chinese wedding ceremony in Singapore 12 years ago which also happened to also be the year of Ox!!!! My mom being a believer in fortune telling was told that our marriage will last long and happy if we tie the knots in the year of Ox. I went along with her to please her even tho` I don`t believe much in fortune telling.

Isn`t it very coincidental that I was led to your website in 2009 and revisited your site again just to learn about this lucky draw on the closing day !!

Even if I didn`t win, I would still like to thank you for introducing this book.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

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89 Chris January 29, 2009 at 8:23 am

The best cookbooks combine either well-written history or personal stories about the recipes with solid technique. As far as ingredients go, these are obviously necessary, but I like it when cookbooks are able to trust the reader/cook to make their own decisions about amounts. Baking being the obvious exception.

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90 Anna January 29, 2009 at 10:25 am

wow you guys are generous, i’d love to have this cookbook. thanks for the contest.

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91 Anthony Nguyen January 29, 2009 at 1:03 pm

I love cookbooks with lots of pictures. This book sounds like it is well suited for immigrant American-Vietnamese folks.
Please enter me into the drawing.

Fish Sauce Rules!
AAN

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92 Susanna January 29, 2009 at 1:59 pm

I definitely enjoy stories in cookbooks because it gives you a feel of where the inspiration for the recipe came from, and makes you feel like someone actually MADE the recipe and enjoyed it! I also like information about the foods involved, whether it’s history of the use of a spice, or health benefits, or tips on how to prepare things, etc. And as many people mentioned, good pictures always draw you in.

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93 Jill, The Veggie Queen January 29, 2009 at 6:55 pm

I love cookbooks and how they feel in my hand. What I look for– readability in typeface, along with a smattering of stories and easy to prepare recipes. I don’t need photos as sometimes it’s more fun to imagine what it looks like than to actually see it.

Since I write cookbooks and I am a Registered Dietitian, I don’t want or need nutritional information. If you use real food in the recipes, that’s enough for me.

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94 Amy January 30, 2009 at 5:52 am

I like stories and recipes together. It feels more like a relationship that way.

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95 Lesliebee January 30, 2009 at 5:58 am

I like a mix of reading and recipes in a cookbook. One of my old favorites is “California Home Cooking”. In that one you often get a history lesson along with your dinner.

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96 Tracy Griggs January 30, 2009 at 8:14 am

Well! I would love to own this cookbook..as a devoted foodie, and former vegan and vegetarian personal chef, I discovered that asian and asian inspired foods are the best thing to cook on the planet..bar NONE :) I happily discovered your blog yesterday and was thrilled to find another tofu fan.

I like cookbooks that offer stories and notes from the chef that are personal in nature. Let’s face it, in its most basic form, food nourishes the body, but my personal philosophy is that it should also nurture the soul. I like that you admitted the cook book required a box of tissues as a companion as you perused its pages. Wonderful photography (like the many inspired shots on your blog) is also a plus for any cookbook worth its proverbial salt. It sounds like this book is a “must have” have folks devoted to this wonderful cuisine.

Kind regards, and Happy New Year!
Tracy

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97 Laura February 1, 2009 at 8:02 pm

I like either. I certainly have many cookbooks that are only recipes, but my favorites to read have a bit more to them. Like the travel stories from the Alford/Duguid books and James Oseland’s Cradle Of Flavor. What you are describing though reminds me of The Elephant Walk (Longteine de Monteiro’s memoir of growing up in and escaping Cambodia and opening a restaurant with her husband in the States accompanied by recipes) cookbook which also made me cry.

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98 ama May 5, 2011 at 10:31 pm

Leroy Nguyen?? i think you mean Luke Nguyen ;) lol

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99 White on Rice Couple May 6, 2011 at 10:43 am

Thanks ama! Don’t know how we messed that one up!

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