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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
With all the ripe chiles coming to market now, buy a bunch to make homemade hot sauce(s). Prepare a large batch and divide it up, perhaps as holiday gifts! A few pointers and then a number of recipes on the site for you to try. I recently wrote about the varying degrees of heat in chile peppers. Don’t let that discourage your tinkering. If you cannot find hot red ones, use hot green chiles. Or, combine some hot green ones with not-so-hot red ones. Chile blend! The color may not be solid red or orange-red but you will have concocted a zippy condiment. When cutting the chiles, I don’t wear gloves. (With all the chiles I use, I’d waste a lot of gloves.) Instead, I... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Viet World Kitchen
Today is the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, a harvest festival celebrated in China, Vietnam and other countries influenced by Chinese culture. It's called Tet Trung Thu in Vietnamese, Zhong Qiu Jie in Mandarin. The moon should be huge and bright tonight. Hopefully the sky's clear so you can check it out. (We're overcast right now in Santa Cruz.) When I was young and still living in Vietnam, we paraded around with cheerful lanterns; they were made of cellophane and light wood and would burn easily, which somehow thrilled us in a strange way. On the eating front, after dinner, my family nibbled on small wedges of moon cakes and sipped tea. Moon cakes are a Chinese specialty made of a thin pastry containing an endless variety... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Viet World Kitchen
I’ve had a strange problem this year with sourcing chiles with consistent heat. Sometimes they’re fiery, other times they’re meh. There are also times when the chiles –- jalapenos and Fresnos, taste like regular bell peppers. Thai chiles –-homegrown and purchase from farmers’ markets, may excite the palate or fall flat. Serranos are consistently hot but can be one-note if that’s all you use. I deploy chiles in stir-fries, tuck them into banh mi, and drop them into hot bowls of pho noodle soup. They go into salsas, guacamole and other non-Asian dishes that we regularly eat. You expect some fruity heat but when there’s none, it can rob a dish of an element of surprise. My interest in chiles isn’t because I’m a chile... Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
One of the enduring conversations among Viet cooks focuses on this topic: How do you fry cha gio well? If you’re unfamiliar with these delicious rolls, they are a super popular that you’d find at parties, restaurants, nosh sessions. They are a good time, celebration food. They’re often filled with a sparkly mixture of bean thread (cellophane) noodles and seafood and pork, and there are vegetarian options too. Cha gio originated in Saigon, and their old school name is cha gio Sai Gon. Nowadays in Vietnam, the rolls also go by nem ran, a term favored in Hanoi. Adding to the name confusion is the fact that in English, some Viet-Americans call them “Vietnamese eggrolls” though they are not made with Cantonese eggroll skins. Imperial... Continue reading
Posted Sep 16, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
“It may be blazing hot but that shouldn’t stop you from deep-frying,” is what I said to myself a few days ago when I decided to make one of my favorite Cantonese dishes. Yes, it was hot in Santa Cruz – in the high 80s inside our house. We wanted to go out to eat but our local Asian options are limited and frankly, not very good. On the other hand, we have amazing ingredients, thanks to Santa Cruz County’s agricultural wealth. Our farmer’s markets are flushed with ripe peppers these days. I’m not talking regular bell peppers, but Hatch, Jimmy Nardello, Fresno, Jalapenos, Serranos, Thai, Pasilla, Shishito, Padron, and rarities such as Espelette. Tomatoes – from crazy looking heirlooms to candy-like dry-farmed fruits, are... Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
August was National Sandwich Month but I didn’t really think about them until September. It may have been because the pho cookbook had me fixated on rice noodles all summer. Now that I’ve met a major benchmark in writing the manuscript and Rory has started a new semester of teaching, I have time and motivation to wander back to banh mi. I baked a batch of bread last week and put them in the freezer. While I was thinking of back-to-school banh mi, Traca and Tim – both from Seattle coincidentally with names that begin with the letter “T”(!), pinged me about banh mi party tips. Since The Banh Mi Handbook came out last year, I’ve been making a lot of sandwiches for casual and... Continue reading
Posted Sep 8, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
Asian sweets don’t get enough appreciation. To the unfamiliar, they’re offbeat and perhaps texturally challenging. That has never stopped me from trying them, but I’ve watched many people pause and look quizzically at a bowl of Vietnamese che sweet soup loaded with beans, tapioca worms and coconut milk. I suppose that’s why many Asian cookbooks have limited dessert chapters or none at all. I’m sensitive to the Asian sweets thing when I write cookbooks and choose my recipes wisely. My friend Christopher Tan celebrates many Asian sweets in his latest cookbook, Nerdbaker. The book published in Singapore by Epigram Books is sadly not available in the U.S.; I reviewed the book to write a jacket endorsement and at that time, I was enamored with the... Continue reading
Posted Sep 1, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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 Aug 27, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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 Aug 25, 2015 at Viet World Kitchen
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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