Books, Culinary Adventures, Travel
Comments 2

Noodle Pillows by Peta Mathias

Just finished reading a great food travel book called Noodle Pillows by fellow New Zealander Peta Mathias. Published in 2003, this is an account of Peta’s journey through Vietnam as a single woman, eating everything that stood in her way. It’s always nice reading a Kiwi perspective of food from a faraway location. Full of recipes and at only 182 pages, it’s a very easy read.

Some of my favourite bits:

Nobody could communicate with anybody, so he took the Russians into the kitchen and pointed to things. They were delighted and wanted everything, absolutely everything. The meal went very well and a light snapped on in the entrepreneurial Vy’s brain. The very next morning she put a sign outside the Mermaid, listing what the customers had eaten the night before – this was their first menu.

‘Vietnamese don’t use menus. It’s like songs. Everyone knows all the dishes and they just ask for what they feel like that day.’

Have you ever been to a restaurant where there was no menu? Where the chef cooked what their customers want? It sounds wonderful, though confusing and maybe frustrating too if that’s not what you are used to. Very confusing for a tourist too! It also means that the chef can’t really prep based on their menu. They have to prep based on the menu of the country!


There are many restaurants and stalls in the world that only cook 1 dish. It might seem strange to those of us that accustomed to a lengthy menu to peruse and pick to our own taste, but serving 1 dish makes a lot of sense. Many of these businesses have been cooking the same dish all day, every day for decades. Some families have cooked this 1 dish for generations. They have absolutely perfected the dish. They can do it quickly, cheaply and better than you can. There’s no point trying to replicate their skill at home if you are in the area. Can you think of a restaurant in your area that only serves 1 dish? I think it would be wonderful to go to a restaurant that only cooked 1 dish really, really well. Better than a restaurant that cooks 20 average dishes right?

This entry was posted in: Books, Culinary Adventures, Travel


I am Genie, a graphic designer/photographer obsessed with food and bunnies. I live in Whanganui, New Zealand with my husband, The Koala and our two rabbits, Kobe and Bento. I write about my hedonistic ways and I love the mantra "Eat well, travel often". I prefer not to write about myself in third person.


  1. Hmmm, you had better make sure your friends like eating exactly the same dish as you then. I guess focussing on one thing is the way to achieve perfection though.

    • That would be easy I think. When I crave a dish I usually talk about non stop. So it’s easy to convince others to come with me. I guess like when we get fish and chips, there are other items on the menu, but I’m not about to order a steak burger from a fish shop.

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