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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
After I recently wrote about a favorite Indian egg curry recipe, someone on Instagram suggested that I try the Burmese version. The person actually extended a future invitation to his mom’s house to underscore the merits of the Burmese version. I was intrigued and instead of waiting for the actual invite, I opened Burma Superstar, a new cookbook by restaurateur Desmond Tan and veteran cookbook author Kate Leahy (a friend of mine). I perused the book last night and this morning, bookmarking a lot of recipes to try. I own a handful of Burmese cookbooks and this one doesn’t make the cuisine exotic in any way. It explains and informs. What is Burma Superstar? It's a restaurant in the Bay Area and the first of... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Viet World Kitchen
Imbuing pho broth with whole spices is to be expected but when you want to define as well as reinforce the pho imprint, use this spice blend. I formulated it for The Pho Cookbook to give cooks a tool that could help them make something more “pho-ish”, to help it say, “I am pho-like!” My initial motivation was to come up with a homemade hoisin sauce recipe on page 102 of the book. What’s bottled and sold as hoisin sauce for pho (tuong an pho) is incredibly sweet and lacking complexity. I wanted my condiment to take a turn toward the pho family of flavors (say that a few times). I analyzed the ratio of spices that I typically use for pho and came up... Continue reading
Posted May 17, 2017 at Viet World Kitchen
When my mom came to America in 1975, she faced challenges like starting a new career, negotiating a foreign society, and raising five kids with my dad. She also wanted to feed herself and our family good food. On the trip from Vietnam, she packed a small orange notebook of hand-written recipes of foods that she thought she’d need an assist with recreating in her new home. I just realized this week that pho was not one of recipes in her orange notebook of domesticity. She knew how to make it by heart. However, translating the pho recipe from Vietnam to America wasn’t easy, and she often consulted with friends on the weekends, when long distance phone rates were cheaper. (If you’re old enough, you... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2017 at Viet World Kitchen
Earlier this week, I was invited to Google headquarters in Mountain View. The mothership is made of many small buildings and within one of them, there’s a teaching kitchen where Googlers may take cooking classes. I came to do a special ChefTalk on pho and Chef Dede Sampson and her team made samples from The Pho Cookbook. Before my presentation began, Googlers were buying up the book and perusing it. By the time I finished, there were great questions, things that I’ve pondered as I’ve stood over the stove looking at my stockpot. Figuring that you may have similar questions, I’m sharing a synopsis of our conversation. Of course, if you have extra info or experiences to add, we’re all eyes and ears here at... Continue reading
Posted May 4, 2017 at Viet World Kitchen
Without doubt, spices play a major role in defining pho. They contribute lots of aroma and flavor to create a multi-dimensional broth. They are subtly there to help express that something is pho-ish. Typical pho spices are warm and sweet, but each has its individual personality. If this sounds odd, consider the spices that go into chili beans. Now consider the characteristics of Chinese-five spice. The first pho cooks were Chinese-Vietnamese and China borders Vietnam’s northern reaches. You can smell and taste the influence of the Middle Kingdom. (Note: The above image by John Lee is in the Pho book and includes Chinese yellow rock sugar, which is not a spice but a seasoning ingredient.) Foundational Pho Spices When you’re leafing through and/or cooking through... Continue reading
Posted Apr 26, 2017 at Viet World Kitchen
I love eggs in all manner. When I was young, my dad would soft boil eggs and we’d eat them together in egg cups. He showed me how to tap the top with the back of a spoon and peel back some of the shell to reveal the soft, jiggly insides. Then we’d sprinkle in some salt and pepper and eat them up. Those were fun times, the days before people watched their cholesterol levels and eggs became ‘bad’ food. Recently, eggs have made sort of a comeback. There’s a crisp fried egg atop all kinds of foods. Poached egg tutorials are popular, as is the soft-centered eggs enjoyed with Ramen (boil them for 6.5 minute only!). The French omelet is something I mastered for... Continue reading
Posted Apr 16, 2017 at Viet World Kitchen
Seven years ago I was in Hanoi on assignment for Saveur magazine. My task was to explore Hanoi-style pho for a column called “Classics.” I’d done lots of reading and research and knew about ingredients like peanut worms (sa sung), which are used for umami in pho. I arrived in the capital thinking I’d be talking to local chefs about the worms, which seemed strangely and unique to the northern pho experience. But what I didn’t expect to encounter during my Hanoi pho experiences was dam toi garlic vinegar. Just like the above photo show, the vinegar appeared in plastic containers with long spoons for people to help themselves. It was on tables at nearly every pho shop I visited. It's what Hanoians expected, like... Continue reading
Posted Apr 8, 2017 at Viet World Kitchen
Raise your hand if you’re had a hard time buying bean sprouts. At regular supermarkets, they’re often a challenge to find in the produce department, and not super fresh, having been packaged and shipped from somewhere far away. Even at my 1970s-era health food store where there are locally-grown bean sprouts, they’re often borderline wimpy – not perky and crisp as they ought to be. The fresher ones tend to come from Asian markets where there’s a fast turnaround but how often can you get to an Asian market? Face it, bean sprouts sold at markets can be pricey and sad for their price. “Grow bean sprouts,” my friend My Uyen said. “They’re fragrant and flavorful.” We were in Saigon eating at a modern, cool... Continue reading
Posted Apr 2, 2017 at Viet World Kitchen
A lingering container of Trader Joe’s zig zag butternut squash and some ground pork inspired me to make these dumplings today. The recipe is from The Dumpling Galaxy Cookbook by Helen You, written with Max Falkowitz. The book is based on You’s namesake restaurant in Flushing, Queens, the Chinese food destination in New York City. There are recipes for homey classics like this one as well as modern pu ‘er tea dumpling. I liked all the little bits of knowledge scattered throughout the book so I bought a copy. There are few cookbooks published in America based on an Asian dumpling restaurant. Few Asian chefs have had the opportunity to share their knowledge and craft. You’s dough recipe intrigued me because it contained an egg... Continue reading
Posted Mar 26, 2017 at Viet World Kitchen
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 Mar 18, 2017 at Viet World Kitchen
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
<< Updates as of 1/21/17>> Due to a scheduling glitch at (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
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
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
A couple weeks ago, I received an email from author and journalist Thu-Huong Ha. She's a regular contributor to 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
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
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
I love my well-worn wok but have been looking for a pan that will allow me to sear and 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 have... Continue reading
Posted Dec 1, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen