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Andrea Nguyen
San Francisco Bay Area
I'm a cookbook author, food writer, and cooking teacher based in the San Francisco Bay Area. My publications include "Into the Vietnamese Kitchen" (2006), "Asian Dumplings" (2009), "Asian Tofu" (2012), and "The Banh Mi Handbook" (July 2014) all published by Ten Speed Press. Additionally, I developed the "Asian Market Shopper" iPhone app with Chronicle Books. A contributing editor to SAVEUR, I also write for the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, and other publications..
Interests: food, wine, history, art, cooking, travel
Recent Activity
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A couple of my Chinese friends have chided me for how I wield chopsticks: I cross them. I always have and can’t change. Crossing the sticks to grab at my food is something I’ve done since the age of five or six. So when my dear friends told me the that crossing chopsticks was considered uncouth, I felt hurt. In fact, I asked my parents – who are persnickety about etiquette, why they didn’t correct me early on. I am too old to change. I was a victim of their negligence. My dad looked at me as if I’d spoken like a fool. Then he said there were other eating matters that were more important to them. That is true. What my mom drilled into... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Viet World Kitchen
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Someone on Facebook asked about tips for making fried rice. I’m responding with one of my favorite recipes – something I’ve been making for years. It’s an idea borrowed from Ramenya, a noodle shop in West Los Angeles that my husband and I used to frequent when we lived in Santa Monica. We’d order bowls of ramen noodle soup and shared a half order of curry fried rice. Stained yellow, a tiny bit greasy and studded with chopped vegetables, it paved a marvelous path toward carb overload. When we moved from Los Angeles, I turned to making the Japanese curry fried rice at home. I basically adhered to my fried rice basics, which include these pointers. Rice for fried rice: Use leftover rice or cold... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Viet World Kitchen
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A few months ago a very talented young chef told me that cooking rice is one of the hardest things to do in a restaurant. There’s the quantity involved for serving a lot of guests, and the lack of the right pot and even heat. He baked rice in a shallow “hotel” pan and used jasmine with a 1:2 ratio of rice to water because he liked it softer for the French dishes he prepared. His rice was nice but I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I didn’t like his rice as much as I enjoyed every other component of the meal. The thing is, rice lovers are particular. A Hmong farmer once told me that he mixed long-grain and short-grain to... Continue reading
Posted May 19, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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For my new book project, I’ve equipped myself with a supply of spices, including star anise! It’s not hard for you to guess what the subject of that book is: Pho. Many people have suggested that I write a pho cookbook since I make it at home, teach workshops on it, and regularly enjoy pho at restaurants. I have a thing about it. Since I’ve conquered Vietnamese sandwiches, why not spend time obsessing about pho? Gathering from the response to The Banh Mi Handbook (we’re on the 4th printing since its July 8, 2014 release!), Vietnamese food is gaining in popularity. I can’t tell you how thrilling that is, given that my first Vietnamese cookbook came out in 2006. I’ve been working to help cooks... Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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When a magazine hands you an assignment to write about dim sum, you better be prepared to eat a lot of it. San Francisco magazine asked me to write an informative A to Z guide to dim sum as well as a short list of the best dim sum and dumpling spots in the city. In order to be authoritative, correct, and on top of things, I set out to eat. My dumpling adventure spanned two separate days. On day one, I ate at three (3) dim sum restaurants and bought takeout dim sum from a fourth. On day two, I went to three (3) takeout dim sum shops, a bakery, and five (5) dumpling joints. I dined by myself. Dim sum and dumplings are a solitary or group food that you can eat any time of day. I ordered judiciously from each spot to sample a broad variety of... Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2015 at Asian Dumpling Tips
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After I wrote about the Indian twist on guacamole, I thought of other Asian uses for avocado. I’ve seen it used in salads with tofu. There is avocado in California sushi rolls. In the Viet repertoire, we enjoy it most often with condensed milk. I grew up with a slightly unorthodox way of eating avocados that I learned from my dad. When we first arrived in America, he didn’t have a heart condition and reveled in rich Western foods that were suddenly available to us. We were eating buddies and he taught me to appreciate cognac and fine French butter at a very young age. He also introduced me to avocado with sweetened condensed milk. Dad would carefully cut an avocado in half, remove the... Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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When I was thumbing through my Mom’s orange notebook last month, I came across an American recipe that she absolutely adored: 7 layer cookies. One of my sisters had added it to the notebook. Maybe it was my sister Linh, who loves to bake. I remember Linh making those bars for my mom over and over. My mother loves coconut, nuts and chocolate. Over the years, she scored countless post-Halloween deals on Almond Joy bars. When I buy See’s candies for her, I make sure there are plenty of the “dark cocoanuts”. I’ve never made the 7 layer cookie recipe because I was put off by the versions I’d had in recent years. They tended to be so darn sweet with not much character. But... Continue reading
Posted May 7, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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Leading up into Cinco de Mayo, our local grocery stores have had quite a lot of deals on avocados. I stock up there if they look good. However, in the main, I prefer to buy them at the farmer’s market because they’re super fresh and I know the grower. I know I’m spoiled, but excellent avocados are a benefit of living in California. We have terrific ones nearly twelve months of the year. Sometimes I just eat avocado with salt and pepper or condensed milk. I love to tuck some into banh mi and other sandwiches. My favorite guacamole is based on a Diana Kennedy recipe from long ago; see this newsletter for my best guacamole recipe. Other times, I give avocado a modern Indian... Continue reading
Posted May 5, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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April 30, 1975 is a significant day for many Vietnamese people. How you feel about it depends on which side you were on four decades ago. For my family, that date marks the day that we arrived in California. We luckily managed to escape from Saigon on April 24, tasted glorious freedom for a week in Guam, and were then transported to Camp Pendleton Marine Base in Southern California, which served as one of the resettlement facilities on the mainland. That day was also a day of sadness. As a six year old at the time, things were fuzzy. However, what I do recall on April 30, 1975 was hearing adults repeatedly say “mất nước rồi” (the country is lost already). The North Vietnamese communist... Continue reading
Posted Apr 30, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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Wontons are the first dumplings that I learned to make. My mom entrusted me to make them for parties and other family gatherings. She fried them and served them with a Viet-style sweet and sour sauce speckled with a confetti-like bits of vegetables. It was finger food that got eaten up in a flash. That’s why our family wrapped regularly 3 or 4 packages worth of wontons for a total of roughly 200 wontons. Last Friday I made a small batch for our TGIF cocktail hour. There were leftover wrappers and I thought about how growing up, fried wontons were on my mom’s rotation of favorite foods to make. It was for good reason. In 1975 we discovered that fried wontons were a friendly food... Continue reading
Posted Apr 28, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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Forty years ago on April 23, 1975, my parents were quietly saying goodbye to their Saigon home. Mom finished ripping apart the life jackets that she’d sewn for our family’s boat escape from South Vietnam, which would eventually fall to the northern communists a week later. Between the Styrofoam pieces in each of the seven life jackets were thin taels of gold. We were no longer able to leave by boat because the government forbade all non-official boats from departing. She and my father’s hope was to flee by plane the next day. The gold was among our currency. The Vietnamese currency, the dong (VDN), was worthless. To appear as if we were going on an overnight family trip, my parents packed the absolute minimum.... Continue reading
Posted Apr 23, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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Last Sunday was my husband’s birthday. I was tired from teaching nine hours worth of cooking classes on Friday and Saturday but was determined to fete him with some of his favorite foods. I headed to the market while he worked at home. Rory requested rack of lamb so I gilded the lily with various snacks, including fried shrimp. We stopped ordering them at restaurants because they’re often frozen/thawed things or they come coated in heavy batter. Frying at home guarantees fresh deliciousness. I purchased half a pound of shrimp and fried a few up, instagraming and facebooking a photo before we devoured them with chilled sake. One person dubbed the shrimp as “shrimp torpedoes.” A couple of people asked for the batter recipe. Since... Continue reading
Posted Apr 20, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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When a magazine hands you an assignment to write about dim sum, you better be prepared to eat a lot of it. San Francisco magazine asked me to write an informative A to Z guide to dim sum as well as a short list of the best dim sum and dumpling spots in the city. In order to be authoritative, correct, and on top of things, I set out to eat. My dumpling adventure spanned two separate days. On day one, I ate at three (3) dim sum restaurants and bought takeout dim sum from a fourth. On day two, I went to three (3) takeout dim sum shops, a bakery, and five (5) dumpling joints. I dined by myself. Dim sum and dumplings are... Continue reading
Posted Apr 16, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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As soon as my family arrived at the Camp Pendleton refugee resettlement camp on April 24, 1975, my dad was itching to leave. He’d wanted to live in America since he was young but didn’t have the opportunity to until he was 45 years old. The circumstances were not ideal. He’d left behind his home, career and status to start anew with his wife and five kids. Dad had the names and phone numbers of two Americans that he’d befriended in Vietnam. It was a coincidence that one of the men, Robert Beals, lived 20 minutes north of Camp Pendleton. Mr. Beals agreed to sponsor us out of the camp on May 24. We were among the first Vietnamese people to resettle in the U.S.... Continue reading
Posted Apr 14, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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A chicken in Vietnam is a high-value asset. Keep it laying eggs for you as long as possible. When guests come over or when you want a special meal, serve a whole chicken. That was my mom’s attitude toward keeping and serving poultry to our family. We tried to raise a little flock in our Saigon home long ago. Mom brought home a bunch of baby chicks but unfortunately, our housekeeper stepped on one and all us kids freaked out. Vietnam in the 1970s were already stressful. My parents didn’t need a bunch of squealing, squeamish kids, let alone a flock of squawking chickens in the house. The chicks disappeared. Soon after we fled the turmoil that hit Saigon in April 1975, we arrived in... Continue reading
Posted Apr 9, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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People often ask me what I remember from the events of April 1975, when Saigon and South Vietnam fell to North Vietnam’s communist forces. For decades my standard response was that I had photo-like recollections. My memories were akin to frozen still shots of the pandemonium. My family fled Vietnam via a first-class route: We managed to obtain paperwork to get ourselves into Tan Son Nhut airport and flew out on a US Army cargo plane to Guam, Hawaii, and then California. We were the lucky ones. In recent years, as my Vietnamese-American friends and I began trading stories about how we came to America – like our parents did when they were our age, my frozen still shot-like memories of April 1975 gradually thawed.... Continue reading
Posted Apr 7, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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The power of cookbook suggestion has been doing quite a number on me. Cathy Erway noted that Taiwanese pork sauce over rice was the equivalent of Italian Sunday sauce so I made her lu rou fan recipe on a Sunday. Recently, Ivy Manning’s new cookbook got me making tofu on Monday. It wasn’t just because it was meatless Monday. Ivy is a friend and solid recipe and cookbook writer. We’ve hung out together in Portland, Oregon, where she lives. She’s driven me around town to seek out Portland’s best artisanal tofu and banh mi. So when Ivy’s publisher sent her latest book, Weeknight Vegetarian, I began thumbing through it. I’m not kidding as I type this but the first recipe I opened up to was... Continue reading
Posted Mar 31, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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I love getting cooking tips from strangers. Last year after Saint Patrick’s Day, a guy waiting alongside me at the Whole Foods butcher counter told me that he waits until after Saint Patty’s to buy corned beef. The price goes down so I buy a bunch to really enjoy it, he said. He looked like he was in his early 30s and more of a dude than someone who monitored prices at the Whole Foods butcher counter. I kept his tip in my back pocket and passed on the corned beef for March 17. My husband Rory was okay with it, despite his fondness for wearing a shamrock lapel pin and other greenish clothes on St. Patty's Day. Rory's surname is O'Brien. His only caveat... Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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I recently received two dumpling questions from people whose names started with the letters D and A. Go figure. Dao and Dave posed great questions about how to efficiently make dumplings. I’ve spent countless hours making dumplings and maintain a stash of dumplings in my frozen food bank (a stand-up freezer in the garage). Part of the answer to practice and eat a lot of dumplings. But as you do that, you can proceed in a smart manner so that your learning curve isn’t super steep. I’ve made many mistakes so you don’t have to. I’m sharing Dao and Dave’s questions and my responses. Get all the details, weigh in with questions and/or suggestions on this post at Viet World Kitchen. Dao wrote: Continue reading
Posted Mar 22, 2015 at Asian Dumpling Tips
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Simple, savory and saucy. Those words sum up this recipe for a Taiwanese favorite. I first had this rustic comfort dish in Taipei in 2010, while doing field research for Asian Tofu. I was on a budget and after long day of chasing bean curd, I came across a locals only cafe that specialized in rustic rice dishes. The menu was small and you picked out little salads and ordered a rice bowl with protein. I selected a cucumber salad, pressed tofu salad and a pork rice bowl. What surprised me was the rich, salty-sweet nubs of pork that graced the rice bowl. It was so good, I could barely stop eating. The humble pork rice bowl was low-meat eating at its best. I didn’t... Continue reading
Posted Mar 17, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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My friend Irene Khin Wong, the owner of Saffron 59 in New York City, inspired this banh mi experiment. A while back, Irene instagrammed a photo of an afternoon tea party that her company had catered for a client. I spotted a pile of lovely tea sandwiches, my favorite part of afternoon tea. We had a little Instagram exchange about banh mi tea sandwiches and that got me thinking: How would it work out? What kind of bread should I use? How would I construct such a small banh mi? I thought about banh mi tea sandwiches for a while then headed to my kitchen to tinker. Here are a few tips on how I approached making delightful little sandwich bites. Bread. That was the... Continue reading
Posted Mar 10, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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The West Coast is a hub for Vietnamese people. Robust Vietnamese-American communities dot cities and suburbs from San Diego to Seattle. Rosa emailed a while back asking for Vietnamese restaurant recommendations in three cities: Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco. An accountant and mom, she’s coming planning a fun vacation with her husband and one-and-a-half year old. Rosa is particularly interested in sampling Vietnamese food on the West Coast. She wrote, “This will be my first time visiting Seattle, Portland, and San Fran. I will be there on vacation. I'm a mom and an accountant. I'm also a second generation immigrant with Vietnamese parents, I grew up wishing I ate 'American' food instead of the odd Vietnamese offerings at our table. As an adult I have... Continue reading
Posted Mar 10, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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The world works in weird ways. Last week I received two dumpling questions from people whose names started with the letters D and A. Go figure. Dao and Dave posed great questions about how to efficiently make dumplings. I’ve spent countless hours making dumplings and maintain a stash of dumplings in my frozen food bank (a stand-up freezer in the garage). Part of the answer to practice and eat a lot of dumplings. But as you do that, you can proceed in a smart manner so that your learning curve isn’t super steep. I’ve made many mistakes so you don’t have to. I’m sharing Dao and Dave’s questions and my responses. Weigh in with questions and/or suggestions. Dao wrote: I recently started making my own... Continue reading
Posted Mar 4, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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I have patience for many kinds of elaborate cooking but smoking meats on a grill for hours is not one of them. I enjoy the Chinese approach of tea smoking because it’s easy, fun and fast. I've tea-smoked pressed tofu (see Asian Tofu for my recipe) and most recently, I tea-smoked a chicken for a Lunar New Year dinner with friends. You can spread the process out over the course of days and impress guests. In fact, my friends Mike and Jennifer thought that I’d done it all outside in our grill. Nope, I just used a wok and the smoking took about 30 minutes. Such brilliant Chinese cooking. American-style smoking is often done when the protein is raw. The Chinese approach is to apply... Continue reading
Posted Mar 2, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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A number of years ago, I asked my friend and legendary Japanese food expert Elizabeth Andoh about tamari. Is it gluten-free? She looked at me and in a thoughtful, slow manner said, “Not necessarily. It could be but not always is.” In her book, Washoku, Elizabeth explains that tamari is the super dark and intense soy sauce that’s often accumulated at the bottom of large vats of soy sauce. It’s typically used for sashimi. In America, what’s often labeled as tamari often contains little or no wheat but that is not what defines tamari. So, that explains why when you go to market to buy gluten-free tamari, there are gluten-free soy sauces available too. Both more or less signal the same thing. Asian ingredients can... Continue reading
Posted Feb 26, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen