Session with Luke Nguyen at Books for Cooks, Fitzroy

by April@MyFoodTrail on November 2, 2009

in Food Events

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.

Luke Nguyen

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.

Luke Nguyen’s cookbook, The Songs of Sapa and his sister Pauline’s previously released cookbook, Secrets of the Red Lantern

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!

My message from Luke inside my copy of The Songs of Sapa

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

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Howard November 2, 2009 at 6:39 pm

What a great book shop that is, specifically for cook books ? don't think we have one here, as far as I know!

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Agnes November 2, 2009 at 8:05 pm

Oh cool! I caught a bit of his show last week and enjoyed watching it. Did you buy a book?

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spatulaspoonandsaturday November 2, 2009 at 8:55 pm

he was such a sweetheart, wasn't he? thanks for the awesome picture you took of me and him. i'm so chuffed!

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Arale79 November 2, 2009 at 9:11 pm

I just bought his red lantern book at amazon without realising he got a newer one argggh (feel soo foolish). let me know if you had tried any of the recipe from the Sapa book!!!!! i am putting it on my amazon wishlist 😛 hehehe

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penny aka jeroxie November 2, 2009 at 9:51 pm

LOoks like a great evening with Luke. He seems quite humble and it comes through in his book and stories.

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Jetsetting Joyce (MEL: HOT OR NOT) November 2, 2009 at 10:40 pm

Hi, I'm glad that you enjoyed the session. My friend was also at the session and we taste-tested the goat and banana cake last night. Yum!

Hopefully see you at the next Books for Cooks chef session – it's probably going to be Movida!

Jetsetting Joyce

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Adrian @ Food Rehab November 2, 2009 at 11:30 pm

Great post. Love the fact that we have a book store just for cookbooks! hehe

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Conor @ HoldtheBeef November 3, 2009 at 12:07 am

Oh this looks fun! Kinda cool in a way to have his recipes cooked by someone else to try them, as you know that it actually is possible for someone else to make them!

Love his suit too 🙂

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OohLookBel November 3, 2009 at 9:37 am

What a lovely bookshop, I can imagine spending hours (and lots of dollars) in there. And how great that you got an autographed book for your collection!

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Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella November 3, 2009 at 11:41 am

That's fabulous that you got to try the food at a book signing! Love it! 😀

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Ellie November 3, 2009 at 2:18 pm

I wonder if there is a cookbooks only bookshop in Sydney? What a great opportunity to meet Luke.

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Trisha November 3, 2009 at 8:53 pm

I love Luke Nguyen's show!!! And I still have yet to try out Red Lantern – let me know when you're in Sydney and we'll go there together!! 🙂

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Adski November 4, 2009 at 1:26 pm

Just bought this for a vietnamese friend for her wedding this weekend. They asked for no presents, but I couldn't resist this beautiful book. I hope she likes it!

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Maria@TheGourmetChallenge November 5, 2009 at 11:41 am

What a great opportunity to meet Luke! Love the idea of plastic wrap around cookbooks, reminds me of high school when you used to contact all your books. Now, all they need to do is plastic wrap all the pages within too! lol

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Rilsta November 5, 2009 at 2:35 pm

Hi Howard: Yes, it's a shop just for food related books! What a discovery! I would imagine Sydney should have something similar?

Hi Agnes: We've been watching his show too & love it. I did buy a book though I haven't had a chance to try any recipes yet!

Hi Kat: No worries! Glad to know you liked it! 🙂

Hi Arale79: The Secrets of the Red Lantern book is good and the story is very interesting. It is still a worthwhile book having!

Hi Penny: Yes he was a humble guy and very friendly too!

Hi Joyce: Thanks again! And yes hope to see you at the next session!

Hi Adrian: Thanks! The bookshop is such a great resource for cooking enthusiasts!

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Rilsta November 5, 2009 at 2:39 pm

Hi Conor: Luke tried all the dishes, though I would have liked to hear whether they turned out how his one does!

Hi Belle: Hehe, yes my 1st autographed cookbook! And also my only one that has been wrapped!

Hi Lorraine: It was good of them to provide food too! It wasn't really a book signing – more like a discussion session.

Hi Ellie: I would think that Sydney should have a similar book store… if not you should think of opening one! 🙂

Hi Trisha: I definitely will! 🙂

Hi Adski: I'm sure she would have loved it. The recipes look very authentic.

Hi Maria: LOL! Though this wrapping looks a lot better than my self adhesive contact books in high school!

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