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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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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 3 days ago 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 6 days ago 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
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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 Feb 22, 2015 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