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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
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 2 days ago 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 4 days ago 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
What's the most critical thing to making authentic banh mi? Many people think it's the bread. In fact, while in Seattle last week, I had the opportunity to hang out at the brainy headquarters of ChefSteps, a website for people who enjoy the geeking out on cooking technique and science. There’s a lot of molecular gastronomy and experimentation at the ChefSteps test kitchen where I met my friends Michael Natkin and Lorraine Easterling. We sat down to chat with founder Chris Young, who turned out to be super into bread. Our conversation quickly turned to the ideal bread for banh mi. Chris pointed out that when my friend Eric Banh opened Baguette Box in Seattle, his bread was so rustic and hard that it scraped... Continue reading
Posted Sep 26, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
I spent last week in Seattle and Vancouver doing 5 events in 6 days. Since I crossed the US/Canadian border, you could say I was on an international book tour. Ha. The Banh Mi Handbook is my fourth go with doing book promo events and they are always fun and frankly, get even better. I’m not nervous like I was in 2006 with my first book launch. Plus, I get to visit with good friends in familiar towns. Even so, it’s a whirlwind trip and I have to be organized, and can’t stay out late at night, drink too much or eat weird food that I may regret. The cooking classes and restaurant events are relatively easy going, though they are productions like a catered... Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
Late last week, Yum! Brands, the parent company of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC and other well-known fast food chains, unveiled a new concept restaurant in Dallas -- Banh Shop. I wrote about this development a few months back and was curious about what they would offer once the Texas outposts opened their doors. There has been business world buzz from Huffington Post, BusinessWeek, etc., as well as skepticism from many banh mi lovers who scoffed at the $5 to $7 prices; I am okay with the numbers. Huff Post interviewed me for its story and I maintain my position that as an author, teacher and consultant, I aim to get people to make Vietnamese food part of their regular rotation of food. If you... Continue reading
Posted Sep 16, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
I woke up Thursday morning feeling worried that people would be shy about taking a self-portrait with a sandwich. Unless you have a friend to hold up the phone while you push the button, it can be hard. Plus, we all want to look good in photos. My husband said, why not tweak the entries? Why not? I adjusted the contest to allow banh mi beauty shots and portraits that people had someone else take. This the banh mi selfie is a fun thing and I’m the first one to come off as a goofball. My tweet that my lunch was looking bigger than my head drew a lot of attention. One entry had the person dressed up as a gnome. There were also banh... Continue reading
Posted Sep 14, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
Now that the book’s been out for a couple months and lots of people are talking about banh mi, I feel like it’s time for me to unleash something super fun – a photo contest. I’ve been waiting to entice you to join in celebrating banh mi by (1) taking a fun selfie with one or (2) snapping a beauty shot of your sandwich. You can buy the sandwich or make it yourself. You can rope others in with a group shot. Together, with these photos, we can tell the story of banh mi as it is unfolding right now. The goofy selfies here are from the past few days. To inspire you, I took some this weekend with my husband Rory. They were hilariously... Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
I don’t know when I first had Thai massaman curry but I instantly fell in love with its layered spicy tang and rich flavor. According to David Thompson in Classic Thai Cuisine, the curry may have came from Persia, “probably arriving with Muslim courtiers who were attached to the Siamese court.” In Thai Food, he says that it could have also come from southern Thailand by way of Muslims who arrived with Indian or Arab merchants and traders. Imagine ideas from the Middle East flowing to the Southeast Asia and flourishing. That is what massamam curry embodies. It’s not overly spicy or too sweet. Just right. And there are often chunks of potato and bits of roasted peanut to add interesting texture. It’s the most... Continue reading
Posted Sep 4, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
One of the reactions that I get about The Banh Mi Handbook has to do with the price of banh mi. That’s to say, if I can get banh mi for a few dollars, why should I want to make it? Why do I need your book? My initial reaction is that that person is not necessarily my audience. He/she is an eater, not a cook. Nevertheless, my publisher and I made sure to give people value in producing a cookbook that retails for less than the price of say, a fancy pizza. Since the book came out, I’ve been having conversations with a few Viet-American friends in food about the price of ethnic food and why many people think that good ethnic food should... Continue reading
Posted Sep 2, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
Two of my colleagues in food media framed banh mi in interesting ways this week. Amy Sherman, a smart food writer in the Bay Area and blogger at Cooking with Amy, discussed The Banh Mi Handbook in a roundup of cookbooks that can rescue people from lunch ruts. Whether you have kids to pack lunches for, or are doing it just for yourself, things can get boring. Cue Vietnamese sandwiches. Amy admitted something that I’ve heard from many folks – why make banh mi when you can get decent ones at a deli or banh mi shop? “But I had to wonder, when I can get a terrific banh mi sandwich for just a couple bucks, would I want to make my own?” she wrote.... Continue reading
Posted Aug 28, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
Linda wrote to me over the weekend via the VWK Facebook page. She posed a question that I hadn’t considered: I'm hoping you can suggest some Vietnamese dishes that freeze well. I am having a baby in a little over a week and would love to stock the freezer with some comforts of "home". :) While I do know about freezing food and Vietnamese cooking, I know next to nothing about pregnancy and babies. My husband and I do not have children. To seek an answer for Linda, I sought advice from someone with lots of experience in the matter: My mother. She had five kids through war time and peace time in Vietnam. She’s lived in America for decades and loves to freeze food.... Continue reading
Posted Aug 27, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
Last July, my husband and I had a marvelous vacation in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding areas. I wrote about visiting historic sites like Gettysburg and enjoying amazing southern food and hospitality. One thing I didn’t emphasize enough was the Smithsonian Museum’s programs on the Asian American experience. It was newish at the time and in the Natural History Museum, I lingered at a wall exhibit on Asian American food, reading up on noteworthy chef, restaurateurs, and celebrities such as Cecilia Chiang, Martin Yan and David Chang. It’s not like the Asian-American food experience is totally different than that of other people in the U.S. but it comes in different flavors. The Smithsonian is being creative with how it is collecting information on Asian American... Continue reading
Posted Aug 21, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
Last Saturday, after teaching all day, I was dead tired but I was bent on making this Indian mango pickle. I’d purchased the two green (unripe) mangoes at an Asian market on Thursday and feared them ripening sooner than later. Mango can ripen quickly and you can’t really tell by the green skin and hard texture. Something is happening inside. I had to do something with them, lest I waste the relatively rare specimens. Unless you’re in tropical Asia or other mango-laden area where there maybe a nearby mango tree or mango vendor, rock hard, green mangoes are hard to find. In the U.S., we mostly want ones that are on their way to sweet, soft ripeness. At Asian markets, green mangoes usually cost more... Continue reading
Posted Aug 19, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
I can’t count how many times I’ve told people that they shouldn’t try to prepare a new dish when guests are coming over. I like to do as I say but last week, I didn’t follow my own advice. I’d invited chef David Kinch over for dinner. Manresa, his two-Michelin star restaurant, suffered an awful fire recently and during the rebuilding phase, his evenings are more free. That won’t last long because he’s targeting to reopen in late fall. David has come over several times and we’ve tinkered in the kitchen. The menu has usually been something I’m well-practiced in, like homemade tofu, pho, and Peking duck. It was just the three of us on Friday so I decided to treat our guest like family.... Continue reading
Posted Aug 14, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
Are you familiar with It’s a website about food, eating and cooking. Over the years, it has created a robust community of “Chowhounders” — passionate, smart cooks and eaters. (Hey, that describes VWK!) Chowhounders have cooked with my books, dissecting, reflecting, commenting on their experiences. I’ve long lurked on the sidelines and occasionally slipped to make a quick and polite response. CHOW’s policy was no shilling, no self-promotion. That was totally understandable but it also put up a fence for authors like me who like to engage with cooks and readers. Last week, that policy changed according to Senior Editor John Birdsall, who called and invited me to initiate direct conversations with Chowhounders. I welcomed the idea of coming out of hiding. I thought... Continue reading
Posted Aug 12, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
Lots is going in these days with banh mi book-related activities, cooking classes, and a bathroom remodel. As much as I tried to schedule and pace things in a rational matter, things have been a bit hectic but thrilling nevertheless. The press for The Banh Mi Handbook has been fabulous as well as unexpected. For example, The Week featured the book in its August 1 issue. I never thought my work would be in a current events publication, not to mention an issue with Vladimir Putin, Rand Paul, and Jay Leno on the cover. Thank you Emily Thelin for the headline: Vietnam's Gift to the Global Lunch Menu. Similarly,, a smart website focused on technology reviews, recommended the book in its weekly round up... Continue reading
Posted Aug 7, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
Earlier this year, I posted a photo of a vegetarian shu mai dumpling that I whipped up using filling leftover from a consulting gig. Someone on Instagram asked if I’d used quinoa, the ancient seed that’s super popular now. No I had not but what a great idea. Quinoa has protein and a good chewy texture to mimic meat. I’ve eaten quinoa since the mid-1990s and enjoyed it in side dishes and stuffing for roast squash. What would it be like as a dumpling filling? To find out, jump to the quinoa and tofu shu mai dumpling recipe on Continue reading
Posted Aug 5, 2014 at Asian Dumpling Tips
First off, thanks for the responses to Bo Gia's ginseng seed giveaway! I know that he is totally tickled and for the first time, is participating in VWK's conversation in the post's comments. Earlier this year, I posted a photo of a vegetarian shu mai dumpling that I whipped up using filling leftover from a consulting gig. Someone on Instagram asked if I’d used quinoa, the ancient seed that’s super popular now. No I had not but what a great idea. Quinoa has protein and a good chewy texture to mimic meat. I’ve eaten quinoa since the mid-1990s and enjoyed it in side dishes and stuffing for roast squash. What would it be like as a dumpling filling? I made a double batch of quinoa... Continue reading
Posted Aug 5, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen
My dad (above) had two stents put into his heart last month. We all sent him our good wishes and prayers and sighed big time when things went smoothly. Interestingly, leading up to the operation, Bo Gia (old Daddy in Vietnamese) emailed me about growing ginseng. He sent photos and directions on how to cultivate it at home, insisting that we could do it in Santa Cruz. I think the thought of cultivating something in the garden helped him take his mind off his health. Bo Gia recounted how he got hooked on growing ginseng: He has a 96-year-old buddy in Wisconsin who up to a few years ago when he had bypass surgery, used to drive himself from the Great Lakes to California for... Continue reading
Posted Jul 31, 2014 at Viet World Kitchen