My pal Amy found this book on a remainder table at Borders & bought me a copy. The Complete Vietnamese Cookbook appears to be out of print, but I’d recommend it. Even though my tastes run to northern cuisine & this cookbook focuses on the south, I’ve already found its extensive & well-illustrated discussion of basic ingredients useful. I also like that it includes several Cambodian recipes — in the countryside of the Mekong Delta the culture of Vietnam blends into that of Cambodia as you go east & this cookbook recognizes that. In fact, I tried a Cambodian dish last night. Amy came over with her friend & colleague Peter, a sculptor like Amy, & I made a Vietnamese diner: 1) Summer rolls (somehow seemed appropriate in the middle of January) with carrot, shallot, basil, coriander, & lettuce wrapped in an uncooked wrapper; 2) Fried Cambodian sweet potato balls rolled in sesame seeds; & 3) My old standby Thit ga koh gung, chicken with ginger. I also put a couple of dipping sauces on the table — nuoc cham, the standard lime & fish sauce concoction, & a spicy peanut sauce I hadn’t made before. When Amy came in she saw the cookbook on the table, open to the sweet potato balls, and said, “I’m glad you like the book! — did you see these sweet potato balls?” And I was able to answer, “Yeah, I’m making them right now.” First we ate the summer rolls, which were great in both sauces, then the sweet potato balls, which loved the hot peanut sauce & have an almost custard-like texture, then my Saigon chicken with some rice to which we added the peanut sauce & some squirts of Sriracha. We had Amy’s cherry pie for desert! Peter brought his dog Jackson & Amy brought her dog Penny so we had six dogs in the house for the evening. Everyone was quite well-behaved. Even the humans. It’s wonderful to have a good kitchen after all these years — it was the last thing we remodeled in this our house — because I can cook for friends. And what wonderful friends.