Acclaimed chef and restaurateur Mai Pham was born in Vietnam, raised in Thailand and moved to the US-where she currently resides-with her family back in 1975. And despite having started her professional career as a TV reporter, she eventually turned to the culinary arts to follow her true passion for cooking. Interestingly enough, her full-time job holds some additional deep and profound meanings for her:
‘Cooking has allowed me to express myself, and to reconnect with my country and make peace with Vietnam. So cooking sort of became a soul-searching experience. To be able to run a successful business while satisfying your soul is a real blessing.’
And now, this has all led Pham to take on another title–author. Her cookbook, The Flavors of Asia, features the cuisines of seven Asian countries including India, Korea, Japan, China, Singapore, Thailand and appropriately, her native Vietnam. The book, put out by the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, is a compilation of recipes courtesy of 40 top culinary professionals from Asia and the United States including industry names like Masaharu Morimoto, and Suvir Saran, dishing out the details on creating pretty enticing-sounding edibles ranging from ‘Banana Blossom Salad with Chicken’ to ‘Green Tea Seafood Tempura.’
Although Flavors of Asia was published last spring, reviews of it have only been trickling out since; last month’s generally positive review by the Chicago Tribune, calling it a ‘large, handsome cookbook,’ is being largely circulated on-line, so it can be assumed that any buzz will be peaking in the near future.
The Sacramento Book Review says Pham has produced a ‘well written and easy to follow’ work, pointing out that each recipe is also accompanied by commentary explaining the ‘history, flavour profile or relevance,’ the item has to its region. However it does caution that for those with an advanced knowledge of Asian cuisine, the book may prove too elementary and recommends it more for people ‘just starting out in cooking or unfamiliar with the foods of these countries.’
As for me, I prefer a ‘freestyle’ method of cooking at home, but Flavors of Asia is something I might give as a present (with an obvious ulterior motive) to a significant other.