“I grew up listening to the stories of my mother’s childhood in Vietnam: the adventures, the dangers and the elegance of a lost world.”
So begins “Ăn: To Eat,” and as you sit back in Proustian languor to thumb through this big, heavy, handsomely illustrated book, you begin to feel somewhat gastronomically shamed by the imaginative variety of herbs, spices and seasonings that accompany the preparation of staples like fish, beef and pork dishes created by Helene An and her late mother-in-law, Diana, and its steady themes of freshness, balance and simplicity. Before long, however, you realize with deepening shock that this book is about a lot more than cooking.
Whatever you have in the kitchen by way of pots and pans and cutting utensils makes a good enough start toward the oven-roasted lemongrass chicken, caramelized black cod and spicy chicken and shrimp ramen in cognac XO sauce, among others, depicted in Evan Sung’s vivid and artful photographs, which could qualify for an exhibit. And you get to eat this stuff!
By: Lawrence Christon