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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
A couple weeks before the book launch, one of my favorite writers called and asked if I wanted to go on a banh mi expedition to address these questions: What makes good banh mi? Why is it beloved? Of course! I’ve long admired Jonathan Kauffman’s elegant and thoughful food reporting and was happy to learn that he’d recently joined the San Francisco Chronicle as a staff writer. We’d chatted about tofu culture and a bunch of other things so the thought of hunting down delicious banh mi was not work. It was my kind of dectective work. We spent most of the Monday before the book released sampling banh mi in San Francisco and Oakland, tasting about a dozen (12!) total. They ranged from the... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Viet World Kitchen
My one and only restaurant cooking job was at City Restaurant in Los Angeles. I was a line cook assigned to the pantry station. It was 1992 and I’d never worked in a restaurant before but Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger hired me. My parents were scratching their heads, asking why I wanted to work for $6 an hour after earning a bachelor’s degree in finance and going to school in Hong Kong on a fellowship. Well, after about 3 months at the restaurant working 8-hour evening shifts, I realized that it was the most physical and unglamorous work. I loved it but preferred researching, cooking in my own kitchen, and writing. I gained the utmost respect for restaurant cooks, dishwashers and the front... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Viet World Kitchen
When cookbook authors do book talks, we can’t just read from our works. (You really don’t want me to read my recipes aloud unless I take on a truly sarcastic tone.) There’s usually food involved, a light nibble to allow people to sample the contents of the cookbook. For last night’s banh mi launch party at Omnivore Books, we threw a party. We expected around 75 people and a crowd of about 100 people showed up. I’m not restaurant chef with a staff who can make sandwiches on the spot. Banh mi don’t taste good if they’ve been sitting around for too long. Given that, my strategy for feeding folks was to offer a banh mi bar – a self-serve buffet in which guests got... Continue reading
Posted Jul 15, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
The response to the new book has been fabulous, more than I expected actually. Banh mi buzz and fervor, as my friend and cookbook author Elizabeth Andoh emailed, can be felt all the way in Tokyo where she lives! Along with media inquiries, I’ve been fielding reader questions from folks who’d received and perused their pre-ordered copies of The Banh Mi Handbook. They asked terrific questions that I wanted to share with you. Maybe you’re wondering about the same stuff. In some cases below, I expanded on my original answer. @SMTucker asked about pate: “Book arrived today...... LOVE that there is a bread formula. Less thrilled with the two pate options. If I want a complex pate, should I make a standard French pate de... Continue reading
Posted Jul 10, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
Seems like the banh mi bubble was about to burst leading up to today. For those of you who pre-ordered the book online, Amazon, et al were likely pinging you with email notices that the book was on its way. Some folks received their physical copies today while others will have to wait a teeny tiny bit. Robin said on Facebook that her e-Book order got “filled” with a Kindle download. Bay Area friends are looking forward to the launch party next Monday at Omnivore Books. (Oddly and awesomely – yesterday food writer and activist Mark Bittman gave Asian Tofu a shout out in the New York Times story entitled “Giving Tofu the New Look It Deserves.” Public comments reflect how far little tofu has... Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
Whenever I explore the streets of Vietnam and Little Saigon neighborhoods, a thousand tasty snacks beckon. Sticky rice with coconut, tropical fruit smoothies, and deep-fried dumplings vie for my attention, but I inevitably give in to an itinerant banh mi vendor with his or her wares beautifully displayed or a bustling Vietnamese bakery or deli advertising the sandwiches. I step up to the cart or counter and say, “Mot o banh mi dac biet” to order one sandwich with the works. The dac biet originated in and around Saigon, the city where I was born. Friends of my father recall seeing the dac biet around the early 1940s in Saigon. It was a delicous, exciting street food to them back then as it is to... Continue reading
Posted Jul 3, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
I spotted what looked like the last bunch of lemon basil at the farmers’s market and knew that it had my name on it. There was none at the Hmong stall, where I usually find it alongside holy basil and Thai basil. This lonesome bunch was at Coke Farms, owned by 70 or 80 somethings Tom and Laurie Coke. I grabbed it and as I was paying, a Middle Eastern woman asked if there was more. “No, this is the last one,” the Coke's assistant said. I’d seen her before at the market and we’d even exchanged cooking tips. I said I was sorry to ave snatched the last one. “Enjoy it,” she responded with a smile. We both knew the treasure that I’d purchased.... Continue reading
Posted Jul 1, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
I just returned from a trip to Southern California to visit my parents (Dad’s recovering well from having 2 stents put in last Thursday), check in with a few friends, and do ground work for banh mi-related events. In the pile of mail that we sorted through was the July issue of Cooking Light magazine. Holy moly, in the monthly cookbook picks, the editors published this short-and-sweet shout out to The Banh Mi Handbook: "Lots of tasty riffs on the meaty, pickly, crunchy, saucy, spicy Vietnamese sandwich." The book's placement at the top of the list was the icing on the cake. Totally awesome. Cooking Light is one of my favorite magazines because it offers balanced approaches to healthful eating and lifestyles. The publication isn’t... Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
I typically love leftovers but there’s one kind of leftover I dread: grilled fish. There’s something that happens to the fish oils when grilled fish is left to sit overnight in the fridge. It’s extremely tanh tanh – Vietnamese for fishy in a smelly way. Yes, that from someone who enjoys fermented seafood products. Whenever I plan on grilling fish, I try to buy the amount we’ll eat in one meal to avoid leftovers. Last week, we ended up with 6 ounces of grilled sockeye salmon. Dinner included a pasta with basil pesto and we found ourselves gobbling up the carbs and not all of the protein. My husband looked at the salmon, which we got for a “steal” at $14.99 a pound, and said,... Continue reading
Posted Jun 24, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
Come 5pm, it’s time for a drinkie in our home. Most days it’s a glass of wine but last Tuesday, I was looking at the sprigs of lemon basil on the counter and thought of making a drink. My friend and beverage maestro, Jeff Bareilles, was over the night before to tinker with banh mi-inspired cocktails for the upcoming book launch party. Jeff has a way with crafting cocktails from an ingredient up – not from the booze itself, but from an aromatic, fruit, condiment etc. Most bartenders let the spirits drive the cocktail, but Jeff lets other elements direct the cocktail. He adds the liquor to complement the featured ingredient. I’m not a mixologist but I had the lemon basil and thought of rum... Continue reading
Posted Jun 19, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
Woohoo! The Wall Street Journal included the banh mi book in its “Off Duty” round up of 50 reasons to love the road trip. The Banh Mi Handbook was listed as number 17 with this short-and-sweet review: The banh mi sandwich is itself the product of many miles traveled: the crusty bread brought to Vietnam by French colonists, filled with all the bright, hot, fresh, meaty, intensely tasty elements of the local cuisine. This delicious cultural collision is the subject of "The Banh Mi Handbook: Recipes for Crazy-Delicious Vietnamese Sandwiches" by Andrea Nguyen. Out July 8 from Ten Speed Press, it's a master course in banh mi construction, from the bread to the pickles and condiments to every imaginable filling, whether it's pork meatballs or... Continue reading
Posted Jun 16, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad these days. Not just because Father’s Day is coming up. “Bo Gia” (Old Daddy in Vietnamese) taught me to drink at too young of an age, a relative said, warning my parents that at 8 years old, I was on the path to becoming an alcoholic. (Ha! Dad watered down most stuff he handed to me.) He let me pal around with him when I was a kid, and together we explored Southern California in our blue Mercury Comet, which he purchased soon after our family arrived in America in 1975. It was used and cost around $350. Bo Gia got me thinking big time about baguettes in around the early 80s when we came across a... Continue reading
Posted Jun 12, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
Here are two staples that I use for making dumplings and Vietnamese food: wheat starch and rice paper. I employ the former for dim sum such as har gow and the latter for hand rolls or fried cha gio imperial rolls. I suffer allergies but not many food-related ones so I've not thought much about cross-contamination issues in the manufacturing process. Back in February, Mikhaela prompted me to think a little harder about them. I didn't have answers to her questions until today. Even so, I don’t have totally solid answers. Maybe you can help fill in the holes? Jump to the original April 2014 post to read her email and my response. Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2014 at Asian Dumpling Tips
Friends and banh mi buddies, my publisher Ten Speed Press and I are partnering up with Red Boat Fish Sauce on several exciting events for The Banh Mi Handbook. Red Boat owner Cuong Pham and I have been talking about doing fun stuff together to spread the word about the book and Vietnamese food and cooking. Ten Speed Press had no problems joining the party and being part of Team Banh Mi! We’re all very excited about the book and hope to get you cooking, eating and creating fabulous Vietnamese sandwiches. First up is a pre-order giveaway – a special “Thank YOU!” gift for 500 people who’ve expressed their banh mi love in advance of the book’s release on July 8. The giveaway includes a... Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
The butcher shop had some remarkably nice looking chicken leg quarters yesterday. They were on the small side and reminded me of legs on scrappy, tasty chickens in Asia. I bought four of them with the intention of making Thai grilled chicken – a payoff from cleaning the grill last week. There’s a nice gai yang recipe on VWK but I wanted to see what Leela Punyaratabandhu suggested in her new book, Simple Thai Food: Classic Recipes from the Thai Home Kitchen. You may know Leela from her popular blog, Her debut cookbook dropped several weeks ago and I was eager to cook from it. There’s English and Thai (presented in traditional and Latin/Romanized script). Leela is a linguist so I welcomed the Thai... Continue reading
Posted Jun 5, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
The McDonaldization of banh mi may be happening sooner than later and leading the charge is Yum! Brands, which owns fast food chains such as Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut. Back in April, the Los Angeles Times reported that Yum! (yes, they include the exclamation point in their name) was testing a new banh mi concept in Dallas. The global company said that it was merely in development, that they often try out new ideas. It’s their business. I wondered whether or not they were just fishing for public and social media reaction to gauge the potential for a national chain of banh mi shops. The company’s banh mi concept played a low key role in Jenn Harris’s April 8 story, which... Continue reading
Posted Jun 3, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
The other day I tried to dial back the culinary clock about 20 years to a dinner that my husband and I had at a Sri Lankan restaurant in Culver City on the Westside of Los Angeles. It was a tiny spot located in a nondescript strip mall with one lone cook, a woman who was more like a generous auntie than a restaurant owner. I can’t recall much of the meal except for a red cabbage salad, which was bright, peppery and full of crunch. I went home and recreated it the next day. We had it in our rotation of quick and vibrant vegetable side dishes for weeks. Then I shelved it, only to recently revive it this week when I wanted a... Continue reading
Posted May 29, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
I wipe down my stove several times a week but rarely do I think of cleaning my grill. It’s outside, protected by a thick cover. It’s out of sight, out of mind, until the grilling season sets in. When I photographed those chicken wings on the grill a couple weeks ago, I was frankly appalled and embarrassed at how yucky my grill was. The surfaces were sticky. Rarely do we talk about the unglamorous side of cooking – cleaning the equipment that we use. The onset of the barbecue season often entails photos of happy people gathered around a bounty of fire-licked food produced (one assumes) on a sparkling grill that looks barely used. The reality in my home is that I cook and clean... Continue reading
Posted May 27, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting story last Saturday on using white (shiro) miso as a secret ingredient in desserts. The piece was akin to the story I wrote for them on fish sauce as a stealth component in food. This time, Elizabeth Gunnison Dunn referenced Kyotofu, a New York based maker of Japanese-inflected sweets that informed and inspired her to employ miso in unconventional ways. The results were desserts with a wonderful savory-sweet edge, she said. There was a fudgy miso brownie recipe that looked terrific, and I wondered what it would be like if I substituted tofu for the bit of flour in the recipe. My logic in doing so is that in Japan, there are bakeries as well as restaurants that... Continue reading
Posted May 22, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
Meet Terry Beech, my knife man. He’s in his sixties and just loves his work. This year marks his tenth year of owning Sharp Quick, a mobile knife sharpening service in Santa Cruz. When Terry first started his business, I immediately engaged his services. The electric knife sharpener I bought in the 1990s didn’t seem to do much anymore, and I wasn’t about to hone my whetstone sharpening skills. I’d rather leave knife sharpening to a pro because my priority was chopping. Terry came to my home, parked his vintage VW van in our driveway and sharpened my blades for about several dollars each, depending on the length of the knife. The price was right but more importantly, the knives kept their edge for months.... Continue reading
Posted May 20, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
Along with the drought in California, we’ve had a mini heat wave this week. I live by the ocean and haven’t suffered as much as others who reside inland. Given that, it hasn’t been a time for cooking indoors. I was driving home from a day of business meetings and was in need of a simple dinner. There was traffic and my mind wandered to Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby’s new book, The Big-Flavor Grill: No-Marinade, No-Hassle Recipes. I received a copy not long ago when the temps were on the chilly side and had paged through the book, fantasizing about grilling season. Chris and John are grilling masters and have collaborated on nine cookbooks. The subtitle of their book seemed to scream at me... Continue reading
Posted May 15, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
I’m not a super superstitious person but when Fedex dropped off an advance copy of The Banh Mi Handbook last Thursday, I took pause. It was May 8. I turned in the manuscript on July 8, 2013. The book will be released on July 8, 2014. In numerology, the number 8 is suppose to portend good luck. You should reap what you’ve sown when the number appears. In the case of this book, there’s a lot packed into it, and I hope that readers and cooks will benefit from the contents. When I outlined the book in 2012, I was hoping to carefully insert a lot of information in a small format book. There are only 132 pages total and the book itself is roughly... Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
You may have seen this photo before on VWK or in Into the Vietnamese Kitchen. That's me in the lower left, having a bad day. That aside, I was barely six when it was taken so I hadn’t started to really cook yet. However, I’d spent time in the kitchen with my mom and our cook, who would let me do simple things like operate the hand cranked meat grinder when they made pork liver pâté for banh mi. Then they’d let me disassemble it, which is how I learned that the grinding mechanisms were heavy, cold and sharp. That was Saigon in the early 1970s and we were among the lucky few to employ a cook and own appliances like a meat grinder and... Continue reading
Posted May 8, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
My husband and I read the newspaper every day. Whenever we find a super interesting story, we read it aloud to each other. Sometimes the piece is funny, other times it contains incredible information. Last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal featured an opinion piece by Nina Teicholz, a researcher who has been investigating dietary fat and disease for years. The crux of her work is that the public has been misled about saturated fats. The prevailing negative attitude toward saturated fats is not well reasoned, the result of “personal ambition, bad research, politics, and bias,” she argues. Her piece traces some of the history behind the anti-saturated fat movement. Heart disease spiked in the 1950s and Americans wanted answers, she explains. Many people jumped on the... Continue reading
Posted May 6, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
I have a tendency of preparing a chicken supper on Sundays. Sometimes it’s a roast chicken but last weekend, I hankered for a curry that we ate in Penang, Malaysia earlier this year. It was a Sunday when we wandered into a locals only spot for a lunch of chicken curry and roti (flatbread). The male Muslim cooks were hospitable and kind; they took pride in their craft. Their curry was well spiced but light on the palate, which meant it was perfect for the slightly greasy flatbread to soak up. The meal lingered in our minds long after we left Penang. We got satisfaction a few weeks later with this chicken curry recipe published in a Saveur article by my friend Christopher Tan. He... Continue reading
Posted May 1, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen