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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 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 2 days ago at Viet World Kitchen
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One of the great benefits of celebrating the Lunar New Year is all the food that’s around the house. I made six banh chung, Vietnamese Tet sticky rice cakes last week. Several went into the freezer. One was gifted to my friend Mike who made the wooden banh chung mold for me. My husband and I ate the others over the span of a week. When banh chung is firm from refrigeration, I reboil it to a soft warmth – just like when it came out of the pot and was allowed to cool for a couple of hours. Before eating, I the banh chung with string into wedges, the shape that allows each portion to have a little bit of everything; the sticky rice... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Viet World Kitchen
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Get ready for the Year of the Goat! It starts tomorrow, Thursday, February 19 – the first day of the Lunar New Year. For Asian people who celebrate it, it’s like all the major western holidays rolled into one. People get giddy, nostalgic, sentimental. It’s also when people actually get to take time off from work. You don’t have to be of Asian ancestry to celebrate Lunar New Year. Just get into the spirit of renewal, relaxation and rebooting. Get a few friends together for a Chinese dumpling-centric celebration. Here’s a quick low-down and some tips to help take the edge off. When: The window for holding Lunar New Year parties is weeks. That’s because people traditionally take a month off to visit with their... Continue reading
Posted Feb 18, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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Vietnamese sticky rice cakes, called banh chung, are a must-have for the Lunar New Year which falls on Thursday, February 19. Vietnamese banh chung are a cousin to Chinese zongzi (joong in Cantonese) in that they are made of sticky rice, pork and mung beans and wrapped leaves. In Vietnam, they’re wrapped in green leaves called la dong. In the States, most people use banana leaves. I also use bamboo leaves. Think of banh chung as a gigantic tamale or dumpling. Banh chung are made with just a handful of ingredients and taste absolutely delicious – rich from the pork and mung beans and fragrant from the leaves. Many Vietnamese people buy banh chung these days but my family has always made ours. It’s part of the crafter in us. For the low-down and a photo how-to on making banh chung, check out this post on Viet World Kitchen. Continue reading
Posted Feb 15, 2015 at Asian Dumpling Tips
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I was a on the fence about making Vietnamese sticky rice cakes for Tet this year. Called banh chung, they are a must-have for the Lunar New Year which falls on Thursday, February 19. Vietnamese banh chung are a cousin to Chinese zongzi (joong in Cantonese) in that they are made of sticky rice, pork and mung beans and wrapped leaves. In Vietnam, they’re wrapped in green leaves called la dong. In the States, most people use banana leaves. I also use bamboo leaves. Think of banh chung as a gigantic tamale or dumpling. Banh chung are made with just a handful of ingredients and taste absolutely delicious – rich from the pork and mung beans and fragrant from the leaves. Many Vietnamese people buy... Continue reading
Posted Feb 15, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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I’d worked for hours at my computer this morning before I realized that it was time for a much deserved shower and lunch break. I had my eyes on the remains of some cooked wheat berries – plump chewy grains that I’d purchased from a Middle Eastern market. They look like barley but have less starchiness. Without the hulls the berries cook up relatively fast in about 30 minutes. My husband Rory got a portion of the wheat berries with leftover chicken for his lunch. The rest was for me! Rory has been nursing a sensitive tummy for a few weeks so we’ve had to stay off super spicy and fermented food. I thought I should take my solo lunch break to treat myself to... Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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Bodacious blossoms are now gracing many trees in our neighborhood as well as being sold in Asian enclaves. (Above is non-fruiting plum (I think), quince and forsythia.) Whenever these blooms happen, I feel that the Lunar New Year is truly upon us. “The blossoms always bloom going into Tet and your birthday,” my husband said as I snapped the above photo. Birthday flowers from nature are nice but the New Year always underscores the sense of renewal and rebirth that is at the heart of the ending and beginning of a lunar calendar. In case you’re wondering, my birthday falls on February 9 (I turned 46) and the Lunar New Year -- a.k.a., Chinese New Year, Spring Festival, Tet Nguyen Dan, falls on February 19.... Continue reading
Posted Feb 10, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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My solo mid-day meals are simple affairs, mostly made from what is in our fridge. They are also often vegetarian because I don’t want to feel weighed down in the afternoon. I also like to use one pan to minimize clean-up. And, the whole thing comes together in less than 10 minutes. Those are my general parameters. Today I made this rice bowl and thought of sharing it on social media. But it was really tasty and there’s a tofu technique that you may enjoy. So rather than keep things to a short 140 characters or a single long paragraph, I decided to write up the recipe for you to tinker and tweak. The tofu pan-searing technique is a shortcut approach to getting a delicate,... Continue reading
Posted Feb 5, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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Last week’s photo of my hand holding a bunch of cooking gadgets, including dumpling spatulas purchased at the Wok Shop in San Francisco caused several people to ask on Facebook and Instagram, “What is a dumpling spatula?” It’s a nifty gadget that dumpling geeks like me and professional dumpling makers use to efficiently place filling on wrappers without the filling sticking. Answering their questions prompted me to look through my kitchen at the tools I use most for making Asian dumplings. I've been collecting dumpling making implements for years and will save the esoteric ones for another post. These are my go-to dumpling tools. After watching dumpling makers through shop windows use bamboo spatulas to place their filling, I wanted one. I’d not seen them... Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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Now that I've done a number of banh mi book events, I know what it's like to make banh mi for a hungry crowd with high expectations. It's a lot of organization and fast work. But what if you're hosting a party? How can you efficiently make sandwiches for guests, keep calm and have a good time? I was thinking about this because leading up to Super Bowl Sunday, there's always lots of talk about how to make food for a crowd. My strategy is to do things so that takes minimal effort for me once guests arrive. Then I can be a really good hostess. The Banh Mi Handbook has a number of variations listed on page 10, one of which is the giant... Continue reading
Posted Jan 29, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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Man, I have been swamped with so many deadlines that I failed to notice until this afternoon that Viet World Kitchen (my primary website) is a finalist for a Craftsy Blogger Award! Yahoo. I have two online classes at Craftsy with over 6,000 people enrolled in both of them! I guess they must think the classes and VWK are pretty helpful to nominate me. Here's the deal: Voting ends tomorrow (1/28/15) at noon mountain time. Do me a huge favor and cast your vote for VWK. Scroll down to "Vote Now! Best Craftsy Cooking Instructor's Blog" at the Craftsy blogger awards page. (You don't have to register with Craftsy to vote. I just noticed that I'm currently in second place behind Collette Christian.) P.S. The first issue of the VWK newsletter went out this afternoon. If you subscribed, it should have conveniently landed in your inbox. If not, access the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 27, 2015 at Asian Dumpling Tips
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Man, I have been swamped with so many deadlines that I failed to notice until this afternoon that Viet World Kitchen is a finalist for a Craftsy Blogger Award. Yahoo. I have two online classes at Craftsy with over 6,000 people enrolled in both of them! I guess they must think the classes and this site are pretty helpful to nominate me. Here's the deal: Voting ends tomorrow (1/28/15) at noon mountain time. Do me a huge favor and cast your vote for VWK. Scroll down to "Vote Now! Best Craftsy Cooking Instructor's Blog" at this Craftsy blogger awards page. You don't have to register with Craftsy to vote. I just noticed that I'm currently in second place behind French pastry expert Collette Christian. Croissants... Continue reading
Posted Jan 27, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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There are many gluten-free and near gluten-free dumplings in the Asian repertory but most people gravitate toward potstickers. I regularly field inquiries about GF dumplings via email and in my Craftsy online Asian dumpling class. I don’t blame people. Who wants to miss out on dumplings? Plus, Chinese pan-fried dumplings are seriously good, with a contrast of crisp bottoms, tender-chewy skins and juicy filling. A dumpling filling is easy to make gluten-free. You basically just replace regular soy sauce with one that is wheat-free. The trick is the dough. For a tutorial on how to make gluten-free potstickers, jump to the post and recipe at Viet World Kitchen! Continue reading
Posted Jan 25, 2015 at Asian Dumpling Tips
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There are many gluten-free and near gluten-free dumplings in the Asian repertory but most people gravitate toward potstickers. I regularly field inquiries about GF dumplings via email and in my Craftsy online Asian dumpling class. I don’t blame people. Who wants to miss out on dumplings? Plus, Chinese pan-fried dumplings are seriously good, with a contrast of crisp bottoms, tender-chewy skins and juicy filling. The filling is easy to make gluten-free (basically, just replace regular soy sauce with one that is wheat-free). The trick is the dough. Potstickers are traditionally made with a wheat flour wrapper. I’ve tinkered with several gluten-free wrapper doughs over the years and always go back to one adapted from Laura Russell’s Gluten-Free Asian Cookbook. The gluten-free dumpling dough combines tapioca... Continue reading
Posted Jan 22, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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I’m always thrilled when people make recipes from my books or this blog and report their progress. It’s incredibly rewarding when they volunteer tips and insight for me to share! Since late last year, I’ve been keeping a stash of interesting tips. There have naturally been a number of banh mi tips so I’m unleashing them today! Jo in Seattle has been going to town with making banh mi. We got to meet at my Book Larder event last September. For the selfie contest last year, Jo baked the bread and made the Maggi steak on page 101 of the handbook; her impressive entry is above. I encourage people to initially follow recipes in my books, then play and tweak them. That’s my approach to... Continue reading
Posted Jan 20, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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America continues its lovefest with Sriracha chile sauce. Every few months, I hear about a new rendition. I've made my own, done tastings, and tried the original Sriracha sauce. Frank Ball and I started an email conversation long about the popularity of Sriracha chile sauce. He’d read VWK posts about the chile sauce and one day, sent along the above photo from a Bed Bath and Beyond in White Plains, New York. Frank is a former movie maker and author of a terrific book on professional kitchen tips for home cooks. We’ve kept in touch since and this week, he emailed an interesting video made about the production of Huy Fong’s Sriracha hot sauce. A quick recap: Huy Fong has been making various kinds of... Continue reading
Posted Jan 15, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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All of the Bay Area first quarter cooking classes are now full! The ones in Santa Cruz sold out in less than a week, then the San Francisco ones soon thereafter. I just opened two more in Santa Cruz at New Leaf Market’s community classroom. Where we'll cook up a storm! These are hands-on classes limited to 12 people. I shop for all ingredients and will have an assistant on hand too. You're there to learn and have a good time. No one has ever left my class feeling hungry. What's up ahead: May 2, 11am-3pm: Asian Dumplings Bootcamp 1 May 30, 11am-3:30pm: Pho and Banh Mi Workshop I hope you can make it and if not, please share the info with friends. Also, if... Continue reading
Posted Jan 15, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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I love tofu but have not been able to wrap my head around tempeh. I’ve tried various recipes over the years and things just never tasted great. Last year in Singapore, my friend Christopher Tan took us to an Indonesian restaurant and the fried tempeh was amazing, nutty and multidimensional. I sensed that the process for culturing and fermenting the soybeans in Asia yields a superior product. Plus, many cooks there are comfortable with using tempeh. I began to warm up to tempeh. A couple of vegetarian and vegan friends in the States have urged me to tackle it. Case in point: Randy Clemens contributed a sriracha tempeh recipe for the banh mi book. I was skeptical at first but it turned out to be... Continue reading
Posted Jan 13, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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It’s been years since I foraged for chanterelle mushrooms beneath oak trees near a cottage that we rented out in the country. Alas, after five years of living on septic, we bought a house with city plumbing. We are urban people but I surely missed the fall and winter mushroom season. I only foraged for chanterelles because they were easy to identify. A beginner’s mushroom. Our landlord Ray show us how to identify and clean them. For example, look under trees (not on trees) and check for forked gills (not true, separate gills of the false chanterelle). Partially air dry to make dirt removal easy. Cleaned and air dried. My friends Jessica Largey and Aisha Ibrahim, the chef de cuisine and sous chef at Manresa... Continue reading
Posted Jan 8, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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Happy 2015! How was your new year? Mine has involved a lot of lollygagging, which I am extra good at once I tell myself to put the cell phone down and step away from the computer. I’ve been cooking a lot of fun stuff, including a bunch of chanterelle mushrooms. Manresa restaurant chefs Jessica Largey and Aisha Ibrahim showed up for dinner on January 1 holding the mushrooms as if they were bouquets of flowers. They’d spent the day picking citrus and foraging chanterelles for the restaurant and shared a little of their bounty with me! I woke up on January 2 pondering what to do with the mushrooms, which weighed about 3 pounds total; most of them were the size of grapefruits. On the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 5, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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The week between Christmas and New Years is my time for living lazily. I don’t want to cook overly fussy foods. I’m interested in using up foods in my freezer – like a container of the Chinese beef and tofu skin soup that I made months ago. There are also little one-bite snacks like these, which I fancied to serve along with drinks. This evening, San Francisco Chronicle food journalist Tara Duggan is stopping by for cocktails and snacks. Along with cheese and pate, I thought of these spicy crab bites. They’re my modern take on a 1950s-type of drink snacks – crab and mayonnaise seasoned in a piquant manner and baked atop a toast point. In my case, I used a tiny rice cracker... Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
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Thanks for being part of the Viet World Kitchen community this year! I greatly appreciate your contributions to the conversations here and on social media. This is how it's all suppose to work and I thank you for making 2014 truly amazing. I hope you and your family enjoy a fabulous holiday season. ~ Andrea Continue reading
Posted Dec 25, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
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Our neighbor down the street stopped us yesterday on our walk and yelled at his son to go into the house to “get us a little something.” His gift turned out to be a small sweet potato custard, a family holiday favorite that he and his son had just finished making. We often pause to say hello and chat with the fellow, an African-American gentleman who uses a wheelchair and cane for his mobility. He also fixes and restores cars and our conversations over the years have ranged from the weather and classic cars to cooking and race relations. Carrying the warm sweet potato custard home, I was glad to have a little something to gift back: fruitcake. I know . . . you may... Continue reading
Posted Dec 22, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
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We may be in for another banh mi shortage. A third and fourth printing are underway but I noticed that Amazon is low and shipping is delayed. Barnes and Noble and other e-tailers have the books but if you need one fast, check a local vendor. Because The Banh Mi Handbook is a well-priced book with broad appeal, I've been wondering who is selling it. Ten Speed Press publisher Hannah Rahill kindly sent a list of where the book is being sold. I omitted large entities such as Amazon and B&N, as well as huge book distributors that channel books to retailers large and small. What remains on the list is below -- businesses that have established accounts with Random House, the parent company of... Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
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I went to the supermarket to buy a can of Spam. The canned meat section was pretty tidy except for where the Spam was. It was unruly and about half empty. I was flummoxed, not so much by the run on Spam, but by the variety of it. The last time I used Spam was in the mid-1990s, as a joke appetizer for a Spam-loving friend’s birthday: I made Spam turnovers and he and his Beverly Hills hairdresser pals loved them. Since then I’d missed out on all the changes in the world of Spam. It is nowadays super varied to smartly target different diets (low sodium or low-cal), ethnic interests (teriyaki, black pepper, and jalapeno) and porky interests (hickory/bbq or bacon). The recipes on... Continue reading
Posted Dec 18, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen