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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
I went to the supermarket to buy a can of Spam. The canned meat section was pretty tidy except for where the Spam was. It was unruly and about half empty. I was flummoxed, not so much by the run on Spam, but by the variety of it. The last time I used Spam was in the mid-1990s, as a joke appetizer for a Spam-loving friend’s birthday: I made Spam turnovers and he and his Beverly Hills hairdresser pals loved them. Since then I’d missed out on all the changes in the world of Spam. It is nowadays super varied to smartly target different diets (low sodium or low-cal), ethnic interests (teriyaki, black pepper, and jalapeno) and porky interests (hickory/bbq or bacon). The recipes on... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Viet World Kitchen
You can sort of blame this recipe for tasty tofu latkes on Patricia L. She’d taken a couple of my cooking classes in the past and we ran into each other yesterday at the health food store. After we caught up and I told her about the classes for next year, she asked me about making latkes with potato and daikon for Hanukkah, which starts tonight. What did I think? Should she use rice flour? In the past week both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal ran stories about people switching things up for Hanukkah. Latkes were getting tweaked to create okonomi-latke (by Japanese-Jewish couple) and poutine latkes (a French-Canadian twist). Pat sensed something when she thought of using daikon radish with potato.... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Viet World Kitchen
In the middle of all the stuff that went on this week, I decided to roast a duck. (Btw, thanks for supporting the cooking class venture because one sold out in less than 36 hours and the other is a third full!) Back to the duck. If you’ve been hanging out with me on VWK long enough, you may know that I have a thing for Chinese duck. I buy it at Asian markets and make it at home. Peking, Sichuan, Cantonese duck, I’ve prepared them. For years I assumed that you could only get great whole ducks at Asian markets but lately, they’ve been sad, scrawny specimens crammed into the butcher case or frozen. I’ve tried Mary’s ducks from California but the butchering isn’t... Continue reading
Posted Dec 12, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
Do you ever have days or weeks when it seems like an amazing wealth of good things happen to you but at the same time, you can’t seem to check things off your list? That’s me since Monday. I’ve been trying to plan and my cooking class schedule for early next year and squaring things away has taken much longer than anticipated! I also had a little slip over the weekend on a dark, wet sidewalk and was moving slower than normal. Today is the first day that I woke up totally normal (look Ma, I can stand with no pain!). With early morning speed and agility, I participated in an online chat with Washington Post food writers to answer reader questions about Asian markets... Continue reading
Posted Dec 10, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
My father has always been into butter, something that I picked up from him. For Vietnamese people of Bo Gia’s generation, the benchmark brand of butter came in a stout red can with gold lettering. Buerre Bretel (bơ Bretel, “buh Bruh-tell”) was highly prized for its super rich, umami-laden flavor. In a tropical country where water buffaloes far outnumbered dairy cows, the imported French butter was considered an expensive, luxury food. If you could afford the dense, egg yolk yellow salted spread, you were living large. For villagers who may not have ever tasted the butter, the empty cans were recycled for measuring even portions of rice, according to historian Erica Peters in Appetites and Aspirations in Vietnam. After we resettled in California, my dad... Continue reading
Posted Dec 4, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
Whether or not you like to treat yourself or others to something nice for the holidays, consider these interesting items and worthy causes. Some are old and some are new. Several came out of the blue. I grouped these things according to interest. I vowed to spend more time reading fiction in 2014 and my friend Shane Mitchell mailed me a copy of Violet Kupersmith’s debut novel, The Frangipani Hotel. It’sa collection of ghost stories that take place in Vietnam and abroad. She’s a remarkable first-time author who weaves dreamy, eerie threads to reflect the nuances of Vietnamese culture. Aussie expat, chef and Hanoi Cooking Centre owner Tracey Lister has a totally below-the-radar book out on Vietnamese home cooking. Look for Real Vietnamese Cooking if... Continue reading
Posted Dec 2, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
One of the great pleasures of Thanksgiving is eating the leftovers. Sometimes the leftovers taste better to me than during the original meal itself. I don’t know if it’s because I’m not feeling as wound up or the food has aged a bit. Maybe I’ve aged a bit too. One way to savor leftovers is to simply reheat them and relive the meal. Another approach is to transform the leftovers into something else. Cue the post-Thanksgiving sandwich. A turkey Club sandwich used to be my go-to, but this year, I thought of a Thanksgiving leftovers banh mi. National Public Radio reporter Karen Bates prompted me because she had taped a banh mi story with me earlier this year and our Viet sandwich session will air... Continue reading
Posted Nov 28, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
About fifteen years ago, after moving to Santa Cruz in the Monterey Bay where there were acres upon acres of Brussels sprouts, I decided to surprise my family at the holidays with a ‘new’ vegetable. We never had them when I was growing up and my husband introduced me to them one fall long ago. I thought the small cabbage like vegetable was charming and delicious, with a hint of heat and funky sweetness. In the Monterey Bay, Brussels sprouts were sold at farmer’s markets and mounds of freshly trimmed, tight little ones were stocked at local independent markets. Surely my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews would be as charmed as I. I bought about 5 pounds of the sprouts and drove them to Southern... Continue reading
Posted Nov 25, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
A while back, someone on Twitter alerted me to a pho banh mi at Andrew Le's The Pig and The Lady in Honolulu. It was suppose to be divine, the person said. I wasn’t about to hop on a plane to Hawaii, but when I was in Los Angeles this summer, I tried the pho banh mi at Chloe Tran’s East Burough in Culver City. She served it with a side of pho broth to offer a Viet twist on an American classic. Chloe told me that the genesis of her creation was simply “Why not?” and it worked! When I ate it, I found myself not dipping the sandwich in the broth because for me, banh mi is not wet. Plus sipping on her... Continue reading
Posted Nov 20, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
Depending on your age, you may remember a time in America when there was no fish sauce at the supermarkets. That was my family’s experience in 1975, when we found ourselves cooking and eating with La Choy soy sauce. (Shudder.) Our food wasn’t quite right until we bought a car and drove to Chinatown in Los Angeles to seek fish sauce and other Viet staples. My mom recycled one of the small La Choy bottles as a fish sauce dispenser, which she still keeps on her dining table today. Nowadays you’re likely to find a bottle of Thai Tiparos in the “Asian” section of mainstream grocery stores. There are galangal and fresh turmeric at Whole Foods. That said, sourcing ingredients to make good Asian food... Continue reading
Posted Nov 18, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
One of the things that I’ve been remiss about since the banh mi book came out is the fact that I can’t do a full-blown book tour. I love to cook, chat and eat with people but book tours are expensive to finance and I mostly pay my own way. Our online conversation are terrific but some people benefit from reading and watching, attending in-person events. Since that is unlikely, here's a possible solution: a 30-minute video of a talk and cooking demonstration that I did in early October at Google headquarters in Venice Beach (Los Angeles). I was jazzed to get the invitation because I not only did I get to present one of my favorite foods, but also to set foot inside the... Continue reading
Posted Nov 13, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
Do you revisit recipes to see if you can better them? I do. It’s practically a professional obsession. My friend, veteran cookbook author Molly Stevens and I were just talking today about how our curiosity pushes us to tinker and tweak. Sometimes, however, it’s a vicious cycle and you have to know when to call it quits. Obsessions can turn into distractions. Yesterday, I took another look at a dim sum recipe that I’d worked through years ago. It’s a daikon radish cake – the pan-fried white slabs that you get at dim sum. When done right, luo bo gao has a lovely crisp outside and tender inside. When done poorly (the cook under-fries), the radish cakes are more soft than crisp. Luo bo gao is easy to make and on this attempt, I wanted to check three things: (1) Am I okay with the softer texture of using only... Continue reading
Posted Nov 11, 2014 at Asian Dumpling Tips
The weather suddenly turn gray and grim, with temperatures that bordered on making it necessary to turn the furnace on. I fought against the changing seasons by coking food that reminded me of warmer times. This morning, I thawed one of the daikon and rice cake loafs from last week. My goal was to to recreate a street food snack we had in Saigon last January. My husband and I ventured to Cholon (Chinatown) with our friends Robyn Eckhardt and David Hagerman of Eating Asia. Dave is a professional photographer and wandered off on his own. Robyn, Rory and I walked the market and picked up some cool house wares. While we waited for Dave to meet us, we took in the scene. Cholon always... Continue reading
Posted Nov 11, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
Do you revisit recipes to see if you can better them? I do. It’s practically a professional obsession. My friend, veteran cookbook author Molly Stevens and I were just talking today about how our curiosity pushes us to tinker and tweak. Sometimes, however, it’s a vicious cycle and you have to know when to call it quits. Obsessions can turn into distractions. Yesterday, I took another look at a dim sum recipe that I’d worked through years ago. It’s a daikon radish cake – the pan-fried white slabs that you get at dim sum. When done right, luo bo gao has a lovely crisp outside and tender inside. When done poorly (the cook under-fries), the radish cakes are more soft than crisp. Luo bo gao... Continue reading
Posted Nov 6, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
I suspected that I had a ‘problem’ when I recently discovered that I had an abnormally large collection of Maggi Seasoning sauce. Are you familiar with the soy sauce-like condiment that practically has cult status among the Vietnamese? The French likely introduced the European wheat-based seasoning to Vietnam, where it became a part of our cuisine (it’s practically synonymous with banh mi) and a status symbol (if you can afford the pricey imported version, you are stylin’!). Invented in the late 1880s by Swiss miller Julius Maggi (1846-1912), the inky sauce mysteriously imparts a deep meaty flavor to whatever it touches, often elevating the banal to the sublime. I grew up with it and we simply called it “MAH-ji.” (Non-Viets often pronounced it as Maggie... Continue reading
Posted Nov 4, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
I cook for a lot of reasons. Among my motivations are career, hunger, family, friends, and curiosity. When Mike Hargis (winner of the banh mi selfie contest) shared his grandma’s recipe for a southern Vietnamese classic dish of pork and eggs simmered with coconut juice, I was intrigued. Mike posted the recipe on the Viet World Kitchen Facebook page and I noticed that his maternal grandma (Ba Ngoai in Vietnamese) totally didn’t make thit heo kho trung in the traditional sense. If you have Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, the recipe on page 146 is a simple, classic approach – chunks of pork leg with fat, skin and lean, coconut water/juice, caramel sauce, fish sauce, a little sugar and boiled eggs. Some cooks like to add... Continue reading
Posted Oct 30, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
I posted this photo of fish that was destined to be steamed. My initial point was that the snapper was kissing the steamer and I needed to trim its tail. Before I snapped the photo, I arranged the fish so it would look handsome. The belly was gutted in a manner that made the fish look unpleasant had I positioned it pointing to the left. Nanette, a former resident of Japan who now lives in Hawaii, tweeted that the Japanese like their fish presented with the head pointing to the left, and that they packed their fish that way. It seemed fussy to me and during my limited time in Japan several years ago, I didn’t recall the fish heads all pointing the same direction.... Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
One of the unexpected benefits of the California drought is the best lemongrass that I’ve ever grown. The hot temperatures this year, combined with our more frequent dousing of water saved from warming up the shower produced lush stalks. I’ve been making my dad’s lemongrass tea and looking for more reasons to employ the aromatic, which is leagues better fresh from the ground than from the supermarket produce section. When Diane from Toronto emailed about a lemongrass pork sausage banh mi, I was game. Her message and photo: I enjoy reading your blog over lunch at work. It's reading about delicious food while eating delicious food. :) Your Banh Mi Selfie contest made me crave for the sandwich. So on our weekly trek to downtown... Continue reading
Posted Oct 23, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
I’ve been keeping a stash of frozen chunks of leftover beef for a couple of months, thinking that I’d use it for a Sichuan-style spicy beef noodle soup. A brow-wiper for cooler months. While driving home from Los Angeles last week, my husband said, “I’d love some Chinese beef noodle soup.” We obviously had a food mind meld. It was exactly cold in Santa Cruz but what the heck. I had the meat. After we settled back into our house, I retrieved the beef – chuck and cross-rib roasts saved from the pho workshops that I taught earlier this year. The pieces were oddball shapes and sizes but who cared? They’d be cut into small chunks anyway. They thawed overnight in the fridge and I... Continue reading
Posted Oct 21, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
Richard from Toronto recently asked about how to set a Viet-style table and how to time the serving of a Viet meal. He and his wife are cooking their way through Into the Vietnamese Kitchen and planning a Christmas Eve feast of Viet fare from the book. He wants to impress his parents (who I assume is tight with Viet traditions) with an appropriate table setting, dishware, etc. Also, he wants to execute the serving well. I totally understand because it can be extremely confusing. All those little dishes, lettuce and herbs, rice bowls, Eastern and Western fare melding at the table. Oy, it's enought to give you a headache. On the other hand, I've learned to deal with it with an open mind. Like... Continue reading
Posted Oct 16, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
“Take a photo of this salmon,” my mom said. She ran into the freezer in the garage and came back with a frozen whole fish. It was gorgeous. It weighed 7 1/2 pounds (3.5 kg). Weeks earlier, Fedex came to the door and delivered a box of seven whole salmon. My brother Dan had caught them on a fishing trip in Alaska. I’d seen a Facebook photo of Dan holding one of the salmon and wondered what he was going to do with it. I never thought he’d catch seven total. Bo Gia told me that Dan also caught a 160-pound halibut. Glad he didn’t send that to my mom because it must have been the size of a bathtub. After Dan read this post,... Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
Around the time when the banh mi book released, I received an email from Nili, asking about Red Boat competitors from Vietnam. (Sigh.) Asian food production is full of copycats and cut-throat rivalries. The photo that Nili emailed showed nuoc mam in bottles similar to Red Boat’s. It didn’t surprise me, and I asked where he saw these Vietnamese fish sauces. He pointed me to the humongous Shun Fat (Thuan Phat) market in San Jose. Shun Fat is known to have a wide variety of Southeast Asian ingredients and I’ve shopped at many of them in California. What else was I to do but investigate. At the market, I scanned the shelves and select the ones made in Vietnam. With Red Boat added to the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 9, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
Like the owl, my mom asked, “Who won the aprons?” I stayed at my parents’s home this weekend, a little retreat after doing 3 banh mi events in 3 days; I did private events at Google LAX and for Los Angeles journalists, as well as a public demo at Surfas Culinary Center. I was a little busy to say the least, and when I checked in with the voting, there was some serious campaigning going on. Many people worked super hard to get family and friends to vote. By 5pm on Sunday, five winners emerged. When I notified them, I was curious about who they were and their Viet food story. So I asked and got a few great responses. Mike from Guam was the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 7, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
Richard Stein is an avid gardener and great cook with a terrific voice for radio. He lives in Tacoma, Washington, and I’ve had the good fortune of being on his KPLU food show, which he hosts with award-winning food journalist Nancy Leson. Their sarcasm and banter is infectious and entertaining. The three of us recorded in studio once and had to contain our laughs and giggles. When the banh mi book came out, Stein (as we call him) commented on VWK that he was putting a cucumber pickle into his homemade Viet sandwiches. I was intrigued but shelved the idea because of a lack of time. But my curiosity reemerged when I started seeing pickling cucumbers appear at the farmer’s market. One of the most... Continue reading
Posted Oct 2, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
Happy food accidents are the best kind to have. Last week I was working on dumpling recipes for a magazine article and was using store bought pot sticker/gyoza wrappers. They are well dusted with starch, as evidenced by the streaks of white on each one. There is usually one side that has more starch than the other and I was shaping many of the dumplings with the starch side of the wrapper facing out. To test how long they’d last in the fridge, I put the shaped dumplings on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet that I’d dusted with flour. The skins were rather thin so I was worried that they’d get soggy so I was more generous with the flour than usual. (Who wants their... Continue reading
Posted Sep 30, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen