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Luke Nguyen's The Food of Vietnam + A Recipe for Vietnamese Coffee Tart

An emphasis on freshness isn't the sole domain of Vietnamese cuisine, but you could be persuaded that it's made quite the art of market-to-table cooking as you thumb through Luke Nguyen's The Food of Vietnam (Hardie Grant Books). It's a compendium of regional recipes across the Southeast Asian country in the fashion of glossy food magazines, vibrant with gorgeous photographs of dishes like just-caught chargrilled lobster with spicy sate sauce. And with each page, a larger portrait of the cuisine as driven by what's available a few steps from the open-air stalls around the corner or

Sixteen regions

You'll either follow well his conversational prose or you might find some of the references a bit presumptuous -- and it'll have much to do with your exposure to Nguyen whose base is in Australia where he's a bonafide celebrity chef. He gained attention first for his wildly successful Vietnamese restaurant Red Lantern in Sydney, and he's dedicated his career to showcasing the cuisine as chef, television personality and cookbook author ever since.

The Food of Vietnam, out on October 2013, draws heavily from his travels to the country and it reads as if he wrote a companion to his show for his viewing audience. The writing will appeal to readers who prefer the blog medium

It's clear that the book is a deeply personal endeavor as the tone . It's also an expensive one -- nearly every recipe comes with a photo.

His pursuit for a deeper understanding of his culinary heritage will resonate with many of us familiar with immigrant narratives tied closely to American history. What translates across the Pacific

Vietnamese food is so readily available in Los Angeles that we might overlook how inaccessible it might be in other parts of the country where pho and banh mi have only just begun

An aesthetic you may have seen within the pages of Donna Hay.

Nguyen introduces a Vietnam that's

We've only begun the surface of what the Vietnamese diaspora

His sister, Pauline Nguyen, spearheaded

Turn the page for Nguyen's recipe for Vietnamese coffee tart with pomegranate.

Vietnamese coffee tart with pomegranate
Vietnamese coffee tart with pomegranate
Hardie Grant Books/Alan Benson

Vietnamese Coffee Tart with Fresh Pomegranate

By: Luke Nguyen

Serves: 6

Tart Shells

6 ounces all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

3 1/2 ounces chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 1/2 Tablespoons caster superfine sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 Tablespoon cold water

1 pomegranate

Vietnamese Coffee Curd

3 eggs

1 1/2 ounces caster (superfine) sugar

2 teaspoons agar agar

1 1/2 ounces freshly brewed Vietnamese coffee or strong espresso coffee

3 Tablespoons sweetened condensed milk

1. Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Rub in the butter using your fingertips until the mixture has an even sandy texture. Make a well in the center, then add the sugar, lemon juice and cold water. Lightly mix to form a smooth paste, taking care not to overwork the pastry, so it doesn't shrink during cooking, and adding just a little more cold water if needed to bring it together. Shape the pastry into a round disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

2. Divide the pastry into six equal portions. Working quickly, roll each pastry portion out separately to about 1/8 inch thick. Cut out six 4 1/4 inch diameter discs using a round pastry cutter. Ease the pastry discs into six greased 3 1/4 inch tart tins, taking care not to stretch the pastry.

3. Cover the pastry with sheets of foil and weigh the foil down evenly using baking beads or uncooked rice. Rest for 20 minutes in the refrigerator. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375º Fahrenheit.

4. Bake the tart shells for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and baking beads. Turn the oven down to 340º Fahrenheit and bake for a further 10-15 minutes, or until the pastry is an even golden brown colour. Remove the tart shells from the tins and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

5. Beat the eggs in a stainless steel mixing bowl. Add the sugar and beat until the sugar has dissolved. Sprinkle the agar agar into the mixture and whisk again to incorporate. Stir in the coffee and condensed milk.

6. Place the bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water, ensuring the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Continue whisking until the mixture thickens, scraping down the side of the bowl with a spatula occasionally so it doesn't become grainy. Pour into a chilled container to cool, placing some plastic wrap directly on top of the curd to prevent a skin forming.

7. When the curd is completely cool, pipe it into the cooled tart shells. Cut the pomegranate in half. Over a bowl, tap the pomegranate with the back of a spoon to release the seeds. Spoon the seeds over the tarts and serve.

Reprinted with permission from The Food of Vietnam by Luke Nguyen, copyright © 2013. Published by Hardie Grant Books.


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