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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
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 yesterday at Viet World Kitchen
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
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
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
Book designer Betsy Stromberg at Ten Speed Press has worked nearly all of my cookbooks. She’s the quiet type but fierce in her creativity. She’s craft-oriented too. Over the years, Betsy has asked me a couple of questions about char siu bao, steamed Cantonese buns filled with barbecue pork. Their a personal favorite, she’s told me. As a book designer, Betsy examines an author’s manuscript and figures out how to present it in a manner that informs and inspires. She has to pay attention to the recipe details themselves because she goes into the files and manipulates design elements to help things stand out. We collaborate on art direction and she’s present at the photo shoots. She goes the extra mile for me too. For... Continue reading
Posted Jan 13, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
Gearing up for Chinese New Year, which falls on February 8, I’ve been fielding emails about dumpling making. If you need insights or refresher on how to roll out dumpling wrappers from scratch or fold dumplings, I have video tutorials to assist you. They were made several years ago to go with my book, Asian Dumplings, published in 2009. When I set out to write that cookbook, I didn’t know if people would be into taking a from-scratch approach to filling, shaping and cooking pot stickers. They are and they’re happier eaters for it! Nothing has changed since 2009 since the techniques have been around for centuries. Dumplings are easy to make from scratch. As I recently wrote to a recipe tester, “Aim to get... Continue reading
Posted Jan 6, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
In the 1990s, when Rory and I were not yet married and living in a rent-controlled apartment in Santa Monica, CA, we drank a lot of inexpensive liquor from Trader Joe’s. When the store’s supply of a favorite tangerine aquavit ran out, I decided to make my own by infusing vodka. We had some lemons purchased very inexpensively from a nearby Middle Eastern market and a bottle of vodka from where else but Trader Joe’s. I used a vegetable peeler to obtain strips of lemon peel and then dropped them in the vodka bottle. We went out for an hour-long walk and upon our return home, the vodka was pale yellow and eventually, it turned practically florescent yellow with a nice lemony flavor. I can't... Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
I was deep in the details of my pho manuscript last Sunday when my phone flashed an email of cookie panic from Wesley. He had gathered all the ingredients for Belinda’s amazing almond cookies and was ready to go when he noticed that I had some incorrect metric measurements. He was about to proceed until I clarified and confirmed the ingredient list. Ai-ya, some big goofs were made when I published the recipe and tried to be helpful with metric measurements but was working too fast. I took a break from my work and checked the recipe, making edits where appropriate. Wesley went forward to make his cookies. That got me thinking about a lovely holiday cookie platter with just 3 delicious, easy items of... Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
After reading my recent post on eating street food in Hanoi, Jessica Cym asked a pointed, very practical question: “We are going to VN during Christmas. Can't wait!!! Andrea, do you have any tips on handling street food so we won't get the runs?” I’ve had my fair share of traveler’s diarrhea but over the years, don’t have a bulletproof answer. Before a trip, I make sure that my immune system is strong. The flights are long and I make sure to get some amount of sleep on the plane via ear plugs, Sleepy Time or valerian tea, and an awesome travel pillow. On the ground, I fortify myself with Citricidal, Airborne, and my regular daily multivitamin. I carry Tums and Pepto-Bismol. On this trip,... Continue reading
Posted Dec 16, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
What to do when life hands you an extremely large quantity of leafy greens? Cook them up to arrest them at their peak and then enjoy them over the course of many days. That was my situation last weekend. We’d just done a photo shoot for the Unforgettable biographical cookbook project on Paula Wolfert. The shoot focus was her 1995 book, Grains and Greens. I bought a bunch of gorgeous, locally-grown organic greens so that photographer Eric Wolfinger would have lots to consider for his photo compositions. Plus, Emily Thelin couldn’t find decent red Russian kale at her local grocers. Needless to say, I came home with a lot of vegetables. On Saturday, cooked up the melange of greens, which included several kinds of kale,... Continue reading
Posted Dec 9, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
When Karen Shinto and I arrived in Hanoi, it was close to noon. After the hour or so ride to our hotel in the Old Quarter, we were famished for lunch. By the time we got into our room it was around 1:30pm. I was somewhat skeptical about finding a good lunch because people take early lunches in Vietnam and it’s easy to get lost in the Old Quarter. The streets are crowded, laid out like a maze, and their names change every few blocks. I had visions of us getting lost and being hangry. Karen had been to Hanoi before, right before she styled my first cookbook, Into the Vietnamese Kitchen. She hadn’t been back since 2005 and was eager to go with me.... Continue reading
Posted Dec 3, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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 Nov 24, 2015 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