Discover the authentic cuisine and people of Vietnam with Red Lantern's Luke Nguyen

By Sara Schwarz
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The Songs of Sapa by Luke Nguyen

The Songs of Sapa by Luke Nguyen [©Murdoch Books]


Join Luke Nguyen, co-owner and chef of the awarded Red Lantern restaurant in Sydney's Surry Hills, on his travels through Vietnam. Your inner traveller will be delighted and inspired.

In The Songs of Sapa – stories and recipes from Vietnam, Luke Nguyen invites us to join him on his travels through his parent’s homeland of Vietnam as he discovers the food, country and people for himself as an adult, now a chef and restaurateur of repute. The tales and recipes captured in Songs of Sapa are a reflection on Nguyen’s experiences along the way.

As co-owner and chef at Sydney’s The Red Lantern, growing up as a first generation Australian, Nguyen ate Vietnamese, spoke Vietnamese and was surrounded by Vietnamese culture. The Vietnamese dominated Sydney suburb of Cabramatta where the family lived, is a place where everything except the landscape is Vietnamese and has become a replica of what so many left behind.

For Nguyen, this journey across Vietnam is a personal one and his love for the food and people offers him the opportunity to go behind the curtains and share a few moments, hours or days of people’s daily lives across Vietnam, a nation his parents left behind over three decades ago.

Throughout the book, you can sense Nguyen’s respect for all he meets and his desire to share their stories and recipes with us. Nguyen wants us to understand we are not just preparing and eating a Vietnamese dish, we are consuming centuries of tradition and culture and should show respect accordingly.

As travels often do, Nguyen’s journeys also allow him the opportunity to further understand his parents and why as children his father pushed them so hard to ensure they took advantage of the opportunities open to them here. Through those he meets along the way, Nguyen gains a further understanding of what his life may have been like had his parents not made the perilous journey out of Vietnam in 1978, eventually settling in Sydney.

An intensely personal journey, Songs of Sapa is packed with regional recipes cooked for Nguyen and by him with others who he meets in the various regional and urban areas whether they be chefs, home cooks or children from a disabled school.

Accompanied by vibrant photography, Songs of Sapa is also a coming-of-age book of a man now at peace with himself and his past. It is finally and most importantly a gift from a generous host who wholeheartedly invites you to discover the food and culture of Vietnam for yourself.


Songs of Sapa by Luke Nguyen is published by Murdoch Books (2009; pb) RRP $69.95. Subscribers and Members of and Winepros Archive can purchase Songs of Sapa from our book partners Seekbooks at 12.5% discount off RRP (postage extra).


  • Vietnam - all (VN)

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November 02nd, 2009
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