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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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I am guilty of spending too much time in the condiment aisle at Asian markets. In fact, my husband told me he was going to Target while I perused Shun Fat (Thuan Phat) market in Garden Grove’s Little Saigon. It’s part of a chain of mega Vietnamese-Chinese markets in California, Nevada and Texas. The condiment aisle is long and filled with a vast array of Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, and a few Japanese ingredients. I’ve been to this market many times and always look at the fish sauce first. On this trip, I bought a new brand I’d never seen before from Vietnam. The surprises had to do with Maggi Seasoning sauce, a popular cult condiment. What I found were a Nestle version produced in Vietnam(!)... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Viet World Kitchen
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You can thank my husband Rory for this article. I was gone from the house for a couple days last week for work and when I returned home, Rory reported that he’d seen a Gulf shrimp sale at the market. “They’re the big, tasty ones you like. They’re $12.99 a pound till Sunday,” he added. I was sold. We don’t eat as much shrimp as we used to because they’re not as good as they used to be, may not be responsibly procured, and the delicious ones are relatively expensive. As a result, we consume fewer of them, which in the scheme of things, is a good thing. To my best ability, I try to choose sustainable shrimp. I also avoid easy-peel shrimp that are... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Viet World Kitchen
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It had been over fifteen years since I’d talked to my cousin Solange. Our last conversation was basic, full of minimal niceties exchanged at her wedding which included ballroom dancers, videographers, and tables weighed down by Chinese food and bottles of 7-Up and Martell (prime Viet wedding beverages to be mixed into an unusual tea of sorts). Last Sunday’s event was rather somber, her father’s giỗ -- an annual memorial gathering to commemorate a family member’s death. Her dad was my father’s older brother and my parents asked us to attend with them to show our respects. Among the first things out of Solange’s mouth was praise for my cookbooks. She said that Into the Vietnamese Kitchen had made her a god cook. (Her mom,... Continue reading
Posted Aug 19, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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After many days of rice noodles and pho recipe write, I decided to bake bread for homemade banh mi. It was early, around 8am, when I started, and for some reason, I decided to go rogue and tinker with my tried-and-true banh mi roll recipe, the one that I’d worked on for three months for The Banh Mi Handbook. The tinkering had to do with using an industrial leavening: dough improver, or rather, mejorante para pan. It’s a powdery substance that cookbook author Kate Leahy got for me by way of her aunt, who lives in Mexico and brought it to the U.S. for me. Kate’s a good friend and curious cook. I’d not used the mejorante para pan in a couple of years so... Continue reading
Posted Aug 12, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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Every summer, I make sure to eat my fill of watermelon. It’s a perfect warm weather fruit – refreshing and thirst quenching. I used to spit out the seeds but with both seeded and seedless watermelons, I’ve become accustomed to chewing and swallowing the seeds. Once in a while, my husband and I eat watermelon standing over the kitchen sink so we can spit the seeds into the sink; it’s a vague reminder of our watermelon seed spitting contests when we were first dating. As much as eating watermelon is part of my summer ritual, so is picking one out. It’s a hit and miss with whole ones because you can’t see the flesh inside. For years, we bought cut wedges of watermelon, but that... Continue reading
Posted Aug 5, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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Yesterday was my mom’s birthday. She turned 80 or 81, depending on how you count the years. In the evening, I took a break from making dinner to call her up to wish her happy birthday. “Why are you calling? You already sent a card and gift,” she said. “I read that it’s better to eat dinner around 6pm so you can digest better. You should be cooking and eating dinner now. You and Rory eat tend to eat late.” “But we also stay up late and wake up late,” I said. Moms can be hard to please and over the years, I’ve come to realize that simple things tickle mine the most. She loves sentimental-but-not-sappy cards. My mom isn’t a totally Hallmark-card kind of... Continue reading
Posted Jul 29, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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I made a peanut noodle salad for a potluck luncheon last Saturday and ended up with about a pound leftover cilantro. There were a lot of stems with little root portions attached and immediately, my mind went to something Thai. In particular, this spicy mixture which I’ve been making since the early 1990s. The original recipe came from Nancie McDermott’s handy Real Thai cookbook. There’s no chile because as Nancie wrote, this is an old style seasoning mixture that the Thais used in cooking before chiles arrived in Southeast Asia. The heat came from peppercorns and garlic. Everything was pounded in a mortar and pestle until smooth. This week, decided to use both kinds of peppercorns and add coriander seed. I took the lazy day... Continue reading
Posted Jul 22, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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There was a hamburger-bun size piece of all-butter pastry dough leftover from the lattice top strawberry pie that I baked last weekend. My initial plan was to roll it out, cut it into thin sticks, brush with milk and sprinkle it with sugar and bake into crisp cookies. I couldn’t commit so I put the pie dough into the freezer. Last night, we had friends over for dinner and I needed a fast and easy dessert that was also kind of special. I thawed the pie dough for a galette – a freeform filled crusty cake. It doesn’t require a pie pan and even if you don’t get things right, it’ll still look charming. Galettes are also a great way to use up pie dough.... Continue reading
Posted Jul 16, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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It started when my husband spotted the strawberry sale: a kilo container of organic Driscoll’s strawberries. Driscoll’s is a large, national concern that happens to farm strawberries in our locality. “You normally pay $4 for one basket of berries at the farmer’s market,” Rory said. “Why not give these a try. The price is the same.” Friends were coming for dinner on Saturday night and my first inclination was to make strawberry shortcake. But on Saturday morning, I tasted the berries in my breakfast muesli and they had great aroma but meh flavor. Shortcake was not going use up 2 pounds of berries. It would have to be a pie, but I’d not baked a pie in at least 20 years. I used to make... Continue reading
Posted Jul 14, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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The middle of the week is often an obstacle for people, “hump day”, toughest day to get through. I totally understand but today was the opposite. It’s been incredible. A couple of weeks ago, New York Times reporter Kim Severson called to ask about the drought, if I’d done anything to change my cooking habits. The City of Santa Cruz where I live has one of the best rates of water conservation in California. It's because we're on our own local water supply. We chatted, then she asked if she could come to the house with a photographer. Of course! The result of our conversation and her morning in my kitchen serve as the bookends to today's remarkable story in the New York Times. Kim... Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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I am somewhat obsessed with trying new kinds of flour. It began with trying to find flours suitable for making tender-chewy Asian dumpling wrappers and then carried over into tricking out grocery store flour for baking crisp and light banh mi rolls. When I’m writing my books, I limit myself to flour brands that are widely available. What’s the point of telling readers about some special flour that they can’t easily get? When a recipe isn’t for a book, I can experiment more. Last Saturday, I experimented on my husband and our friend Jeff Bareilles, a beverage expert. Anyone who eats at our house is subject to my tinkering in the kitchen. I promised Rory a chocolate cake for July 4 and he asked if... Continue reading
Posted Jul 6, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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Banh mi can feature different many kinds of proteins. Unfortunately most of the time, people think of Vietnamese sandwiches as meaty affairs. I’ve had people tell me that the ‘usual’ banh mi is filled with grilled pork so why bother with any other kind? Pashaw! Yesterday on the Vietworldkitchen Facebook page, I linked to a Kansas City banh mi round up, which described the sandwich as an often porky affair. The article prompted Arisko Gato to ask if there were vegetarian options. Yes there certainly are. There has to be since Buddhism runs strong in Vietnam. And there are folks like me who regularly enjoy meat-free meals. In The Banh Mi Handbook, there’s a chapter dedicated to meatless banh mi. The above collage includes most... Continue reading
Posted Jul 2, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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I’d been eyeing a certain brown jasmine rice at the Chinese market for some time, and finally two weeks ago, I bought a bag. The financial investment in the five-pound bag is not a problem but the possibility that it’s not great is. I don’t like to discard food, especially rice, so if the 3 Ladies bag of brown rice turned out to be so-so and tedious to cook, I was stuck with it. The evening I made the purchase, the market was about to close so I felt somewhat hurried. At the cash register, a Vietnamese customer looked at the rice and said to me, “Sister, that rice takes forever to cook. I soak it first for hours and cook it in a regular... Continue reading
Posted Jun 29, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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Whenever I tell my parents that we’re coming to visit, my dad emails, “Mom asks what you would like to eat.” She takes requests from my siblings and their kids, as if she’s a restaurant chef. My response for Father’s Day was vague, “Maybe we can cook something on that grill we bought you for Christmas?” I was trying to get her to use the grill instead of her broiler or lighting a charcoal fire. Mom is 81 years old! Rory and I arrived on Sunday for lunch and my dad greeted us with rose wine and said, “We’re having pork two ways!” It’s been about a year since Bo Gia had two stent implants and he was looking mighty good. My mom was in... Continue reading
Posted Jun 23, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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Many of you know that my dad is 85 years old and actively engaged on the internet. He reads my posts, emails with his buddies and also sends around interesting things he discovers online. He sometimes just sends me stuff that he thinks VWK readers would enjoy or benefit from knowing about. I collect tips from Bo Gia (Old Daddy) and since Father’s Day is coming up, figured it was time to share them with you. Lemongrass tea is something that my dad is keen on. Remember the lemongrass tea recipe? He was tickled recently when he read that regularly drinking lemongrass tea may help turn the tide on cancer. Ben Gurion university in Israel did a study that prompted hope in lemongrass tea, according... Continue reading
Posted Jun 17, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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The term ‘moment’ has been pushed around a lot lately in the food world to underscore momentum and fervor around something. The one that seemed strangest to me was the notion of a “hot dog moment.” Summertime is grilling season so hot dogs and hamburgers have many moments. What seemed different were all the non-traditional hot dog sandwiches that have been part of the growing lists of hot dog ideas. Given the rising popularity of Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches, banh mi hot dogs were part of the action. Real Simple dubbed theirs a “banh mi dog,” which made me cringe a bit because dog is an exotic meat in the Vietnamese repertory. As you can imagine, the topic has sparked debate, the nature of which... Continue reading
Posted Jun 14, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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I’ve been steeped in working on the pho cookbook but I’ve also been moonlighting on another project that’s dear to my heart – a Kickstarter to publish a biographical cookbook about Paula Wolfert. She’s a culinary legend, a food hero to me in many ways. Do you know her? Paula is an adventurer, renegade and anthologist. If you’re familiar with duck confit, cassoulet and Aleppo pepper, you have Paula Wolfert to thank. She introduced and championed those ingredients and foods long before they were trendy. I’ve cooked many of Paula’s recipes and they are head turners, brilliant in offering up wonderful flavors, cooking techniques, and cultural insights. Paula is the Queen of Mediterranean Cooking but she also works to bridge global cuisines. That’s because she... Continue reading
Posted Jun 10, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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This past week, Lajoiedu and I had a Facebook conversation about fresh herbs. She bought a bunch of different kinds for her garden and asked what she could do with them once they started thriving in summer heat. I don't know where Lajoiedu lives but I was feeling very herbacious myself. I'd planted some in our backyard bed, been harvesting sprigs from the garden (which encourages growth), and been buying bodacious bunches at the farmers’ market and Asian markets (I’m a sucker for good deals on herbs). It's as if fresh herbs are suddenly everywhere. Right now, the herbs at Asian markets are super lush. The leaves are ginormous, which makes me wonder a bit how they got the leaves so big, but I also... Continue reading
Posted Jun 7, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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The most popular, go-to brand of cheese in Vietnam is Laughing Cow. You see it for sale at markets. It’s often found as part of a banh mi cart offering. If you want cheese on your sandwich, the vendor will likely suggest Laughing Cow – a processed cheese that originated in France in 1865. The cheese keeps well at room temperature and obviously, in Vietnam's tropical humidity too. It is charmingly shaped in a wedge like something a mouse would adore. Each portion is covered in foil with a tiny red tag for you to pull and reveal the spreadable white wedge inside. It’s kind of fun to open one up. I grew up with La Vache Qui Rit (Laughing Cow in French) and when... Continue reading
Posted Jun 1, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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A couple of my Chinese friends have chided me for how I wield chopsticks: I cross them. I always have and can’t change. Crossing the sticks to grab at my food is something I’ve done since the age of five or six. So when my dear friends told me the that crossing chopsticks was considered uncouth, I felt hurt. In fact, I asked my parents – who are persnickety about etiquette, why they didn’t correct me early on. I am too old to change. I was a victim of their negligence. My dad looked at me as if I’d spoken like a fool. Then he said there were other eating matters that were more important to them. That is true. What my mom drilled into... Continue reading
Posted May 26, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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Someone on Facebook asked about tips for making fried rice. I’m responding with one of my favorite recipes – something I’ve been making for years. It’s an idea borrowed from Ramenya, a noodle shop in West Los Angeles that my husband and I used to frequent when we lived in Santa Monica. We’d order bowls of ramen noodle soup and shared a half order of curry fried rice. Stained yellow, a tiny bit greasy and studded with chopped vegetables, it paved a marvelous path toward carb overload. When we moved from Los Angeles, I turned to making the Japanese curry fried rice at home. I basically adhered to my fried rice basics, which include these pointers. Rice for fried rice: Use leftover rice or cold... Continue reading
Posted May 21, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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A few months ago a very talented young chef told me that cooking rice is one of the hardest things to do in a restaurant. There’s the quantity involved for serving a lot of guests, and the lack of the right pot and even heat. He baked rice in a shallow “hotel” pan and used jasmine with a 1:2 ratio of rice to water because he liked it softer for the French dishes he prepared. His rice was nice but I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I didn’t like his rice as much as I enjoyed every other component of the meal. The thing is, rice lovers are particular. A Hmong farmer once told me that he mixed long-grain and short-grain to... Continue reading
Posted May 19, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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For my new book project, I’ve equipped myself with a supply of spices, including star anise! It’s not hard for you to guess what the subject of that book is: Pho. Many people have suggested that I write a pho cookbook since I make it at home, teach workshops on it, and regularly enjoy pho at restaurants. I have a thing about it. Since I’ve conquered Vietnamese sandwiches, why not spend time obsessing about pho? Gathering from the response to The Banh Mi Handbook (we’re on the 4th printing since its July 8, 2014 release!), Vietnamese food is gaining in popularity. I can’t tell you how thrilling that is, given that my first Vietnamese cookbook came out in 2006. I’ve been working to help cooks... Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2015 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 a solitary or group food that you can eat any time of day. I ordered judiciously from each spot to sample a broad variety of... Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2015 at Asian Dumpling Tips
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After I wrote about the Indian twist on guacamole, I thought of other Asian uses for avocado. I’ve seen it used in salads with tofu. There is avocado in California sushi rolls. In the Viet repertoire, we enjoy it most often with condensed milk. I grew up with a slightly unorthodox way of eating avocados that I learned from my dad. When we first arrived in America, he didn’t have a heart condition and reveled in rich Western foods that were suddenly available to us. We were eating buddies and he taught me to appreciate cognac and fine French butter at a very young age. He also introduced me to avocado with sweetened condensed milk. Dad would carefully cut an avocado in half, remove the... Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen