Thanks to @JetsettingJoyce, I found out about a cookbook discussion session with Luke Nguyen held at the book store, Books for Cooks in Fitzroy (233-235 Gertrude Street, 8415 1415). The session was sponsored by Luke’s publisher, Murdoch Books, as part of his Melbourne promotional tour of his new cookbook, The Songs of Sapa.
Books for Cooks is a food lover’s heaven with a huge range of all kinds of cookbooks, from new releases to older books you would have a hard time finding anywhere else. There are shelves and shelves of books stacked to the ceiling – I could spend a whole day in the bookshop and not even make a dint in browsing everything that is available.
The Books for Cooks room was the perfect intimate setting for Luke to spend an hour and a half telling a room of about 30 people more about himself and sharing stories of how he got to where he is today, as well as discussing his new cookbook The Songs of Sapa and answering our questions.
As Luke was talking to us, we got to try some food made from the recipes in his cookbook. Luke didn’t cook for us, but rather one of the owners, Amanda, made all the lovely food for us. We got to try the chargrilled goat in white bean curd paste, the fish congee and the crisp silken tofu in a tomato and black pepper sauce. My favourite was the chargrilled goat.
The Songs of Sapa is a beautifully presented cookbook which takes you through the different types of Vietnamese cuisine in each area of Vietnam. The delicious sounding recipes are accompanied by wonderful photographs and stories. Luke told us of how he didn’t want studio photography for his cookbook so he took along a photographer with him to Vietnam, where all the photographs are taken. All recipes contain ingredients which you will be able to find at most Asian grocery stores.
For those who wanted to purchase a cookbook, Luke was signing copies with a personalised message. One thing that sets Books for Cooks apart from chain stores like Borders and Angus & Robertson is that they wrap their cookbooks with a clear protective cover. Very handy!
Luke is keeping busy with a planned second series of his show, Luke Nguyen’s Vietnam. The first series takes us on a culinary journey through Vietnam with Luke cooking many recipes along the way. It is currently airing on SBS on Thursdays at 7.30pm. Luke has also started the Little Lantern foundation to provide opportunities for disadvantaged and under-educated Vietnamese youth in central Vietnam to learn new skills in hospitality.
It was lovely to have met Luke – he seems like a very genuine, down to earth guy! I am looking forward to visiting Luke and Pauline’s restaurant, Red Lantern, when I am in Sydney next!
Over & Out, Rilsta xx