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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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I started making this plum liqueur last August or September with plums from our farmers’ market. They were late season and not the sweetest so I decided to not only sweeten them up but also to liquor them up. My inspiration came from a plum wine recipe in Bon Appetit magazine that included 3 ingredients: fruit, vodka, and sugar plus a lot of time. (The magazine called their concoction a wine but it’s technically a liqueur since it’s made from distilled spirits, fruit, and sugar.) We had a partially full bottle of Costco vodka that we decided we didn’t like much so I had liquor to experiment with. I followed the directions and stashed the jar of plums, alcohol and sugar in the closet. Then... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Viet World Kitchen
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July is a month that marks revolutions and independence movements. I woke up on July 4th wanting to break away from my usual breakfast of muesli. Lazy but desiring a little something baked and beautiful, I decided to make muffins. They’re easy. They are a quick bread! I had blueberries and cherries in the fridge, some toasted hazelnuts on the counter and the rest were staples in the pantry. The problem was in getting the muffin pan from the garage. It was stuffed into a storage tub and we had to back out the car to retrieve it. I don’t often bake muffins and my beat-up Ecko pan was about twenty years old. No need to scrub it clean. Muffin cups found in the deep... Continue reading
Posted Jul 12, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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Are you familiar with Chefsteps.com? It's a fun, brainy cooking website based in Seattle. I'd met with the founder and staff a couple years ago at their offices, and we had a ton of fun chatting about what goes into the fluffy, light bread that's suitable for banh mi. This spring, they asked if I would partner with them to produce how-to videos for some of my favorite foods. Chefsteps is expert at many amazing things, including a sous vide machine that they designed, but Asian food and techniques is not a strong point. I began thinking of recipes that may offer home cooks lots of "a-ha" moments –- genius foods that have endured over time, that continue to feed imaginations. We settled on starting... Continue reading
Posted Jul 7, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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My mom loves to tell the story of how her younger sister, a lanky looker, loved to drink vinegar when they were young. It was among the sister’s many beauty secrets, mom says. Then she’d tell us about her strained relationship with her sister, as if to imply that drinking vinegar likely added to the woman’s sour disposition. That kind of multilayered disdain is why I grew up thinking that drinking vinegar was an awful thing that turned you into a grouch. Turns out I was wrong. Drinking vinegar has been in practice since around 4000 BCE, Emily Han writes in her debut book, Wild Drinks and Cocktails. The Chinese imbibed rice wine vinegar to aid digestion. Roman soldiers relieved their thirst with posca, herb-infused-vinegar... Continue reading
Posted Jun 30, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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I was shopping for tofu today at Trader Joe’s and young guy was standing in front of the tofu section with a confused look on his face. Trader Joe’s sells four (4!) kinds of tofu in tubs or vacumn- sealed packaging. I usually am the one lingering at the tofu section trying to find the package that has the farthest out “Best By” date. He was standing and staring so I asked what he was looking to make with tofu. “What’s the difference between all these?” he said. I noted that in his basket, he already had a package of teriyaki flavored “baked tofu”. But he was looking to pick up some unflavored tofu too. In his twenties, his nails and cuticles were a little... Continue reading
Posted Jun 14, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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This great recipe came about by mistake. I’d mistakenly thought that I had a key ingredient – bean sauce, for a recipe in Grace Young’s terrific Chinese cookbook, Breath of a Wok. But I went ahead and made the recipe and it turned out really really well. The reason was fermented tofu (fu ru). The dish in question was a stir-fried clam in bean sauce. Yours truly swore that she had a jar of Chinese fermented bean sauce in the fridge. I looked and looked but to no avail. The recipe also called for white fermented tofu (chao in Vietnamese, bai fu ru in Mandarin), which I keep on hand as a pantry item. What is fermented tofu? Sometimes referred to as “Chinese cheese”, fermented... Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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Memorial Day weekend kicks off the grilling season for many Americans, and while I grilled my share of pork ribs last weekend, I also made grilled beef in wild betel leaf. They’re fragrant, fun, and delicious. They’re a favorite Vietnamese snack that’s great with cold beer or white wine. When the rolls are cooking, the perfume of the leaves, called la lot (“lah loht”) in Vietnamese, mesmerizes. The fragrance is uncommon and distinctive. You know it when you smell it. Wild betel leaves are botanically Piper sarmentosum. They are NOT the same as the thick, large, dull betel leaves chewed on as a stimulant; those are botanically Piper betle. If you've purchased the stimulating leaves, know that I have shared in your mistake. Laugh it... Continue reading
Posted Jun 2, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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A friend recently asked if I ever stop to take a break and right now, it’s kind of hard to. There are many exciting things going on with regard to interest in Asian food and Vietnamese food, and I’m happy to be part of that rising tide. I’ve been pushing the envelope for years, trying to spotlight the richness and nuance of Asian foodways. The cuisines of the region have just as much to offer as any other on this planet. One sign of things pointing toward the Pacific is the summer 2016 issue of Lucky Peach: It is completely devoted to pho! If you’re not familiar with Lucky Peach, it’s a thought-provoking quarterly journal owned by uber chef David Chang. The award-winning arty magazine... Continue reading
Posted May 26, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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Because my family left Vietnam when I was young, most of the jackfruit I ate growing up came from a can. I knew it as yellow, sweet, and fragrant. Whenever I return to Vietnam, I make sure to eat fresh jackfruit, which is more delicately flavored and not cloying due to the fact that it’s not processed with sugar syrup. And on occasion, I have fresh jackfruit in America. Most of it is coming from Mexico. A few weeks ago, Emily Stephenson emailed about young (immature) jackfruit. I’d never cooked with it (most of what I see and eat has ripened) but I’d seen young jackfruit products being sold at Whole Foods as a mock meat. Emily was inquiring about the mock meat uses for... Continue reading
Posted May 19, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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I’ve been hooked on dim sum since I was young. It’s not only because I love food but also because I love to try many different things. As you know, I like to eat them as much as I like to make them. Here’s a quick A to Z run down that I originally put together for San Francisco magazine. I just updated it for your future dim sum adventures at a restaurant or in your own kitchen. A is for the vast world of Asian dumplings, many of which originated in China. Chinese restaurants, dim sum houses, and bakeries offer excellent opportunities to sample them, from the steamed and fried to the baked and boiled. Chinese dumplings are often encased in a doughy wrapper... Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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My mom taught me a lot of things about cooking traditional Vietnamese food. She’s a stickler for old school flavors but is open to new world methods. For example, she measures with certain spoons in her kitchen, but loves the digital scale that I bought her. “It’s one of my favorite gifts from you,” she’s told me several times. Mom is a hard woman to shop for and please so I try to be practical. Last week Michelle asked about making these. I usually don't have time to fulfill recipe requests but these are one of my favorite dumplings that my mom taught me how to make. If you’re not Vietnamese, you may not know about banh gio (“baan zaw” or “baan yaw”). When I... Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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At a party a few weeks ago, I was introduced to Ricardo Cervantes, the CEO and founder of La Monarca, a small chain of Mexican bakeries in the Los Angeles area. I revealed to him that I’m somewhat obsessed with bolillo rolls because they’re great for banh mi. He was not fully familiar with banh mi so I described them as la torta Vietnamita. Does La Monarca make and sell bolillo rolls? Yes, Ricardo said. Then just add mayonesa, jugo de Maggi, carne, escabeche, jalapeño, pepino, y cilantro. We giggle and he asked what kind of carne should they use. Many kinds of meat would work. I’ve made banh mi with carnitas and carne asada. Since Mexicans also share a love of leche condensada, make... Continue reading
Posted Apr 28, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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Buying Asian ingredients can be a challenging experience. You have to negotiate foreign languages, poor and/or awkward English translations, labels that look nearly identical to find something that will work for your cooking needs. Between my family and friends, we’re always discussing what to buy. My parents often send oddball stories from Vietnam about dishonest food product manufacturing. Skepticism abounds but I always manage to keep moving forward. A couple weeks ago on the Chinese beef and black pepper stir-fry recipe, Biki wrote,“I'd like to have your opinion on the safety of food items from China please. One hears so many contradictory information that I'm afraid to buy any food with a Made in China label.” Funny Biki should ask because I was thinking about... Continue reading
Posted Apr 21, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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I haven’t baked a coffee cake in years but over the past four days, I’ve baked this apple and walnut coffee cake twice. I was inspired by my mom’s steal on a bunch of black walnuts and the need for something sweet as I push through the pho cookbook copyediting process. She found them in the bargain area of her supermarket, marked down to a ridiculously low price. Black walnuts are relatively hard to find, probably because they have very hard shells that make them tough nuts to crack (ha!). Compared to regular English walnuts, black walnuts have a winey, big flavor. In raw and cooked state, they exude a remarkable fragrance. Mom gave me several bags of her black walnuts because at 55 cents... Continue reading
Posted Apr 14, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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Many cookbooks are produced to be timely and of-the-moment. They inspire people to dive into trendy dishes or a celebrity’s personal recipe collection. In the publishing world, those are categorized as “frontlist” works that sell well upon release. Then there are “backlist” cookbooks that are crafted to stick around for years and sell steadily. Some cookbooks may straddle both categories if they’re constructed well. I’m a fan of both but my shelves tend to favor backlist books that I intend to keep forever. Kian Lam Kho’s Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees is a backlist book that’s written and designed to inform you on a lifetime’s worth of Chinese cooking. It’s gentle and quiet, like Kian is in person. There is a ton of information to... Continue reading
Posted Apr 7, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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Last month I spied a sweetened condense milk recipe embedded in a Food & Wine magazine recipe for lemon meringue pie. It was a chef recipe and I decided to give it a try. It was simply whole (full fat) milk and sugar with a touch of vanilla plus a lot of time — about 2 hours of slow cooking on the stove. I wondered if it would be worth the trouble. Would it make my Vietnamese coffee sing brilliantly? Since I mostly drink soy milk, I ‘borrowed’ some of my husband’s Whole Foods organic milk and made a batch while we read the Sunday New York Times. The F&W recipe called for less sugar than my prior attempt at DIY sweetened condensed milk. This... Continue reading
Posted Mar 28, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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It’s not like I have a huge amount of time right now (we’re gearing up for The Pho Cookbook photo shoot) but it suddenly dawned upon me that seaweed could possibility be used to make a faux fish sauce. Our recent discussion on Facebook about umami-laden Shitake mushroom seasoning granules (bot nam dong co in Vietnamese) also got me thinking about making non-fish fish sauce. As a result, I spent about 36 hours seeing if I could make a fishless fish sauce and what we may learn from my experience. There are vegetarian fish sauces sold at Viet markets. I’ve only tried one brand and it was a long time ago. It was lacking in dimension. Since then, I’ve come up with workarounds in my... Continue reading
Posted Mar 17, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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One of my best friends in junior high and high school was a kid named Greg Cohen. He was a water polo player, not much of a food person, but one day he skipped school and talked his mom into making latkes with him. He brought them to class and we gobbled them up. That was the first Jewish food I tasted. Aside from occasionally eating at Jewish delis and one time working a Passover catering event with my friend Kathy, I know very little about Jewish foodways. I’ve seen the Kosher symbol on food products but never paid them too much attention. But a couple years ago, when visiting Cuong Pham at his Red Boat facilities on Phu Quoc island, he told me about... Continue reading
Posted Mar 9, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to share this cookie recipe with you. It’s been a favorite of mine for many years. The recipe comes from the China Moon cookbook by the late Barbara Tropp, a Bay Area chef and restaurateur who also spoke Mandarin Chinese. She was one of the leading voices and scholars on Chinese cooking, author of The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking (which I own 2 copies of). Tropp knew traditional techniques and explained Chinese ingredients super well. She also created modern dishes for her restaurant, China Moon, that were really doable for home cooks. She was funny and friendly too, calling me one time after I sent her a thank you note. Food was fun to her,... Continue reading
Posted Mar 3, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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One of the most overlooked part of a cookbook is the section of sauces and seasonings. It’s often placed in the back with few or no photos, in a chapter that’s unceremoniously titled “Sauces” or “Basics”. If you’re a cookbook reader who only goes for recipes with pretty pictures, you’re likely missing out on a treasure trove of secret recipes. I always look at that section of the book because that’s where a cookbook writer or chef stores key and oft-used recipes that they rely upon. It’s not a discard section of the book but rather chock full of ideas and techniques that will help you master the recipes in the book and perhaps use to tweak your regular repertoire. That’s how I ended up... Continue reading
Posted Feb 25, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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When I’m far from my favorite Asian snack shops, I make the noshes myself. Last week on Lunar New Year, I took the day off and tinkered in the kitchen, preparing traditional Viet eats and these northern Chinese dumplings. I was replicating panfried savory pastries that we’d enjoyed at the Beijing Pie House in the San Gabriel Valley, a mega-hub for excellent Chinese food in America located east of Los Angeles. Since it’s a good 6-hour drive from my house to the café, I figured I should make the meat pies! These kinds of filled pastries are called xian bing (“she-ann bing”) in Mandarin Chinese. Bing is the Chinese term for a broad category of cakes, dumplings, and other doughstuffs – much like the term... Continue reading
Posted Feb 17, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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Stephanie emailed weeks ago seeking advice on how to plan her upcoming wedding party menu. She’s marrying a Vietnamese person and had several of my books. Rory and I got married years ago so I didn’t know whether or not what we did was appropriate for 2016. This morning, I pulled out our two wedding scrapbooks (noticed the "scrap book" misspelling), took a stroll down memory lane, and responded to Stephanie. Rory and I began dating in 1989 and when he officially asked for my hand in marriage several years later, he had to do it in front of my parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews. It wasn’t an intimate man-to-man discussion. There was a video camera rolling. My dad made a speech (my dad... Continue reading
Posted Feb 11, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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A couple of weekends ago while I was still fuzzy from having just finished the pho cookbook manuscript, I received an urgent email from Barbara in Florida. She was embarking on a Vietnamese cooking adventure and needed help. Barbara was about to make banh chung, square shaped sticky rice cakes that are a must-have food for Vietnamese Tet Lunar New Year. The cakes require just a handful of ingredients but they come together in an ingenious fashion to not just look beautiful (think a low square box wrapped in banana and bamboo leaves) but also taste magnificent (fatty pork, buttery mung beans, and sticky rice flavored by the chlorophyll brightness of the leaves). Barbara is not Vietnamese (you don’t have to be Viet too cook... Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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The first dumplings I ever made were wontons. I reckon that there were also among the first dumplings that I ate too. Wontons are Chinese in origin and they are super popular in the Vietnamese kitchen, where they’re called hoanh thanh. My family often fried them for a party appetizer. My mom makes wontons in broth for my nieces and nephews. I like to fry wontons for a TGIF snack with drinks to celebrate the end of the week. Wontons seeded my love and appreciation for Asian dumplings. I didn’t participate in afternoon sports or other activities because they were costly and foreign to my parents. Instead I did homework, watched TV, and learned to sew, knit, crochet, and cook. Among the domestic skills, cooking... Continue reading
Posted Jan 26, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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I turned in the first draft of the Pho Cookbook last Sunday and then went on a business trip to Las Vegas. Things have been fuzzy this week but the fact that the book is in process (it won't be out for good year because that's how long things take), it's time for celebration. Something easy and fun is in order and I thought of crab Rangoon. Despite its name, crab Rangoon has little to do with Burma and Asia itself. However, many people love the fun, crispy deep-fried wontons filled with cream cheese. Most of what we’ve tasted inside the Chinese restaurant version of these wontons is unfortunately cream cheese. As a lactose-intolerant Asian, I’m disappointed by such a fried morsel. Where’s the crabbiness?... Continue reading
Posted Jan 22, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen