Cookbook Review: Street Food Asia 

Street Food Asia

In Street Food Asia, join Luke Nguyen on a stroll through the heady, fragrant backstreets of Asia to discover street food at its very best. Pull up a stool for a bowl of pho in his beloved home city of Saigon, or explore a hawker stall in Kuala Lumpur. Soak up the coconut-infused air of Jakarta and immerse yourself in the smoke, heat and unmistakeable buzz of a Bangkok night market.

From main streets to back alleys, Luke shares his insider knowledge, venturing out with acclaimed photographer Alan Benson at dawn and late into the night to meet roaming street vendors and stallholders. Vibrant local personalities, colourful photographs and stories about the most unique dishes—Street Food Asia brings one of the world’s richest food traditions to life.

Luke Nguyen is one of Australia’s best-loved chefs, best known for his television series Luke Nguyen’s Vietnam, Luke Nguyen’s Greater Mekong and more recently Luke Nguyen’s France. Born in a Thai refugee camp after his parents escaped their homeland in Vietnam, Luke’s family made their way to Australia where Luke was raised in Cabramatta. His parents opened and ran a Vietnamese restaurant called Pho Cay Du and it was this familial passion for food that first ignited Luke’s interest in Vietnamese cooking.

After learning the basics from his parents, Luke trained with a number of respected chefs before opening The Red Lantern restaurant. Since then, The Red Lantern has become one of Sydney’s most acclaimed Vietnamese restaurants. He runs a cooking school in Saigon, and also a hospitality program for disadvantaged youth. He is also a judge on MasterChef Vietnam (watched by 20 million people!) Luke has written six cookbooks: Secrets of the Red Lantern, Songs of Sapa, Indochine, Greater Mekong and The Food of Vietnam and Luke Nguyen’s France.

Street Food Asia by Luke Nguyen is available at and

Three Cup Chicken

Photograph by Alan Benson


2 tablespoons sesame oil

6 garlic cloves, peeled

8 cm (3 ¼ in) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and very finely sliced

450 g (1 lb) chicken drumsticks, chopped into 4 cm (1 ½ in) pieces through the bone

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

1 tablespoon kecap manis (see below)

3 tablespoons shaoxing rice wine (see below)

1 large handful Thai basil leaves

3 spring onions (scallions) sliced

4 cm (1 ½ in) lengths, to garnish steamed jasmine rice, to serve


Place a 4 litre (140 fl oz/16 cup) clay pot on the stove over a high heat. Add the sesame oil and whole garlic cloves and stir-fry for 30 seconds, then add the sliced ginger and sauté until fragrant.

Add the chopped chicken to the pot and stir-fry on a high heat for 2 minutes or until browned on all sides, then add the light soy sauce, kecap manis and 2 tablespoons of shaoxing rice wine and stir-fry for another 2 minutes. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat to medium–low and cook for 5–8 minutes, until the liquid has reduced to a glossy, sticky sauce and the chicken pieces are cooked through.

Return the heat to high, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of shaoxing rice wine and stir in the basil leaves. Remove from the heat.

Serve the chicken in the clay pot, garnished with the spring onion pieces and accompanied by steamed jasmine rice.


Kecap Manis
An Indonesian sweetened aromatic soy sauce, which has a dark colour, a thick, syrupy consistency and a unique, pronounced, sweet and somewhat molasses-like flavour. It is used in marinades, as a condiment or as an ingredient in Indonesian cooking. The sweetness comes from palm sugar; other flavourings include garlic and star anise.

Shaoxi Rice Wine
A famous sweetish Chinese cooking wine from the town of the same name in eastern China, near Shanghai. It is brewed from rice and is readily available from Asian supermarkets.

Recipe reprinted with permission from Hardie Grant Books.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.