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A Southeast Asian cookbook diary and love story told in 40 recipes by a award-wining author, with photos and essays. Read more

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This project was successfully funded on December 21, 2011.

A Southeast Asian cookbook diary and love story told in 40 recipes by a award-wining author, with photos and essays.

About this project

A Book Project by Andrew X. Pham

To pre-order the digital book, please pledge $3.

To pre-order the printed book, please pledge $35.

To pledge, just click the green button on the right, and you'll be taken to Amazon for checkout (you'll need to have an Amazon account). If we raise $10K by our Dec 20th deadline, Amazon will collect your pledge at that time. If we don't meet our funding goal at the deadline, Amazon will not charge your account and we receive zero dollar. 

For more details and info on pledging, please go here.

To cheer me on, click on that FB "thumbs up" like button right under the video.

A Culinary Odyssey: My Cookbook Diary of Travels, Flavors, and Memories of Southeast Asia

This is the culmination of a lifetime of passionate eating, traveling, writing, and cooking: 40 of my favorite and simplest recipes from the cuisines of my roots, then and now.

But it's so much more than a cookbook. It's love, it's life. It's everything I know about living, culture, and food from the land of my birth and my chosen home for the past decade.

In addition to 40 fantastic recipes with photos, you will find a host of essays, information, tips, and hard-earned insights, including the followings:

  • The secret of my grandmother's coconut caramel--the soul of all claypot dishes--which has no parallel the world over (this alone is worth several times the price of the book--you'll find it nowhere now, but it'll be everywhere soon hereafter)

  • Why food is such a profound expression of love in Asian culture

  • The meaning of "eating bland/salty" and "chasing the fat"

  • Table etiquette in Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia (hint: they're all different)

  • How to behave and how to eat when invited to the Southeast Asian table/dining mat

  • Where to go & what to savor when traveling in Southeast Asia

  • The distinguishing characteristics of each cuisine

  • How to become a restaurant critic (like yours truly)

  • The flow of history and its influences on regional cuisines

  • How the Vietnam conflicts have influenced other cuisines in the region

  • How to cook rice perfectly on the stovetop in an ordinary pot

  • Morning glories--the truest vegetable of Southeast Asia--stir-fried four ways in four countries

  • The significant implications of: "Waiter, there's chicken stock in my fish soup!"

  • The major changes in traditional cooking (for instance, how Thai cooks cope when the price of coconut jumped 500% in 3 years)

  • How to cook simply and effectively, tips and techniques from the primitive kitchen

  • The eating habits of Vietnamese, Thais, Laotians, and Cambodians

  • And so, so much more ...

It all started twelve years ago, after the successful publication of my first book. I had been working as a food writer and restaurant critic for five years, since 1994. I approached my agent Jandy Nelson about an ambitious dining guide to feature the very best the San Francisco Bay Area had to offer, but she proposed an even more brilliant idea: a literary cookbook with essays by a professional writer and recipes and insights of a top chef. I loved the idea and we had a great chef in mind, but life became very busy for me at that time. I did not follow up on this project, but the idea was logged in my mind.

This notion of a literary cookbook kept evolving over the years as I left America for adventures in Southeast Asia where I traveled far and wide on a shoestring budget, searching for the best dishes, and following an idea for another literature project--all the while working on my second novel, taking food notes, and collecting recipes for over ten years and counting.

Why am I doing this? Two reasons.

First, I love good food. If I weren't a writer, I'd be a chef/restaurant owner.

Second, I treasure good memories, and nothing brings back treasured moments, feelings, atmosphere of places, and faces of people I adore like food--the taste, texture, aroma, and flavor profile from the first bite to the last lingering aftertaste.

My approach to food is the same as my approach to life: simple and intense.

My kitchen comprises of a two-burner gas range, one wok, one sauce pot, one soup pot, a Pyrex glass mixing/cooking bowl, a cutting board, a mortar pestle set, three knives, a peeler, a long pair of cooking chopsticks, a spatula, and a Swiss army knife (can opener, wine corkscrew, bottle opener, etc.). My entire collection of Asian sauces and spices fits inside a plastic container the size of a shoe box. In short, this is how most mom-and-pop diners throughout Southeast Asia operate--a simplified dynamic set-up that easily transfers into any setting, from a tiny dorm kitchenette, to a sailboat galley, to an upscale Top-Chef competition kitchen.

So, at last, after years of dining, writing, recipe collecting, cooking and refining, I am nearly ready to publish my cookbook diary--but it's not just any cookbook. It's my life, much of what I know about food, my family's heirloom culinary secrets, Asian cuisines and cultures, and dishes from my other books. Most are things I have cooked and eaten all my life. I've picked 40 of my favorite and simplest recipes that are also representative of my preferred region of Southeast Asia, namely, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.

These recipes are, in my mind, a sort of mile markers of my life. Between them are the things I've experienced and learned, captured within the covers in the form of essays and anecdotes. I hope you will find some of them interesting and helpful.

I've already invested considerable time and money into this project. Friends and family are pitching in their skills and time to bring this project in at well below average cost. Now, to go the final step, I'm seeking funding from supporters on Kickstarter.

Project Budget:

*Half of total funds for printing a limited edition of A Culinary Odyssey in soft cover, with full color photos, 120 pages, #80 Flo Digital gloss paper.

*Rewards and postage.

*Photography, food, props.

I'm putting my heart and soul into this project because I believe in it. I know that what I have to say in my book have not yet been published anywhere.

A Culinary Odyssey is only 40 recipes. It is a humble work from the heart, not an ambitious encyclopedic tome filled with dishes most readers will never cook. I have no desire to repeat what others have done. This is my personal collection of the best of the best--recipes I've cooked, refined, and enjoyed for decades, more times than I can recall.

If you love Southeast Asian food, literature, travel, or even simply cheering for the underdog, please help me bring this vision to life by pledging and letting your friends know about this project.

You have my heartfelt thanks!


Andrew X. Pham

ps. for more incriminating information, please visit


Priority postage is included for all rewards mailed within the US. International destinations, please add $10 for shipping.

Christmas gift cards (in PDF form, emailed to you) are available for all pledge levels $35 and up. The day we meet our funding goals (Dec 20th or earlier) I will email you a PDF card of the project and mention the "rewards/gifts" that will be mailed to your recipient (or you). You can print it out and send/give to your recipient in time for Christmas. 

Details of Rewards:

"Thank You" PDF card emailed to you. It will include an excerpt from my book Catfish and Mandala (chapter 33) and recipes for the meal that Uncle Tu shared with me: claypot catfish, pickled eggplant with shrimp paste sauce, and steam string beans (with a bonus recipe for stir-fried cabbage with eggs).

Postcards of the cookbook for you to keep or send to friends to help promote the book.

A Culinary Odyssey in digital form. This will be the e-book version of the cookbook and will be sold through Amazon, iBookstore, and Barnes & Noble. This will be the primary distribution form for the book. You are basically pre-ordering this e-book on Amazon.

A Culinary Odysseyin printed form, soft cover, full color photos, 120 pages, 80# Flo Digital gloss paper. This is a limited commemorative edition printed for Kickstater. Surplus copies from this printing will be sold on my website for $45. 

A Theory of Flight: Recollections is a collection of non-fiction essays, which I consider my best work to date. It's a personal exploration of life, love, adventures, and the cascade of choices. Trade paperback, color soft cover, 200 pages. 

Project Report (emailed in PDF format) of my experience in writing and publishing this book. I will discuss my research and thoughts on POD, e-book publishing, self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, crowd funding, marketing my self-published book, budget & expenditures, sales, and everything else pertinent to this whole project. I will email this report to you at the conclusion of my project in March 2012.

Coffee Mug with Photos of My Books. It's an 11oz ceramic mug, dishwasher & microwave safe. I'm designing and ordering these just once to celebrate this wild act of self-publishing.

The Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars. A Top Ten Book of the Year on 4 major national lists and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. 

Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam. Winner of the Kiriyama Prize, the Oregon Literary Prize, and the QPB Non-Fiction Prize. Finalist for the Guardian Prize and a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. 

Rice Bowl by Jeff Guerrero Ceramics. Handmade with logo of my cookbook and quote from the book. Visit Guerrero Ceramics  to view beautiful examples of his work.

Invite to Launch Party tentativelyscheduled for March/April (possibly May if more guests prefer that time window, we'll poll everyone). We're waiting to see how many pledges we have before booking a location (somewhere in the Bay Area, CA). It will be on a weekend, during the day, with food and beverages (a nominal fee/donation ($10-20) will be applied to help cover expenses).

Bicycle Keychain handmade by me from my collection of used/recycled bicycle chains.

Skype Video Session. I will be delighted to chat with you on Skype. I'll answer your questions, give advice (upon request), and thank you for your support.

Special Issan Rice Holder. This is a handmade product used throughout most of Laos, Thailand, and parts of Cambodia. These are not the usual low grade bamboo holders found in specialty stores. The holders I'm offering are made with an increasing rare type of wild reeds harvested from the jungle behind my farm on the Mekong and hand-woven by my family.

A Recipe Named After You. Yes, you read that right: "A recipe named after you in the book!" A very impressive way to leave a lasting impression. 

Andrew X. Pham as your guest at dinner or coffee, at a mutually convenient time for both of us. You can meet me in the Bay Area, California, Hua Hin, Thailand, or Vientiane, Laos--the three place where I'm most likely to be found. I'll consider meeting you in some other parts of the world if you assist with travel expenses.

Super-sized Reward Bundle: 10 postcards, 2 coffee mugs, 5 copies Southeast Asian Love Affair, 5 copies of Theory of Flight, 2 copies hardcover Eaves of Heaven, 2 copies hardcover Catfish and Mandala, 1 keychain, 1 Issan rice holder, Skype video session, 1 rice bowl by Guerrero Ceramics. 


Backers of this projects will be recognized and thanked for their valuable contributions on my website as well as in the book. 

For the top level contributors, I'm offering a special recognition.

As a self-taught, independent writer from humble beginnings, I firmly believe that support for the artist at any point in his career is both an appreciation of his work as well as an investment in his future production.

I will recognize your significant contribution by including your name (or company/organization) on the acknowledgement page of ALL my published books from now onward.  

Last but not least, I would like to thank everyone for reading this far. If you like my project, please click on the Facebook "like" button and share this with your friends. Many thanks!

**Special thanks to Detektivbyrån (NATTÖPPET) for giving their beautiful music to the world. You can find them at


Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.

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  • You selected
    Pledge $1 or more

    2 backers

    *A heartfelt "Thank You" card in a PDF file that includes recipes for the menu of the meal Uncle Tu shared with me at his farm hut (in "Catfish and Mandala", chapter 33): claypot catfish, steamed string beans, pickled aubergines with shrimp paste sauce, steamed rice, and a bonus recipe of cabbage-egg stir fry. The file has the pertinent excerpt from the book and color photo of the meal. A simple meal, easily prepared in less than an hour.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $3 or more

    65 backers

    *A heartfelt "Thank You" PDF card w/recipes. *And a digital version of "A Culinary Odyssey", which will be available to the public in digital form through Amazon, iBookstore, and Barnes & Noble.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $35 or more

    42 backers

    *A heartfelt "Thank You" PDF card w/recipes.

    *2 A Culinary Odyssey [CO] postcards.

    *A signed copy of "A Culinary Odyssey" in softcover with a handwritten note of thanks, priority mail postage included. International shipping, please add $10.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $50 or more

    21 backers

    *A heartfelt "Thank You" PDF e-card w/recipes.

    *A signed copy of "A Culinary Odyssey" in softcover with a handwritten note of thanks, priority mail postage included.

    *4 CO postcards.

    *A trade paperback copy of my best work to date, "A Theory of Flight"

    *AND a detailed PDF report of my experience writing and publishing this cookbook as well as everything else pertinent to this whole experience, to be emailed to you at the completion of this Kickstarter project, March 2012.

    *Invite to launch party in March/April 2012

    International shipping, please add $10.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    11 backers Limited (59 left of 70)

    Same as $50 level

    *And a special photo coffee mug

    *And a signed copy of Eaves of Heaven [a total of 3 books for this reward level]

    *Add as a "friend" on my Facebook page and creditted on my FB page and my website as a supporter of this project.

    *Credit on my website and in the book as Supporter.

    *Invite to launch party in March/April 2012

    International shipping, please add $10.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $200 or more

    8 backers Limited (4 left of 12)

    Same as $100 level. AND ...

    *1 keychain handmade by me

    *A special limited edition of A Culinary Odyssey rice bowl by Guerro Ceramics.

    *20 minute video chat on Skype with me to ask me questions or advice on anything, or just to say "Hi!"

    *Credit on my website and in the book as Sponsor. If you have a business, I'd be happy to include your web address in the book and a web link on my website.

    *Invite to launch party in March/April 2012.

    International shipping, please add $10.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $1,000 or more

    1 backer Limited (4 left of 5)

    A RECIPE named after YOU!

    *AND, I'll be your guest for dinner/coffee.

    *AND, Credit in the book as Publisher


    I will recognize your significant contribution by including your name (or company/organization) on the acknowledgement page of ALL my published books from now onward.

    *Invite to launch party in March/April 2012

    *And, of course, a super-sized bundle of the $200 level rewards (see project description for details)

    International shipping, please add $50.

    Estimated delivery:


Funding period

- (41 days)