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Eating from the "Wild, Wild East"

Known in the culinary circles as something of a bad boy, Bobby Chinn is one terrific chef. His meandering route to Vietnam, via New Zealand, England and the United States, has given him a varied approach to the local cuisine. His namesake restaurant, located at thte southern side of Hoan Kiem in Hanoi, is well-known and applauded for its intriguing takes on traditional foods. Spring rolls, usually made with pork or shrimp and vegetables, are served in most Asian restaurants around the world. Chinn shifts the norm and serves Filet Mignon Spring Rolls.

Many travelers have visited Restaurant Bobby Chinn precisely for his fusion cuisine and now he has shared some of his knowledge and ideas for home cooks, as well. In the fall of 2008, Barron's released Wild, Wild East: Recipes and Stories from Vietnam, an impressive collection of recipes interspersed with personal (and often irreverent) stories.

This authentic guide to Vietnamese foods is accented by beautiful and vivid photos of foods, people and markets of Hanoi. His stories will delight anyone who has spent enough time in Hanoi to visit the myriad locations he mentions throughout his stories. Visited Fanny Ice Cream by the lake? Eaten kabobs sold along Hang Be? Eaten at Moca Cafe across the street from St. Joseph's Cathedral? If you have, you'll recognize them. If you haven't had the chance, make sure you do the next time you are in Hanoi.

Wild, Wild East: Recipes and Stories from Vietnam is a great book to add to your collection, there's far too much to try out to borrow it from the local library. Basic information about the spices, flavors and ingredients in Vietnam make it a valuable cooking guide, plus Chinn gives recipes and lively instructions for many of the foods you'll love when visiting Vietnam, including—
- Banh Cuon Nong (Steamed Rolled Ravioli)
- Pho Ga (Vietnamese Rice Noodle Soup with Chicken)
- Bo Nuong Sa Ot (Grilled Lemon Grass Beef)
- Quay Xien (Doughnuts with Sticks)

And more complex, fusion dishes such as—
- Rice Paper-Wrapped Foie Gras on Apple Compote, Tamarind-Apple Jus
- Grapes Rolled in Goat Cheese with Pistachio Crust

Wild, Wild East: Recipes and Stories from Vietnam
by Bobby Chinn (Barron's Educational Series, 224 pages)
Available at Powells.com or Amazon.com

Fanny Ice Cream
48 Le Thai To (south end of Hoan Kiem) in Hanoi
29-31 Ton That Thiep (District 1) in Ho Chi Minh City

Moca Cafe
14-16 Nha Tho in Hanoi

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