The Vegetarian Việt Nam cookbook review is part of our ongoing series of (mostly) Canadian cookbook reviews!
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Vegetarian Việt Nam by Cameron Stauch includes recipes based on traditional recipes created by Mahayana Buddhist monks throughout the centuries. Although the versatile recipes are suitable for cooks of all skill levels, if, like me, you're not familiar with Vietnamese cooking, it’s best to read the chapters at the beginning of the book to familiarize yourself with Vietnamese ingredients and practices.
About the Cookbook
In the Introduction chapter, there's a How to Use This Book section which should be read before cooking the recipes. It has information on ingredient substitutions, type of oils to use, how to measure herbs and information you should know before you start making the recipes.
The History of Vietnamese Culinary and Cultural Influences and Practicing Vegetarians in Today’s Viet Nam are two must-read chapters. I found them both very interesting and insightful.
The Menu Guidance chapter provides suggestions on how to add Vietnamese dishes to your weekly menu plan. It also provides suggestions for seasonal menu plans with numbered accompanied photos, which I found very helpful in identifying the different recipes.
In the Transformative Vegetarian Staples chapter you'll find a list of ingredients used to enhance the flavour of the vegetarian dishes. A map of Viet Nam is also included.
Chapters and Recipes
Vegetarian Vietnamese Pantry
Reading through the Vegetarian Vietnamese Pantry, I discovered I didn’t have any of the foods listed on hand, but had the ingredients to make both the Light Vegetable Stock and Rich Vegetable Stock. Both stocks are used as the base for recipes such as Savory Cabbage and Tofu Parcels in Broth and Wild Mushroom and Leafy Green Noodle Soup.
Every chapter introduces the detailed recipes which are well written and easy to follow. Listed below the recipe title is the Vietnamese title translation. Recipes include headnotes, From the Pantry/Make Ahead, variations, cooking methods and notes. To the left of the index page for each chapter, there's a page of photos of the different ingredients.
Beautiful, colour photos are displayed throughout the cookbook.
Sample recipes are listed by chapter below.
Tofu and Seitan
Tips for Preparing Tofu, Homemade Seitan, Tofu with Fresh Tomato Sauce, Five-Spice-Glazed Tofu Rolls
Rolls, Bànhì Mì and Street Snacks
Tips for Preparing and Rolling Rice Papers, Fresh Swiss Chard Rolls, Bànhì Mì Sandwich
Green Papaya Salad, Young Jackfruit Salad, Banana Blossom Salad
Clear Soup with Tofu and Leafy Greens, Hot and Sour Tamarind Soup, Squash and Sweet Potato Coconut Milk Soup
Bowls of Noodles
Star Anise Cinnamon Scented Pho Noodle Soup, Tasty Rice Noodle Bowl, Hot and Sour Thai-Style Noodle Soup
Grains of Rice
Silky Rice Porridge, Golden Crispy Rice Shell, Rice Porridge with Squash, Kidney Beans, and Corn
From the Market and the Garden
Bright Green Herby Omelet, Smoky Eggplant with Soy Sauce and Chile, Curried Vegetable Stew with Baguette
Drinks and Sweets
Soursop Strawberry Smoothie, Vietnamese Coffee, Warm Banana Coconut Tapioca Pudding
Appendix for the Traveler
There's an Appendix for the Traveler that lists:
- Finding Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurants in Viet Nam
- How to Order in Vietnamese Restaurants
- A Street Food Primer
- What to Order on the Street
- If You Have Gluten Sensitivities
- Handy Vietnamese Phrases when Dining Out
The Glossary was a godsend for me as I couldn’t identify a Daikon or a banana blossom and a whole lot of other Vietnamese ingredients before. Colour photos accompany the descriptions of:
- Dried Goods
- Tofu, Seitan, Meat analogs
- Vegetable and Fruits
- Rice, Rice Paper, Rice Crackers, and Rice Flour
This chapter lists where to buy ingredients by city and online sources for buying Vietnamese vegetable and herb seeds to grow in your garden.
We order takeout from a popular local Vietnamese restaurant about once month. Their food is what we think Vietnamese food tastes like. Apart from the spring rolls, I couldn't find any of the vegetarian dishes listed in this cookbook on the menu. To introduce my family to authentic Vietnamese food, I chose to make the following recipes.
Stir-Fried Zucchini Blossoms with Garlic (Page 233)
My family loves zucchini blossoms. I usually make them fried in batter or stuffed with ricotta and anchovies. This year since the zucchini blossom harvest coincided with my reviewing this cookbook, it was a sign for me to make this recipe.
The zucchini blossoms are stir-fried with the garlic in a wok until the blossoms begin to wilt. Don’t leave them longer, otherwise they will overcook. The garlicky taste of the blossoms was so good that we finished them in no time, and they take only a few minutes to make compared to the time it takes to make my traditional zucchini blossom recipes.
Summer Fruit with Coconut Milk and Condensed Milk (Page 274)
This summer fruit salad can be made with a variety of tropical fruit and local summer fruits. Since I'm allergic to most fruits, I chose to make it with fruits I can eat like different berries, grapes and bananas. Served in a tall glass and topped with coconut milk, condensed milk, and Greek yogurt, it makes the ideal refreshing summer dessert with a touch of sweetness.
Rainbow Rice Paper Rolls (Page 95)
This is an easy recipe to make, although it does take time to prep the vegetables and there's a learning curve to making the rolls unless you know how. Once I prepped the vegetables, I enlisted the help of my family to assemble the rolls. We formed an assembly line with the dipping of the rice paper in warm water, layering the ingredients and rolling the rice paper.
Even though we read the Tips for Preparing and Rolling Rice Paper Rolls with step-by-step photos on pages 92–93, there still was rice paper breakage and overstuffed rice rolls, but at the end we had a platter of Rainbow Rice Rolls in different sizes.
It was a fun experience and with practice we will improve. The rolls tasted fresh and delicious dipped in the Everyday Table Sauce (page 49).
I substituted radishes for the daikon and zucchini for the jicama they weren't available at my local market.
- 4 ounces (113 g) dried vermicelli rice noodles
- 1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks (1 cup) (see Note)
- ¼ pound (113 g) watermelon radish or daikon, cut into matchsticks (1 cup) (see Note)
- ¼ pound (113 g) jicama, cut into 32 strips 3 to 4 inches (7.5 to 10 cm) long and ¼ inch (6 mm) wide (1 cup)
- 1 head green or red Bibb or Boston lettuce, torn into palm-sized pieces
- 1 cup packed cilantro leaves
- ¾ cup packed mint or Thai basil leaves or a combination
- 16 rice paper rounds, 8½ inches (22 cm) in diameter
- Everyday Table Sauce (See below)
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop in the noodles and use chopsticks or tong to untangle and loosen. Boil until tender, 3 to 5 minutes, then drain and immediately flush with cold water.
- Squeeze gently four or five times to get rid of any excess water. Set aside on a plate, loosely covered with a clean kitchen towel. (You should have about 2 cups of noodles).
- Mix the carrot and radish together and divide into four piles on a large plate. Place, along with the jicama, lettuce, cilantro, mint, and rice paper, next to a clean cutting board, preferably next to the stove.
- Place a large shallow skillet or a 9- or 10-inch (23 to 25 cm) pie plate filled with warm to hot tap water on an unlit burner closest to the cutting board. Dip one rice paper into the water for a few seconds to soften and lay it flat on the cutting board. Place a lettuce leaf on the bottom third of the rice paper, leaving a border of 1½ inches (4 cm) on either side. Place 1½ to 2 tablespoons of noodles on the lettuce and spread into a 4-½-inch (11 cm) line. Line three leaves of cilantro and a leaf or two each of mint and basil over the top. Grab a portion of the carrot/radish mixture (a quarter of each pile is one portion) and two jicama strips and spread over the length of the noodles, overlapping if necessary.
- Carefully lift the bottom edge of rice paper over the filling and roll over once into a tight cylinder. Fold in the sides and continue to roll into a cylinder 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12. 5 cm) in length. Place on a clean plate or serving platter loosely covered with a damp clean dish towel. Repeat with the remaining rice paper and filling. (When the water is no longer warm, gently reheat it or discard the cold water from the pie plate and refill with warm to hot water.)
- Store the rolls in a single layer on a plate or tray covered with a damp clean dish towel and wrapped with plastic in the fridge for up to several hours before serving.
- Make the Everyday Table Sauce. Serve the rolls on a platter or individual plates and dip into the sauce before eating.
Substitution: Replace the Everyday Table Sauce with the Nutty Fermented Soybean Dipping Sauce.
Cameron Stauch shares his passion for cooking and knowledge of Viet Nam in this cookbook. It’s well written and researched. I enjoyed learning about Viet Nam’s history and culture, which gave me an insight into its cuisine. My first attempts at Vietnamese cuisine were successful, which encourages me to try more recipes. Maybe our Vietnamese take-out days are over.
Vegetarian Việt Nam
Author: Cameron Stauch
Hardcover: 326 pages
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
ISBN: ISBN 978-0-393-24933-0
Excerpted from Vegetarian Việt Nam by Cameron Stauch. Copyright 2018 by Cameron Stauch. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
A review copy of Vegetarian Viêt Nam was provided to us by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
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The Vegetarian Việt Nam cookbook review was written by Liliana Tommasini, author of the aptly named blog My Cookbook Addiction. Her passion for baking and cooking began at an early age. Liliana grew up in an Italian household where each meal was made from scratch with fresh ingredients and Sunday family lunches were always a celebration. She has a passion for collecting cookbooks and believes that every recipe tells a story that must be shared to nourish your soul and feed your belly. You can connect with Liliana on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.