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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’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 3 days ago 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
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When I was thumbing through my Mom’s orange notebook last month, I came across an American recipe that she absolutely adored: 7 layer cookies. One of my sisters had added it to the notebook. Maybe it was my sister Linh, who loves to bake. I remember Linh making those bars for my mom over and over. My mother loves coconut, nuts and chocolate. Over the years, she scored countless post-Halloween deals on Almond Joy bars. When I buy See’s candies for her, I make sure there are plenty of the “dark cocoanuts”. I’ve never made the 7 layer cookie recipe because I was put off by the versions I’d had in recent years. They tended to be so darn sweet with not much character. But... Continue reading
Posted May 7, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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Leading up into Cinco de Mayo, our local grocery stores have had quite a lot of deals on avocados. I stock up there if they look good. However, in the main, I prefer to buy them at the farmer’s market because they’re super fresh and I know the grower. I know I’m spoiled, but excellent avocados are a benefit of living in California. We have terrific ones nearly twelve months of the year. Sometimes I just eat avocado with salt and pepper or condensed milk. I love to tuck some into banh mi and other sandwiches. My favorite guacamole is based on a Diana Kennedy recipe from long ago; see this newsletter for my best guacamole recipe. Other times, I give avocado a modern Indian... Continue reading
Posted May 5, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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April 30, 1975 is a significant day for many Vietnamese people. How you feel about it depends on which side you were on four decades ago. For my family, that date marks the day that we arrived in California. We luckily managed to escape from Saigon on April 24, tasted glorious freedom for a week in Guam, and were then transported to Camp Pendleton Marine Base in Southern California, which served as one of the resettlement facilities on the mainland. That day was also a day of sadness. As a six year old at the time, things were fuzzy. However, what I do recall on April 30, 1975 was hearing adults repeatedly say “mất nước rồi” (the country is lost already). The North Vietnamese communist... Continue reading
Posted Apr 30, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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Wontons are the first dumplings that I learned to make. My mom entrusted me to make them for parties and other family gatherings. She fried them and served them with a Viet-style sweet and sour sauce speckled with a confetti-like bits of vegetables. It was finger food that got eaten up in a flash. That’s why our family wrapped regularly 3 or 4 packages worth of wontons for a total of roughly 200 wontons. Last Friday I made a small batch for our TGIF cocktail hour. There were leftover wrappers and I thought about how growing up, fried wontons were on my mom’s rotation of favorite foods to make. It was for good reason. In 1975 we discovered that fried wontons were a friendly food... Continue reading
Posted Apr 28, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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Forty years ago on April 23, 1975, my parents were quietly saying goodbye to their Saigon home. Mom finished ripping apart the life jackets that she’d sewn for our family’s boat escape from South Vietnam, which would eventually fall to the northern communists a week later. Between the Styrofoam pieces in each of the seven life jackets were thin taels of gold. We were no longer able to leave by boat because the government forbade all non-official boats from departing. She and my father’s hope was to flee by plane the next day. The gold was among our currency. The Vietnamese currency, the dong (VDN), was worthless. To appear as if we were going on an overnight family trip, my parents packed the absolute minimum.... Continue reading
Posted Apr 23, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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Last Sunday was my husband’s birthday. I was tired from teaching nine hours worth of cooking classes on Friday and Saturday but was determined to fete him with some of his favorite foods. I headed to the market while he worked at home. Rory requested rack of lamb so I gilded the lily with various snacks, including fried shrimp. We stopped ordering them at restaurants because they’re often frozen/thawed things or they come coated in heavy batter. Frying at home guarantees fresh deliciousness. I purchased half a pound of shrimp and fried a few up, instagraming and facebooking a photo before we devoured them with chilled sake. One person dubbed the shrimp as “shrimp torpedoes.” A couple of people asked for the batter recipe. Since... Continue reading
Posted Apr 20, 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... Continue reading
Posted Apr 16, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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As soon as my family arrived at the Camp Pendleton refugee resettlement camp on April 24, 1975, my dad was itching to leave. He’d wanted to live in America since he was young but didn’t have the opportunity to until he was 45 years old. The circumstances were not ideal. He’d left behind his home, career and status to start anew with his wife and five kids. Dad had the names and phone numbers of two Americans that he’d befriended in Vietnam. It was a coincidence that one of the men, Robert Beals, lived 20 minutes north of Camp Pendleton. Mr. Beals agreed to sponsor us out of the camp on May 24. We were among the first Vietnamese people to resettle in the U.S.... Continue reading
Posted Apr 14, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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A chicken in Vietnam is a high-value asset. Keep it laying eggs for you as long as possible. When guests come over or when you want a special meal, serve a whole chicken. That was my mom’s attitude toward keeping and serving poultry to our family. We tried to raise a little flock in our Saigon home long ago. Mom brought home a bunch of baby chicks but unfortunately, our housekeeper stepped on one and all us kids freaked out. Vietnam in the 1970s were already stressful. My parents didn’t need a bunch of squealing, squeamish kids, let alone a flock of squawking chickens in the house. The chicks disappeared. Soon after we fled the turmoil that hit Saigon in April 1975, we arrived in... Continue reading
Posted Apr 9, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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People often ask me what I remember from the events of April 1975, when Saigon and South Vietnam fell to North Vietnam’s communist forces. For decades my standard response was that I had photo-like recollections. My memories were akin to frozen still shots of the pandemonium. My family fled Vietnam via a first-class route: We managed to obtain paperwork to get ourselves into Tan Son Nhut airport and flew out on a US Army cargo plane to Guam, Hawaii, and then California. We were the lucky ones. In recent years, as my Vietnamese-American friends and I began trading stories about how we came to America – like our parents did when they were our age, my frozen still shot-like memories of April 1975 gradually thawed.... Continue reading
Posted Apr 7, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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The power of cookbook suggestion has been doing quite a number on me. Cathy Erway noted that Taiwanese pork sauce over rice was the equivalent of Italian Sunday sauce so I made her lu rou fan recipe on a Sunday. Recently, Ivy Manning’s new cookbook got me making tofu on Monday. It wasn’t just because it was meatless Monday. Ivy is a friend and solid recipe and cookbook writer. We’ve hung out together in Portland, Oregon, where she lives. She’s driven me around town to seek out Portland’s best artisanal tofu and banh mi. So when Ivy’s publisher sent her latest book, Weeknight Vegetarian, I began thumbing through it. I’m not kidding as I type this but the first recipe I opened up to was... Continue reading
Posted Mar 31, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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I love getting cooking tips from strangers. Last year after Saint Patrick’s Day, a guy waiting alongside me at the Whole Foods butcher counter told me that he waits until after Saint Patty’s to buy corned beef. The price goes down so I buy a bunch to really enjoy it, he said. He looked like he was in his early 30s and more of a dude than someone who monitored prices at the Whole Foods butcher counter. I kept his tip in my back pocket and passed on the corned beef for March 17. My husband Rory was okay with it, despite his fondness for wearing a shamrock lapel pin and other greenish clothes on St. Patty's Day. Rory's surname is O'Brien. His only caveat... Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen