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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
There is so much food made during the holidays that I always plan on re-purposing leftovers before the meal is ever set on the table. My family does not eat turkey at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Instead we roast chickens, ducks, game hens, or pork and serve them with Vietnamese and American sides. There’s usually a sticky rice stuffing similar to this one. We roast sweet potatoes or winter squash. Green beans or Brussels sprouts are simply treated, boiled and quickly sauteed or stir-fried. There is a lot of prepping that goes on and the table groans with food. In the days following the meal, leftovers are naturally the stars. Reheating and repeating the holiday meal can only happen so many times so I turn to... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Viet World Kitchen
There is a lot to eat on the streets of Vietnam but one can’t eat standing up or on the sidewalk and in alleyways for every meal of the day. When I’m traveling in Vietnam, I need the occasional restaurant meal. That’s to say, in an establishment with printed menus and a trained wait staff. Customers usually have to walk through an actual door. There’s likely air conditioning and the furniture is not all plastic tables and baby chairs or stools. (If I had my druthers, I’d eat home cooked meals while traveling too, but that is a random occurrence. ) Gail emailed asking for restaurant and cafe recommendations from my October trip to Vietnam. Her brother is visiting next month so I thought I’d... Continue reading
Posted Nov 18, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
I cannot remember when I last ordered kung pao anything at a restaurant. I gave up on it because the restaurant-style sauce was either super sweet or indistinct and there were often few peanuts. Peanuts are cheap and I’ve not known why some restaurants skimp or skip it. I love the peanuts in kung pao because they offer texture and richness. The ideal kung pao sauce is hearty, spicy, tangy. A well-made kung pao stir-fry is serious tasting food – with blistered dried chiles and numbing Sichuan peppercorns. What I’ve described is the kung pao stir-fry that I make at home. It’s not rocket science and I typically use chicken. While I was in Vietnam, Rory decided to eat less animal protein, shunning his weekly... Continue reading
Posted Nov 11, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
My recent trip to Vietnam was to check in with Red Boat fish sauce on Phu Quoc island and go on a little pho expedition for the book. But along the way, my travel buddy and stylist Karen Shinto and I could not help but take part in the local banh mi scene. I posted some photos along the way on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter but here’s a more thorough recap of what we tried and learned. Do you want to eat banh mi inside at a cafe or at the hotel breakfast buffet or do you want to hit the street? I sampled all options to see. If you’re starting out with Viet food or just starting out your day, it’s fun to compose... Continue reading
Posted Nov 3, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
A good recipe should stand the test of time. This one is from the November 1973 issue of Sunset magazine. I receive the issue after going to a special luncheon at Sunset to honor the incredible career of its storied food editor, Jerry Anne Di Vecchio. She had created the position and held it for 50 years, impacting what people all over the western United States cooked. The magazine informed and inspired cooks to develop a multicultural perspective on food because there was diversity in the American West. Sunset ran a lot of Asian recipes. Asian have historically settled in large numbers in the region and cultural ties across the Pacific run deep. On staff at Sunset for decades was Linda Lau Anusasanan, who eventually... Continue reading
Posted Oct 27, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches were created out of a fusion of ideas from East and West. The sandwich is a delectable marriage, which is why I was extra smitten when Mike Sula emailed to tell me about a cevapcici (“say-vahp-chee-chee”) banh mi. Mike had reported on the sandwich for Chicago’s Reader. He had the nu-wave banh mi at the Sunset Cafe. Cevapcici banh mi is the creation of the cafe’s owner, Ngoc Diep Stakic. She was born in Saigon and is married to Zel, a realtor originally from Rijeka, Croatia. Zel was showing a restaurant space when Ngoc’s entrepreneurial spirit kicked in and she said she wanted the space. The birth of cevapcici banh mi was bound to happen. Ngoc also cevapcici cha gio, Mike... Continue reading
Posted Oct 21, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
My husband recently told me that he wanted to eat gobo (burdock) root. Would I make some? It’s suppose to be great for an alkaline-acid diet, which balances your body. Rory has been getting into that lately. I love root vegetables and have been wanting a good excuse to try the gobo sold at Asian markets. The roots are long, large, and if you’re not familiar with them, oddly woody. They are mostly associated with Japanese cooking, though the ones at Mitsuwa market are from Taiwan. They are a lot bigger and lighter in color than ones I’ve seen sold at my farmers’ market. The bigger ones are easier to deal with. Burdock tastes like and earthy and dry version of parsnip. The slender root... Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
It’s one thing for the kitchen to smell wonderful when eggplants are roasting on the stove, where they take on a terrific smokiness as they char and cook. But when the soft, sweet flesh is fried, the kitchen smells heavenly. I had that discovery last week when I ended up roasting a bunch of eggplants. After making Indian baigan bharta and eating it Vietnamese style with scallion oil and fish sauce, there was still eggplant leftover. I’d pulled the flesh apart to let it drain and it dawned upon me that the eggplant pieces had the shape and texture of raw oysters, which got me thinking about frying them for a vegetarian oyster po’boy banh mi. Usually I use cornmeal and corn flour but there... Continue reading
Posted Oct 7, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
With all the ripe chiles coming to market now, buy a bunch to make homemade hot sauce(s). Prepare a large batch and divide it up, perhaps as holiday gifts! A few pointers and then a number of recipes on the site for you to try. I recently wrote about the varying degrees of heat in chile peppers. Don’t let that discourage your tinkering. If you cannot find hot red ones, use hot green chiles. Or, combine some hot green ones with not-so-hot red ones. Chile blend! The color may not be solid red or orange-red but you will have concocted a zippy condiment. When cutting the chiles, I don’t wear gloves. (With all the chiles I use, I’d waste a lot of gloves.) Instead, I... Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
Today is the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, a harvest festival celebrated in China, Vietnam and other countries influenced by Chinese culture. It's called Tet Trung Thu in Vietnamese, Zhong Qiu Jie in Mandarin. The moon should be huge and bright tonight. Hopefully the sky's clear so you can check it out. (We're overcast right now in Santa Cruz.) When I was young and still living in Vietnam, we paraded around with cheerful lanterns; they were made of cellophane and light wood and would burn easily, which somehow thrilled us in a strange way. On the eating front, after dinner, my family nibbled on small wedges of moon cakes and sipped tea. Moon cakes are a Chinese specialty made of a thin pastry containing an endless variety... Continue reading
Posted Sep 27, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
I’ve had a strange problem this year with sourcing chiles with consistent heat. Sometimes they’re fiery, other times they’re meh. There are also times when the chiles –- jalapenos and Fresnos, taste like regular bell peppers. Thai chiles –-homegrown and purchase from farmers’ markets, may excite the palate or fall flat. Serranos are consistently hot but can be one-note if that’s all you use. I deploy chiles in stir-fries, tuck them into banh mi, and drop them into hot bowls of pho noodle soup. They go into salsas, guacamole and other non-Asian dishes that we regularly eat. You expect some fruity heat but when there’s none, it can rob a dish of an element of surprise. My interest in chiles isn’t because I’m a chile... Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
One of the enduring conversations among Viet cooks focuses on this topic: How do you fry cha gio well? If you’re unfamiliar with these delicious rolls, they are a super popular that you’d find at parties, restaurants, nosh sessions. They are a good time, celebration food. They’re often filled with a sparkly mixture of bean thread (cellophane) noodles and seafood and pork, and there are vegetarian options too. Cha gio originated in Saigon, and their old school name is cha gio Sai Gon. Nowadays in Vietnam, the rolls also go by nem ran, a term favored in Hanoi. Adding to the name confusion is the fact that in English, some Viet-Americans call them “Vietnamese eggrolls” though they are not made with Cantonese eggroll skins. Imperial... Continue reading
Posted Sep 16, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
“It may be blazing hot but that shouldn’t stop you from deep-frying,” is what I said to myself a few days ago when I decided to make one of my favorite Cantonese dishes. Yes, it was hot in Santa Cruz – in the high 80s inside our house. We wanted to go out to eat but our local Asian options are limited and frankly, not very good. On the other hand, we have amazing ingredients, thanks to Santa Cruz County’s agricultural wealth. Our farmer’s markets are flushed with ripe peppers these days. I’m not talking regular bell peppers, but Hatch, Jimmy Nardello, Fresno, Jalapenos, Serranos, Thai, Pasilla, Shishito, Padron, and rarities such as Espelette. Tomatoes – from crazy looking heirlooms to candy-like dry-farmed fruits, are... Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
August was National Sandwich Month but I didn’t really think about them until September. It may have been because the pho cookbook had me fixated on rice noodles all summer. Now that I’ve met a major benchmark in writing the manuscript and Rory has started a new semester of teaching, I have time and motivation to wander back to banh mi. I baked a batch of bread last week and put them in the freezer. While I was thinking of back-to-school banh mi, Traca and Tim – both from Seattle coincidentally with names that begin with the letter “T”(!), pinged me about banh mi party tips. Since The Banh Mi Handbook came out last year, I’ve been making a lot of sandwiches for casual and... Continue reading
Posted Sep 8, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
Asian sweets don’t get enough appreciation. To the unfamiliar, they’re offbeat and perhaps texturally challenging. That has never stopped me from trying them, but I’ve watched many people pause and look quizzically at a bowl of Vietnamese che sweet soup loaded with beans, tapioca worms and coconut milk. I suppose that’s why many Asian cookbooks have limited dessert chapters or none at all. I’m sensitive to the Asian sweets thing when I write cookbooks and choose my recipes wisely. My friend Christopher Tan celebrates many Asian sweets in his latest cookbook, Nerdbaker. The book published in Singapore by Epigram Books is sadly not available in the U.S.; I reviewed the book to write a jacket endorsement and at that time, I was enamored with the... Continue reading
Posted Sep 1, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
I am guilty of spending too much time in the condiment aisle at Asian markets. In fact, my husband told me he was going to Target while I perused Shun Fat (Thuan Phat) market in Garden Grove’s Little Saigon. It’s part of a chain of mega Vietnamese-Chinese markets in California, Nevada and Texas. The condiment aisle is long and filled with a vast array of Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, and a few Japanese ingredients. I’ve been to this market many times and always look at the fish sauce first. On this trip, I bought a new brand I’d never seen before from Vietnam. The surprises had to do with Maggi Seasoning sauce, a popular cult condiment. What I found were a Nestle version produced in Vietnam(!)... Continue reading
Posted Aug 27, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
You can thank my husband Rory for this article. I was gone from the house for a couple days last week for work and when I returned home, Rory reported that he’d seen a Gulf shrimp sale at the market. “They’re the big, tasty ones you like. They’re $12.99 a pound till Sunday,” he added. I was sold. We don’t eat as much shrimp as we used to because they’re not as good as they used to be, may not be responsibly procured, and the delicious ones are relatively expensive. As a result, we consume fewer of them, which in the scheme of things, is a good thing. To my best ability, I try to choose sustainable shrimp. I also avoid easy-peel shrimp that are... Continue reading
Posted Aug 25, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
It had been over fifteen years since I’d talked to my cousin Solange. Our last conversation was basic, full of minimal niceties exchanged at her wedding which included ballroom dancers, videographers, and tables weighed down by Chinese food and bottles of 7-Up and Martell (prime Viet wedding beverages to be mixed into an unusual tea of sorts). Last Sunday’s event was rather somber, her father’s giỗ -- an annual memorial gathering to commemorate a family member’s death. Her dad was my father’s older brother and my parents asked us to attend with them to show our respects. Among the first things out of Solange’s mouth was praise for my cookbooks. She said that Into the Vietnamese Kitchen had made her a god cook. (Her mom,... Continue reading
Posted Aug 19, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
After many days of rice noodles and pho recipe write, I decided to bake bread for homemade banh mi. It was early, around 8am, when I started, and for some reason, I decided to go rogue and tinker with my tried-and-true banh mi roll recipe, the one that I’d worked on for three months for The Banh Mi Handbook. The tinkering had to do with using an industrial leavening: dough improver, or rather, mejorante para pan. It’s a powdery substance that cookbook author Kate Leahy got for me by way of her aunt, who lives in Mexico and brought it to the U.S. for me. Kate’s a good friend and curious cook. I’d not used the mejorante para pan in a couple of years so... Continue reading
Posted Aug 12, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
Every summer, I make sure to eat my fill of watermelon. It’s a perfect warm weather fruit – refreshing and thirst quenching. I used to spit out the seeds but with both seeded and seedless watermelons, I’ve become accustomed to chewing and swallowing the seeds. Once in a while, my husband and I eat watermelon standing over the kitchen sink so we can spit the seeds into the sink; it’s a vague reminder of our watermelon seed spitting contests when we were first dating. As much as eating watermelon is part of my summer ritual, so is picking one out. It’s a hit and miss with whole ones because you can’t see the flesh inside. For years, we bought cut wedges of watermelon, but that... Continue reading
Posted Aug 5, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
Yesterday was my mom’s birthday. She turned 80 or 81, depending on how you count the years. In the evening, I took a break from making dinner to call her up to wish her happy birthday. “Why are you calling? You already sent a card and gift,” she said. “I read that it’s better to eat dinner around 6pm so you can digest better. You should be cooking and eating dinner now. You and Rory eat tend to eat late.” “But we also stay up late and wake up late,” I said. Moms can be hard to please and over the years, I’ve come to realize that simple things tickle mine the most. She loves sentimental-but-not-sappy cards. My mom isn’t a totally Hallmark-card kind of... Continue reading
Posted Jul 29, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
I made a peanut noodle salad for a potluck luncheon last Saturday and ended up with about a pound leftover cilantro. There were a lot of stems with little root portions attached and immediately, my mind went to something Thai. In particular, this spicy mixture which I’ve been making since the early 1990s. The original recipe came from Nancie McDermott’s handy Real Thai cookbook. There’s no chile because as Nancie wrote, this is an old style seasoning mixture that the Thais used in cooking before chiles arrived in Southeast Asia. The heat came from peppercorns and garlic. Everything was pounded in a mortar and pestle until smooth. This week, decided to use both kinds of peppercorns and add coriander seed. I took the lazy day... Continue reading
Posted Jul 22, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
There was a hamburger-bun size piece of all-butter pastry dough leftover from the lattice top strawberry pie that I baked last weekend. My initial plan was to roll it out, cut it into thin sticks, brush with milk and sprinkle it with sugar and bake into crisp cookies. I couldn’t commit so I put the pie dough into the freezer. Last night, we had friends over for dinner and I needed a fast and easy dessert that was also kind of special. I thawed the pie dough for a galette – a freeform filled crusty cake. It doesn’t require a pie pan and even if you don’t get things right, it’ll still look charming. Galettes are also a great way to use up pie dough.... Continue reading
Posted Jul 16, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
It started when my husband spotted the strawberry sale: a kilo container of organic Driscoll’s strawberries. Driscoll’s is a large, national concern that happens to farm strawberries in our locality. “You normally pay $4 for one basket of berries at the farmer’s market,” Rory said. “Why not give these a try. The price is the same.” Friends were coming for dinner on Saturday night and my first inclination was to make strawberry shortcake. But on Saturday morning, I tasted the berries in my breakfast muesli and they had great aroma but meh flavor. Shortcake was not going use up 2 pounds of berries. It would have to be a pie, but I’d not baked a pie in at least 20 years. I used to make... Continue reading
Posted Jul 14, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
The middle of the week is often an obstacle for people, “hump day”, toughest day to get through. I totally understand but today was the opposite. It’s been incredible. A couple of weeks ago, New York Times reporter Kim Severson called to ask about the drought, if I’d done anything to change my cooking habits. The City of Santa Cruz where I live has one of the best rates of water conservation in California. It's because we're on our own local water supply. We chatted, then she asked if she could come to the house with a photographer. Of course! The result of our conversation and her morning in my kitchen serve as the bookends to today's remarkable story in the New York Times. Kim... Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen