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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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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 yesterday 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
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I keep cookbooks that I buy in my office within reach of my desk. In my spare moments, I page through one and plot what to try, how I may learn something new and interesting from the author. Maangchi’s Real Korean Cooking is one of those books. The author, Maangchi, is a YouTube Korean cooking expert who provides down-to-earth guidance to a wide audience interested in making good Korean food. She offers solid, honest advice to home cooks and her book is filled with cultural information, ingredient tips, and cooking insights. I love Korean jeon – pancakes and other panfried flat morsels that involve flour and batter. She has a whole Korean pancake section to discuss what they are: savory foods that may serve as... Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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Has it been a week since the pho video from Bon Appétit magazine went viral for all the wrong reasons? Yes, it has been. During the past seven days, I responded to comments on VWK and social media, taught an Asian dumpling class, and attended a sustainable foods institute. My life has been ultra-rich. When I wrote the VWK post last Thursday, I didn’t know who would be reading it and how impactful it would be. It was passed around social media and last Friday, an editor at National Public Radio (NPR) invited me to write a commentary on the meaning and potential consequences of the video controversy. As the Bon Appétit video debacle unfolded, I had communications with people from all kinds of backgrounds... Continue reading
Posted Sep 15, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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A bowl of pho noodle soup comforts and delights, but it may also be controversial. As I wrote in “The History of Pho” feature in Lucky Peach magazine, pho has had an unusually rich history of being a means of protest and symbol of self-determination. That aspect of the pho experience has largely been confined to Vietnamese soil. This week, the pho broth boiled over at Bon Appetit magazine into a controversy that reflected many issues regarding food, race/ethnicity, and media. Bon Appetit recently launched its “Best New Restaurants” issue, and when I read through it, I noted this: Click on the image to enlarge. How sweet, I thought. They’re giving a shout to pho, one of my favorite food groups. I did note a... Continue reading
Posted Sep 8, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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Forget kale till the weather gets cold again. Summer vegetable stars are eggplants, tomatoes, and peppers. There’s a bunch around and they’re at their peak. Yes, you can use them for rich ratatouille or tangy caponata to conjure up Mediterranean flavors but make time and rook for this Indian favorite called baingan bharta. It’s one of my go-to dishes to offer with an Indian meal, wrap up in wheat tortillas (a shortcut for chapatti flat bread), or spread on toast (add avocado, if you like). It's lively and delicious, not to mention gluten-free and vegan. Cook the eggplant over live fire to get an extra-good smoky flavor. Then amp things up with ginger, garlic, and spices. Eggplant dishes often require lots of oil and frying... Continue reading
Posted Sep 1, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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Believe it or not, one of my favorite Indian cookbooks is published by Betty Crocker. It was written by Indian food expert Raghavan Iyer and titled, Indian Home Cooking. The book title seemed modest but the 2001 work is full-color and loaded with practical information, including a detailed guide to buying the many kinds of legumes used in the Indian kitchen. There’s a super helpful photo identifying them so you don’t get confused at an Indian market. Based in the Midwest, Raghavan is a gifted teacher, someone I’ve known for years. He’s straightforward in explaining things and works to demystify Indian cuisine. Raghavan is also funny. I’ve seen him jump atop a demo table to show an audience how to properly straddle a coconut grater... Continue reading
Posted Aug 23, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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The cashier looked at me calmly but quizzically when I put all the fish sauce bottles on the conveyor belt. The customer behind me studied my choices and leaned in to ask, “Sister, you like these brands?” I was at one of my favorite Vietnamese markets in Orange County’s Little Saigon, Green Farm Market on Magnolia off the 405 freeway. It’s a medium-size market that my sister Linh turned me on to. I like the market for its selection of condiments. Green Farm Market seems to get slightly off-beat nuoc mam fish sauce brands that are not (yet) widely distributed. Their prices are also amazing. I told my husband that I was on a quest to find Son Fish Sauce, an artisanal fish sauce that... Continue reading
Posted Aug 18, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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It may already be hot pepper season where you live, but here in the coolish Monterey Bay where I am, August is the beginning of hot chile season. Now is when I get to harvest some hot peppers from my garden as well as buy them at our local farmers’ markets. Jonathan on Facebook asked me how to best use the summer’s bounty of chile peppers, and I got the idea to write a little something on it. First, how do you get your hands on some really good hot chiles? I’m not just talking about jalapeno and serrano, which are commonly found but unusual chiles that are offer fruity heat and fragrance. You want chiles with character. Summer is when the chile heat is... Continue reading
Posted Aug 9, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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I often buy cookbooks, peruse them for interesting recipes and ideas, then let the inspiration percolate in the back of my brain for a spell. These lamb burgers are one of them. The original recipe came from a smart, somewhat tongue-in-cheek book titled Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes, written by Peter Meehan and the editors of Lucky Peach magazine. The burgers are dead simple, though you need to have Sichuan peppercorns for a slight numbing effect in the meat. The flavors are borrowed from cumin lamb, a classic Chinese stir-fry. The authors have a cumin lamb recipe and follow it with “lamburgers”. If I were making hamburger-type sandwiches, I would have followed the recipe to sear sliced red onion and jalapeno or serrano... Continue reading
Posted Aug 3, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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I am currently in possession of a very large quantity of the most perfect peaches and nectarines. They are sweet-tangy and so juicy that we often eat them standing over the kitchen sink. The peaches and nectarines were grown by the Masumoto family in Del Rey, located near Fresno, California. Mas Masumoto is renowned for his natural growing methods and champions varieties that are out of fashion. That’s to say, he wants to grow fruit with flavor. They are fragile and inconsistent in size but are full of the essence of summer. They are not fruit that you’ll find at the supermarket because they’re best eaten soon after they’re picked. Mas, his wife Darcy, and daughter Nikiko work the farm. Romantic as small scale, family... Continue reading
Posted Jul 28, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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I started making this plum liqueur last August or September with plums from our farmers’ market. They were late season and not the sweetest so I decided to not only sweeten them up but also to liquor them up. My inspiration came from a plum wine recipe in Bon Appetit magazine that included 3 ingredients: fruit, vodka, and sugar plus a lot of time. (The magazine called their concoction a wine but it’s technically a liqueur since it’s made from distilled spirits, fruit, and sugar.) We had a partially full bottle of Costco vodka that we decided we didn’t like much so I had liquor to experiment with. I followed the directions and stashed the jar of plums, alcohol and sugar in the closet. Then... Continue reading
Posted Jul 20, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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July is a month that marks revolutions and independence movements. I woke up on July 4th wanting to break away from my usual breakfast of muesli. Lazy but desiring a little something baked and beautiful, I decided to make muffins. They’re easy. They are a quick bread! I had blueberries and cherries in the fridge, some toasted hazelnuts on the counter and the rest were staples in the pantry. The problem was in getting the muffin pan from the garage. It was stuffed into a storage tub and we had to back out the car to retrieve it. I don’t often bake muffins and my beat-up Ecko pan was about twenty years old. No need to scrub it clean. Muffin cups found in the deep... Continue reading
Posted Jul 12, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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Are you familiar with Chefsteps.com? It's a fun, brainy cooking website based in Seattle. I'd met with the founder and staff a couple years ago at their offices, and we had a ton of fun chatting about what goes into the fluffy, light bread that's suitable for banh mi. This spring, they asked if I would partner with them to produce how-to videos for some of my favorite foods. Chefsteps is expert at many amazing things, including a sous vide machine that they designed, but Asian food and techniques is not a strong point. I began thinking of recipes that may offer home cooks lots of "a-ha" moments –- genius foods that have endured over time, that continue to feed imaginations. We settled on starting... Continue reading
Posted Jul 7, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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My mom loves to tell the story of how her younger sister, a lanky looker, loved to drink vinegar when they were young. It was among the sister’s many beauty secrets, mom says. Then she’d tell us about her strained relationship with her sister, as if to imply that drinking vinegar likely added to the woman’s sour disposition. That kind of multilayered disdain is why I grew up thinking that drinking vinegar was an awful thing that turned you into a grouch. Turns out I was wrong. Drinking vinegar has been in practice since around 4000 BCE, Emily Han writes in her debut book, Wild Drinks and Cocktails. The Chinese imbibed rice wine vinegar to aid digestion. Roman soldiers relieved their thirst with posca, herb-infused-vinegar... Continue reading
Posted Jun 30, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen
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I was shopping for tofu today at Trader Joe’s and young guy was standing in front of the tofu section with a confused look on his face. Trader Joe’s sells four (4!) kinds of tofu in tubs or vacumn- sealed packaging. I usually am the one lingering at the tofu section trying to find the package that has the farthest out “Best By” date. He was standing and staring so I asked what he was looking to make with tofu. “What’s the difference between all these?” he said. I noted that in his basket, he already had a package of teriyaki flavored “baked tofu”. But he was looking to pick up some unflavored tofu too. In his twenties, his nails and cuticles were a little... Continue reading
Posted Jun 14, 2016 at Viet World Kitchen