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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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There are many kinds of rice noodles used in Asian cooking. Like Italian pasta, the shape and size of Asian rice noodles determine how they're used. For pho noodle soup and other pho noodle dishes, you want banh pho -- flat rice noodles. The round bun rice vermicelli noodles are used for other dishes, including rice noodle bowls and rice paper salad rolls (goi cuon, sometimes called fresh spring rolls). and super fine banh hoi are employed to eat with grilled or roasted meats. Flat rice noodles are sold in different widths to match cooking applications; they are used in Vietnamese, Thai, and Chinese cuisines and thus marketed for popular dishes like Vietnamese pho, pad Thai, and Cantonese chow fun. Like clothing sizes, there is... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Viet World Kitchen
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Since the Pho book released, a handful of people have asked if I know how to make fresh rice noodles, if there’s a recipe in the book. I’ve seen them made, and after attempting to make banh pho rice noodles, would rather leave the task to the pros. It’s a craft, a skill and business that traditionally one family develops and passes down from one generation to another. Moreover, making fresh rice noodles is not like making Italian pasta. Rice and wheat flour behave differently since rice lacks the gluten that allows wheat to be easily manipulated. Pho noodles are flat like those used for pad Thai, cut into narrow strands that range from small (linguine), medium (fettuccine), or large (papardelle). In Vietnam, tender fresh... Continue reading
Posted Mar 12, 2017 at Viet World Kitchen
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Fragrant, fresh herbs are a cornerstone of the Vietnamese kitchen. They're not for garnishing but rather for enjoying practically like a vegetable to add punch flavor to foods. You can have a super fresh supply of herbs if you grow it but not all of us can do that. I grow some and buy others. Just harvested herbs from your garden are easy to keep fresh: put them in a vessel of water and keep on the counter. The herbs you buy unfortunately cannot be treated that way. Kept in a produce bag, the herbs don’t last long. They soon lose their perkiness, which for dishes like pho, diminishes the experience. I’ve been experimenting with a different way to keep herbs fresh. If you’ve read... Continue reading
Posted Mar 5, 2017 at Viet World Kitchen
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People have pressure cookers on their minds these days. In last Saturday’s “Pho Celebration” cooking class, we made two recipes from The Pho Cookbook that required a pressure cooker. (Why use a pressure cooker? It's great for cooks who are in a hurry. With respect to pho, a pressure cooker enables you to make pho on a weeknight.) Several people had never used one, while others remember them from the 1970s, when the cookers were a little scary – ours exploded, my mom recently reminded me. Another asked me about the different kinds. On the same day in Houston, Chi T. was also pondering pressure cookers. When I got home, her email was in my inbox: I bought your Pho book and love it, like... Continue reading
Posted Feb 26, 2017 at Viet World Kitchen
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The original pho was an economical, resourceful way to use unwanted cuts and parts of a cow. These days, because of rising food prices and the bone broth trend, the cost of bones has gone up. Finding good bones can be hard too. They are not always available in huge selection so you can pick through them. And sometimes, they’re not stocked at all. I’ve been contemplating sourcing strategies and talking to butchers about the cost of bones. Here are ideas I’ve gathered while brewing pho broth and writing The Pho Cookbook. Bones are not only wanted for bone broth but also desirable as pet treats. Given that, you have to kind of shop competitively for bones. For example, ask your local butchers what day... Continue reading
Posted Feb 17, 2017 at Viet World Kitchen
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“Today it’s pho real,” my husband said. Bring on the pho puns, folks. The Pho Cookbook is here! For those of you who’ve been with me since I announced the book project in May 2015, you know it takes a lot to make a book. Book release day always stuns me. It’s a release and relief. I hope you make the most of all the contents of the book. I celebrated with beef pho (above), with homemade meatballs to boot! Folks who pre-ordered should be receiving the books soon, if not already. As people received their pre-ordered books today, they used social media for a virtual book release party! I was incredibly touched. In the past few days, the book has gotten press from the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 7, 2017 at Viet World Kitchen
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The food universe operates in unusual ways and I’ve learned to simply go with the flow. In October 2015, I went to Vietnam with my travel buddy and stylist Karen Shinto. My chief aim was to do a little more research about pho. I’d traveled to Vietnam many times since 2003 and on one occasion, reported a pho story for Saveur magazine. This time I was circling back to check in with the pho scene with more depth. Flying from Phu Quoc island to Hanoi, we were seated next to a young woman who introduced herself and asked if I was from America, what we were up to in Vietnam. Amy Do had overheard my conversation with Karen. She was friendly in an unusual, refreshing... Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2017 at Viet World Kitchen
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I attended a soup swap over the weekend and Carolyn Phillips, author of All Under Heaven and the source of a great Chinese scallion bread recipe, walked into the party carrying a handbag in the shape of a chicken. I remarked about her clever choice of accessory given that January 28 will be the first day of the Year of the Rooster. Unbeknownst to me until I looked up the bag online that Carolyn’s “Hen Bag” turned out to be for real and you can order one from Amazon to arrive by this weekend! The purse and her mirth reminded me that the Lunar New Year is about fun, relaxation, and renewal. It’s about life balance, which I need these days given my work schedule... Continue reading
Posted Jan 24, 2017 at Viet World Kitchen
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Not long ago as I was going through the checkout line at Safeway, the cashier looked at my bottle of Megachef fish sauce and asked, “What is this?” I explained it to her and she remarked how hard it was to figure out. “Anchovy Sauce” seemed gross to her. We laughed at how unappealing that phrase was but I assured her that the condiment was key to Vietnamese and Thai cooking. I had had a similar conversation with my hairstylist. Because of Crohn’s disease, Ashley has been on a gluten-free diet and preparing more Asian food. She purchased Thai ingredients from Safeway but things didn’t taste very good. I suggested that it may have been the fish sauce she bought. Such conversations, as well as... Continue reading
Posted Jan 17, 2017 at Viet World Kitchen
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<< Updates as of 1/21/17>> Due to a scheduling glitch at Tastebook.com (the giveaway host), you now have until Friday, January 27 at midnight EST to enter! And, given strong initial sales, my publisher ordered a second printing. Hooray all around! Jump to the entry form or read on for giveaway details. The book comes out on February 7 and many of you have already pre-ordered. My publisher Ten Speed Press reports that pre-release support for The Pho Cookbook is fantastic! In the world of book publishing, pre-order sales are an important indicator of how well a work will do. Way back when I announced that I'd be writing a pho cookbook, people immediately asked when and where they could pre-order the book. That level... Continue reading
Posted Jan 10, 2017 at Viet World Kitchen
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I was at a Vietnamese market today and overheard a conversation between two Vietnamese people lamenting having to diet. “It’s so boring and difficult to eat lean vegetables all the time,” the woman said. “I’m tired of it.” The man responded, “Dieting isn’t about giving up everything. Just a little here and there.” I’m in the same camp as the man. All things in moderation, which is why I made banh mi tacos the other day. Cutting back on white bread is good thing in general but it’s hard for banh mi sandwiches, which is defined by its carby encasement. What if you used a corn tortilla? What do you have to watch for? Does it taste good? And since many of us are also... Continue reading
Posted Jan 5, 2017 at Viet World Kitchen
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It had been a while since I made fried chicken so a couple weeks ago, I decided to fete two friends who are moving away by making Korean fried chicken. It’s crunchy, spicy, and tangy. It’s festive, slightly messy, and crazy red from the pepper paste sauce. I’d made the chicken years back using a recipe that a Korean friend’s mom shared with me. In 2009, I thought it was the best recipe but seven years make a difference. This one is better because it blends Mrs. Lee’s marinating method with a coating and sauce by Maangchi in her terrific cookbook. Mrs. Lee marinated the chicken beforehand and I like the flavor. In her cookbook, Maangchi promised to deliver a crunchy coating and a sauce... Continue reading
Posted Dec 29, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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A couple weeks ago, I received an email from author and journalist Thu-Huong Ha. She's a regular contributor to Quartz.com and asked about the Vietnamese obsession with yule logs. Her email brought back a rush of fond childhood memories and we had a great interview which resulted in Thu-Huong's story on the history of the buche de Noel in Vietnam as a colonial legacy that was published yesterday. What's the deal with yule logs? Vietnamese people love to bake and eat delicate, aromatic sponge cakes. My family is no different and I grew up with them all year round. Most of the time, it’s a basic sponge cake baked up as rounds. For Christmas, cooks who are really into the cakes prepare a French-style Bûche... Continue reading
Posted Dec 18, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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The other day I read that due to La Nina, the winter of 2016-17 will likely be a bit colder than usual, and depending on where you live, a little wetter, too. Here in Santa Cruz, it’s been chillier than normal, drizzly and in the mornings somewhat foggy. The dreariness and cooler temperatures led me to make a batch of Sichuan mapo tofu (ma po dou fu in Mandarin). It’s a dish that I’ve loved since I was about ten years old. Mapo tofu is a dish that I traveled to Chengdu in Sichuan Province to investigate while writing the Asian Tofu cookbook. My friends and I even ate at the original mapo tofu restaurant, only to be disappointed with an imbalance of flavors --... Continue reading
Posted Dec 14, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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Today was a double win in the kitchen. It’s my husband’s last day of teaching for the year and I wanted to bake him a celebratory sweet treat. I was also wanting to experiment with a holiday cake that would keep well as a gift to my family and friends. My family is partial to fruitcake and yule logs (buche de Noel). We’ve made many of them and I’ve posted recipes here and here. As these things simmered in the back of my mind, fate intervened (as it often does) via an email. Christopher Kimball sent out his Milk Street magazine e-newsletter, which opened with notes from his recent Thailand trip and included a recipe for pain d’épice, a French spice cake. I looked at... Continue reading
Posted Dec 8, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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I love my well-worn, patinated wok but have been looking for a pan that will allow me to sear ad toss around lots of food at high heat. The six-inch wide wok bottom isn’t efficient for certain things. I have cast-iron skillets but they’re heavy. In fact, last week while cooking at my mom’s house, I used her deep cast-iron skillet to stir-fry and in between dishes, running back and forth from the stove to the sink with an 8-pound skillet was no fun. After much consideration, I settled on an 11-inch carbon steel skillet which weighs about 4 pounds. (My wok weighs roughly the same.) The M’steel pan by Mauviel had to be washed and seasoned. I’ve seasoned woks before and knew that you... Continue reading
Posted Dec 1, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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My family goes rogue every Thanksgiving and eats Vietnamese food. This year, Dad emailed the menu: fried imperial rolls (cha gio by my mom), Hanoi beef pho (made by me; kept frozen by my mom), and lemongrass pork riblets (mom followed my recipe in Into the Vietnamese Kitchen). I’ll bake a fruit galette for dessert. We’ve never had an entire American Thanksgiving menu of turkey, stuffing, gravy, potatoes, and pumpkin pie, but this year I wondered how far off the mark we’d been. There was one year when a friend gifted my dad a cooler full of quail, pheasant, and venison, which my mom turned into a feast that went on for days. In recent years, my dad has deviated from wine to serving beer... Continue reading
Posted Nov 22, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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Not long ago someone on VWK asked if I had a turkey pho recipe. I was working on it and it took a while for me to figure it out, primarily because I’m not a turkey lover. As you may recall my mentioning over the years, our family abandoned Thanksgiving turkey in the 1980s when my mom admitted that the big bird cooked up dry and that she preferred goose, duck, Cornish game hens, and chicken. For that reason, come each November, I walk right past the turkey in the butcher counter and freezer cases. I’ve trained myself to neglect supermarket ads and deals on natural, heritage, and Butterball turkeys. Earlier this year I confronted my turkey issues. ChefSteps.com had invited me to partner with... Continue reading
Posted Nov 17, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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The first time I heard the term spatchcock was in 2009, in an extremely fancy butcher shop in Sydney where the cuts were displayed as if you were shopping in a meat boutique. I thought spatchcock was cute and funny, but little did I know until I looked it up and tried it out, that it simply meant butterflying a chicken, and splitting the bird open so it would lay flat and roast quickly. The benefits of the method are that the bird browns and cooks more evenly. The meat retains its succulence. Since then, I’ve been spatchcocking chickens on a regular basis. The term originally meant to cull immature male chickens. Nowadays, it’s a cooking technique. It’s also known as “spattlecock.” Whichever term you... Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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How to tweak an American Thanksgiving menu so that it includes Vietnamese touches? That's what two people asked last week. Toni wrote that her future daughter in law is Vietnamese and she wanted to combine the cultures at their upcoming holiday celebration: I love your banh mi book and have made almost all the recipes in it. I also recently listened to your podcast on Milk Street Radio and cooking with intent. Mr. Kimball speaks so highly of you! My 24-year-old son is dating a delightful Vietnamese American girl (it looks very serious) and our family loves her. I am having everyone over to our home for Thanksgiving and would like the menu to have a Vietnamese twist to make her feel welcome. I have... Continue reading
Posted Nov 3, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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This arrived yesterday!! It’s one of two early advance copies of The Pho Cookbook that the printer in China sent to Ten Speed Press. Kelly Snowden, my editor, was super kind to FedEx me her copy. I always call the first copy that I receive “Number 1.” This is my fifth book, my fifth "Number 1", and the strange blend of fear and excitement remains. However, this time around, I’m extra proud of the book that we produced. The Pho Cookbook combines location images shot by food stylist (and my dear friend) Karen Shinto with studio images shot by photojournalist John Lee. The recipe testers were an amazing group of smart, curious home cooks: Diane Carlson, Alex Ciepley, Jay Dietrich, Alyce Gershenson, Doug and Candace... Continue reading
Posted Oct 27, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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My friends at Cooking Light magazine have been interested in the Paula Wolfert biography cookbook since the get-go. Editor-in-Chief Hunter Lewis and I began discussing brain-healthy foods a while back, and for the new November 2016 issue, the magazine published a robust, special section on healthy brain food. The lead story is about Paula and our Kickstarter project to tell her life story and highlight Alzheimer’s disease. The feature was written by a long-time friend of Paula’s, cookbook author Peggy Knickerbocker, and includes excerpts from the book by Emily Thelin (the author) and images by Eric Wolfinger (the photographer). It’s a great sneak peek of our book, which you may pre-order. As editor, I’m working with Emily, Eric and designer Toni Tajima to send Unforgettable... Continue reading
Posted Oct 20, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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I used to think that being particular about certain brands of ingredients was a snobby thing. My family didn’t have much money when we came to America so the less expensive generic products of the 1970s and 1980s were fine by us. As the photo above (from Pleasantfamilyshopping.blogspot.com) suggests, many people looked down on the plain labeling of the generic foods, skeptically thinking that the contents matched the labels. No pizazz. But when you’re on a budget, you just want to feed your family. Having written five cookbooks, I've had to make a lot of brand recommendations, and admittedly, certain brands of ingredients, like fish sauce and flour, matter. But over the years I've added more store brands to my list and they've been well... Continue reading
Posted Oct 13, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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There are certain recipes that I’ll always keep chasing and these round skillet breads filled with green onion and sesame oil is one of them. I first had them in Monterey Park in the late 1980s. My friend, Teresa C., took me to dinner at a Chinese-Islamic Restaurant (I think that that was its name), a new and novel concept. Teresa and I met while attending business school at the University of Southern California and our conversation quickly turned from finance and accounting to food. Teresa’s father managed Chinese restaurants in Monterey Park. She and her family were from Hong Kong and they knew where the good Chinese food was in the San Gabriel Valley, located east of Los Angeles. They were in on the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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Do you have recipes that you return to annually? I do, mostly because of an event or holiday (Tet! Thanksgiving!) or seasonality. This Indian dish is one I make when I can get excellent Indian eggplants from the Hmong farmers who come to our farmer’s market. The size of duck eggs, the eggplants are dense with thickish skins so they can hold the stuffing and not totally collapse into mushy nothingness after panfrying. The recipe comes from one of my favorite Indian cookbooks, 5 spices, 50 dishes by Ruta Kahate. It’s a small book that shows you how to make good Indian food with only a handful of spices. Liberation. There are certain techniques that she teaches as well, which will take you far toward... Continue reading
Posted Sep 29, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen