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Andrea Nguyen

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    Santa Cruz, CA

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  1. tofu, asian dumplings, vietnamese food and cooking

  2. Hello everyone, It's Andrea Nguyen, author of Asian Tofu. Thanks so much for delving deeply into bean curd goodness. WOW. I knew that TheTinCook made his own press but the DIY nigari impresses extra. I wish I could award you a special tofu star. Really. With regard to soy milk machines, I bought one for $125 and used it just a few times. It's really because I manipulate the soy milk richness and the machines fabricated for a limited ratio of water to beans. The machine now sits in my garage. For a block tofu shortcut, find a tasty fresh soy milk (sold refrigerated in plastic 2-quart containers) and make tofu from that. I look for soy milk made from non-GMO or organic beans. Artisan tofu makers and Asian markets are good sources for excellent soy milk. Once you get the hang of making soy milk from scratch, it's not that time consuming. Seriously. Soaking the beans is passive cooking time. Active cooking is about 1 hour. The deal with going from the bean is that you can control/tinker with the beans, water, coagulant. Freshly made tofu is akin to fabulous bread or cheese that you made yourself. Treat it simply to fully enjoy its deliciousness. On the other hand, many tofu dishes can be prepared with store bought tofu. Love your curiosity and creativity with okara. (I'm going to play around with the egg and okara concept.) In the main, you can use soy milk lees (okara) like wet wheat germ in baked goods to lessen the use of eggs and flour (up your leavening though); you're adding fiber and a little protein via the okara. For okara-based savories, feature it in croquettes (think of it as the bread binder) or an old fashioned Japanese bar snack called unohana. I recently turned okara into a gluten-free soy panko. Keep okara frozen. If I feel like discarding okara, I sprinkle it my garden. Same goes for the whey, which is good as a light stock. Again, thanks for hopping on the tofu train. Ping me if you have questions, etc. Andrea
  3. WOW, thanks for the posting! The food looks beautiful and I'm honored and frankly thrilled that you're having so much fun with the recipes. As for the mi quang -- yes, it's from the central region and it's one of those kind of super fussy noodle dishes -- not quite a noodle soup, not quite an noodle salad. There are numerous garnishes to the bowl (pork, shrimp, a rice cracker shard, among other things) and just a little flavorful broth to serve as the dressing. A strange dish that I've not come across abroad. Even in Vietnam, it's not prepared much at home and outside of the central region, it's not as prevalent as other Viet noodle dishes.
  4. Thank you for the kind words. I love hearing how the book helps people either to discover and/or rediscover Viet flavors. Happy cooking, Andrea
  5. My mother didn't open up that restaurant because (1) her collaborator and assistant, our housekeeper, decided to have her own go at life in America; and (2) there few Viet people who settled in San Clemente, CA, so there wasn't much of a customer base for her venture. She turned to another amazing skill, sewing, to help make ends meet. Along with providing tailoring and alteration services to clients who came to our house, she also took in piece work. For a few years, our after-dinner family activity was making bikinis. I was listening to public radio today and there was a story about the mass exodus of Iraqis from their native country into Syria and Jordan. The Syrians and Jordanians are doing their best to help these displaced people rebuild their lives, at least temporarily. I thought of my family's own refugee experience, and was suddenly flushed by an overwhelming sense of thanks for the generosity of the many people who helped us out. Your experience underscores that point. Warmly, Andrea
  6. Beef Stewed with Tomato, Star Anise, and Lemongrass (Bò Kho/Bo Kho) Serves 4 as Main Dish. This stew is so popular that practically every Viet cook has his or her own version. I have read recipes that call for curry powder, annatto seeds, tomato paste, and beer. But this is how my mother learned to make bò kho decades ago. Although in Vietnam it is traditionally eaten for breakfast, here in the States it has become lunch or dinner fare in the Vietnamese American community. It may be served in shallow bowls with warm French bread for sopping up the flavorful sauce, or it may be spooned over rice or wide rice noodles (bánh phở). The addition of chopped Vietnamese coriander or Thai basil leaves is something that my parents picked up when we lived in Saigon. Also, despite the name, this is not a kho dish. Here, kho means “to simmer” or “to stew.” No caramel sauce is involved. Traditionalists like to use the boneless beef shank sold at Chinese and Viet markets for this dish, which they cook for hours to yield a chewy-tender result. Once in the States, my family switched to beef chuck, which is flavorful, suited to long cooking, and more readily available. This recipe appears in my new cookbook In the Vietnamese Kitchen and an excerpt from this book appears in The Daily Gullet. 2-1/2 lb boneless beef chuck, well trimmed (about 2 pounds after trimming) and cut into 1-1/2-inch chunks 1 hefty stalk lemongrass, loose leaves discarded, cut into 3-inch lengths, and bruised with the broad side of a cleaver or chef's knife 3 T fish sauce 1-1/2 tsp Chinese five spice powder 2-1/2 T peeled and minced fresh ginger 1-1/2 tsp brown sugar 1 bay leaf 3 T canola or other neutral oil 1 yellow onion, finely chopped 2 c peeled, seeded, and chopped fresh tomato or 1 can (14 ounces) crushed tomato 1/2 tsp salt (generous) 2 star anise (16 robust points total) 3 c water 1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks 1/4 c chopped fresh Vietnamese coriander or Thai basil leaves 1. In a bowl, combine the beef, lemongrass, fish sauce, five-spice powder, ginger, brown sugar, and bay leaf. Mix well with chopsticks to coat the beef evenly. Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes. 2. In a heavy-bottomed 5-quart Dutch oven, heat the oil over high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches, add the beef and sear on all sides, then transfer to a plate. Each batch should take about 3 minutes. Reserve the lemongrass and bay leaf from the marinade and discard the rest. 3. Lower the heat to medium-low, add the onion, and cook gently, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until fragrant and soft. Add the tomato and salt and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the mixture is fragrant and has reduced to a rough paste. Check occasionally to make sure the tomato mixture is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. If it is, stir well and splash in some water. 4. When the paste has formed, add the beef, lemongrass, bay leaf, and star anise, give the contents of the pot a bit stir, and cook, uncovered, for another 5 minutes to allow the flavors to meld and penetrate the beef. Add the water, bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 1-1/4 hours, or until the beef is chewy-tender (a sign that it is close to being done). To test for doneness, press on a piece; it should yield but still feel firm. 5. Add the carrots and return the stew to a simmer, adjusting the heat if needed. Cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until the carrots and beef are tender. (This stew may be made up to 2 days in advance. Let cool, cover, and refrigerate, then bring to a simmer before continuing.) 6. Just before serving, do a final taste test. Add salt or a shot of fish sauce to intensify the overall flavor. Or, splash in a bit of water to lighten the sauce. Transfer the stew to a serving dish, removing and discarding the lemongrass, bay leaf, and star anise. Garnish with the Vietnamese coriander and serve. Keywords: Main Dish, Beef, Vietnamese, The Daily Gullet ( RG1870 )
  7. Pork Riblets Simmered in Caramel Sauce (Sườn Kho/Suon Kho) Serves 4 as Main Dish. This kho involves a little more work than the pork and eggs kho (see book, page 146). You must first marinate the meat and then sear it before it settles into its long simmer. The extra steps produce a rich, roasty undercurrent of flavor that permeates the dish. These riblets have special meaning for my mom because her family prepared them for their month-long Tet festivities. An entire pig was slaughtered for the celebration, and the ribs were used in this kho. Since it reheats well, it is the perfect make-ahead dish for the Lunar New Year, a time when everyone is supposed to relax, rather than slave in the kitchen. When purchasing the ribs, remember to ask the butcher to cut them into strips for. For the best flavor, sear the riblets on a grill. This recipe appears in my new cookbook In the Vietnamese Kitchen and an excerpt from this book appears in The Daily Gullet. 3 lb meaty pork spareribs, cut crosswise through the bone into long strips 1-1/2 to 2 inches wide 1/2 large yellow onion, minced 1 T sugar 1 tsp black pepper 6 T fish sauce 6 T Caramel Sauce 2 scallions, green part only, chopped 1. Cut each rib strip between the bones or cartilage into individual riblets. In a large bowl, combine the onion, sugar, pepper, and 3 tablespoons of the fish sauce and mix well. Add the riblets and toss to coat evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight. 2. Remove the bowl from the refrigerator about 45 minutes before searing. Prepare a hot charcoal fire (you can hold your hand over the rack for only 2 to 3 seconds) or preheat a gas grill to high. Remove the riblets from the marinade, reserving the marinade, and sear on the grill, turning as needed, for about 10 minutes total. Alternatively, broil the riblets on a foil-lined baking sheet for about 8 minutes on each side, or until lightly charred. 3. Transfer the seared riblets, the reserved marinade, and any cooking juices to a 5-quart Dutch oven and add the remaining 3 tablespoons fish sauce, the caramel sauce, and water almost to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Adjust the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 45 minutes. Uncover and adjust the heat so that the riblets simmer vigorously. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until the riblets are tender when pierced with a knife. The sauce will have reduced, but there will still be plenty. 4. Remove from the heat and let stand for a few minutes so that the fat collects on the surface, then skim it off. Return to a simmer and taste the sauce. Add extra fish sauce to create a deeper savory flavor, or water to lighten it. Transfer the riblets and sauce to a bowl. Sprinkle the scallion on top and serve. ( RG1869 )
  8. Caramel Sauce (Nước Màu/Nuoc Mau) This is a cornerstone of Vietnamese cooking. The term nước màu was originally coined in southern Vietnam. Northerners know this same ingredient as nước hàng (merchandising water), probably because it was so often used by food hawkers to enhance the appearance of their wares. Its ability to impart incredibly savory-sweet flavors is the key to simmering meats, seafood, eggs, and/or tofu for everyday kho dishes. Some cooks substitute brown sugar, but the results tend to be too sweet. The inky sauce also lends rich brown color to grilled meats, much as molasses does in American barbecue. Traditionally, the sauce is made by pouring boiling water into the caramelized sugar, a somewhat dangerous step that causes the mixture to bubble and spew dramatically. This method immediately arrests the cooking, so that the sugar doesn't burn to a bitter black stage. I find it easier to place the pan in a sink partially filled with water, which cools the caramelized sugar, halting the cooking, and then add the water to dilute the sugar. The result with both approaches is the same bittersweet, inky sauce that is a staple in every Vietnamese kitchen. This recipe appears in my new cookbook In the Vietnamese Kitchen and an excerpt from this book appears in The Daily Gullet. This makes about 1 cup. 3/4 c water 1 c sugar 1. Select a small, heavy saucepan with a long handle. Use one with a light interior (such as stainless steel) to make monitoring the changing color of the caramel easier. Fill the sink with enough water to come halfway up the sides of the saucepan. 2. Put 1/4 cup of the water and all the sugar in the saucepan and place over medium-low heat. To ensure that the sugar melts evenly, stir with a metal spoon. After about 2 minutes, when the sugar is relatively smooth and opaque, stop stirring and let the mixture cook undisturbed. Small bubbles will form at the edge of the pan and gradually grow larger and move toward the center. A good 7 minutes into cooking, bubbles will cover the entire surface and the mixture will be at a vigorous simmer. As the sugar melts, the mixture will go from opaque to clear. If a little sugar crystallizes on the sides of the pan, don’t worry. After about 15 minutes, the sugar will begin to caramelize and deepen in color. You will see a progression from champagne yellow to light tea to dark tea. When smoke starts rising, around the 20-minute mark, remove the pan from the heat and slowly swirl it. Watch the sugar closely as it will turn darker by the second; a reddish cast will set in (think the color of a big, bold red wine) as the bubbles become a lovely burnt orange. Pay attention to the color of the caramel underneath the bubbles. When the caramel is the color of black coffee or molasses, place the pan in the sink to stop the cooking. The hot pan bottom will sizzle on contact. Add the remaining 1/2 cup water; don’t worry, the sugar will seize up but later dissolve. After the dramatic bubble reaction ceases, return the pan to the stove over medium heat. 3. Heat the caramel, stirring until it dissolves into the water. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes before pouring into a small heatproof glass jar. Set aside to cool completely. The result will seem slightly viscous, while the flavor will be bittersweet. Cover and store the sauce indefinitely in your kitchen cupboard. ( RG1868 )
  9. What a beautiful comment, Andrea. It was not long ago that I made my great-grandmother's Grape Pie. Although the concord grapes no longer have seeds, my son and I slipped the skins and followed the recipe just as I learned at my great-grandmother and grandmother's knees. And, we both found comfort in doing this, and especially me who got to tell the stores, which hopefully this next generation will pass on to their children. And, I was the lucky recipient of my great-grandmother's recipe box. The cards are yellowed and bent around the edges, written in that spidery, fountain-penned cursive, but I count it as one of my most precious posessions. ← What a great recipe. How easy is it to slip the skin off those grapes? I love that concept of cooking the skins. It's wonderful that you cherish that recipe box as a family heirloom. My mom used to make my sisters practice their penmanship by copying recipes into that orange notebook. That's why there's all this fancy script in there, comingled with my mother's regular handwritting. Andrea
  10. You are so lucky to get your hands on such wonderful fat. I live in Santa Cruz, CA, and purchase 1/8 of a grass-fed cow each year from a local rancher. We have one farmer who raises hogs but I've yet to invest in one. Pork fat is difficult to come by these days. There's fat from the neck, back and belly. In old-fashioned Viet cookbooks published in Vietnam, you'll often see a specific type of pork fat used in a recipe. In the States, fatback is the easiest one to find; I've yet to come across the other two kinds of fat. There are certain Viet recipes that definitely require diced fatback, so every once in a while, I get a few pounds from a Mexican butcher counter, cut them into pieces the size of a deck of cards and freeze them. Chicken fat is also great to cook with . . .
  11. Thank you for the kind words. I'm delighted to hear that my "baby" arrived at your doorstep. There are lots of good things to make from the book. And I'm not just saying that because I'm the author! Yep, you hit it right on the head. Vietnamese people don't make bahn mi at home -- neither here nor in the motherland. They are so readily available and reasonably priced too. Plus, most cooks in Vietnam lack ovens, and as you're probably well aware, it's darn tough to make a good baguette. The introduction to the banh chapter tells you how that category of food is considered the hardest to master. "Banh" isn't just about the sandwich. Though there are over 175 recipes in the cookbook, it was tough to select which ones to include. The Viet repertoire is huge. But in the end, the collection reflects classic homey preparations as well as some more complex special preparations. They're all dishes that I know are doable. Enjoy the book and feel free to send me comments or questions! Andrea
  12. Hi Kelly, Thanks for picking up on the Merc and Saveur pieces. For the fat, try some old-fashioned home-rendered pork fat. For fatback, I often ask the guys at a Mexican butcher counter. That's the most common type of cooking fat. For those who could, they made their own peanut oil, but that depended on the availability of peanuts in your area. When the Americans arrived in the 1960s, they brought cooking oil to Vietnam. But pork fat is readily availability and more commonly used. Best, Andrea
  13. You're very welcome. Yes, the gastro-cultural ties that bind us as humans feed our bellies and our souls. At the end of the day, the simple things in life keep us going. My family was among the fortunate ones to escape by plane. We're what's considered the 'first wave' of Viet refugees to this country. The people who left by boat and those who endured reeducation camps suffered tremendously. People of my parents' generation (my folks are in their 70s) endured social upheavals such as famine, colonization, family separation, and civil war -- on top of immigrating to this country and starting over. They're toughies, and over the years, whenever they've reunited with family and friends, there's plenty of food involved to comfort and heal. Like all cuisines that are transported away from their native countries, Viet cooking in the U.S. has been transformed to reflect the ingredients, taste preferences, and equipment available here. With regard to my family, we try to preserve old-fashioned culinary traditions in a modern context. That's why we often enjoyed homemade noodle soups or sticky rice dishes for Sunday breakfasts. That process of bridging old and new happens constantly in our family kitchen. For example, every year, my mother spends several days assembling and boiling Tet sticky rice cakes (banh chung, p. 261). She makes about 20 of them (they're the size of small adobe bricks) and then freezes what doesn't get eaten up; the cakes pop up at the table throughout the year. When she was growing up in Hai Duong, a town outside of Hanoi, there was no refrigeration. Her family stuck their cakes down a well to keep them cool. Now, the freezer is Mom's well. I make banh chung for Tet too, as well as moon cakes (banh nuong, p. 300) for the annual mid-autumn moon festival. These are time-consuming foods to prepare, but the results are fabulous (much better than store-bought) and the processes keep me in touch with ancient foodways. They're experiences that allow me to plug into the culinary genius of people who took their meager resources to create amazingly tasty food. But you don't have to prepare super complicated foods to realize that. The ones posted above are terrific examples of Vietnamese culinary ingenuity.
  14. Rice economics is not a fluff subject in Asia. It's a food security issue. Without a decent rice crop, you're flirting with famine! Yes indeed, the Twin Cities has one of the largest (or the largest?) Hmong populations in the U.S. You're very lucky. Gosh, I have many comfort foods. Yesterday I was beat after traveling and on the way back from the airport, I stopped for a bowl of Viet noodle soup in San Jose, CA. It was revitalizing. Kho dishes (foods simmered with caramel sauce) are definitely comforting. But there's also this wonderful little recipe in the book for caramelized minced pork (thit heo bam, pg. 131) that I just love. It's from my childhood and employs caramel sauce in a different way than the kho dishes. The sauce coats the bits of pork and makes them savory-sweet and crispy, like the leftovers at bottom of the pan when you sear meat. Well, my mom would make that stuff and my dad would whip up a batch of old-fashioned pressed rice logs (com nam, pg. 241), which is like Japanese onigiri. He'd slice the logs and we'd press the rice pieces onto the pork and eat it out of hand. What fun that was. Hee hee...It still is! When my family gets together, we enjoy a lot of my mom's northern Viet specialties, like shrimp and sweet potato fritters (banh tom, pg. 272), which are deep fried and delicious with lettuce and fresh herbs. She also likes to make pho too so there's always some around. One of her our family's favorite southern Viet dishes is banh xeo (sizzling rice crepes, pg. 274) which are crispy chewy and dynamite; we line up to eat them as soon as she gets them out of the skillet. It's a food fest. Remember, my mom is woman who wanted to run a restaurant at one point so making semi-industrial quantities of food for her family is great fun. I'm getting hungry as I write... Andrea
  15. Ludja, Yes, through that link, you get to preview the selection of 175+ recipes in the book! It was difficult (cumbersome) to incorporate the phonetics into the book's design so I posted them online for folks.
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