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Andrea Nguyen's New Book Demystifies Vietnamese Cooking

Wok, steamer, and specialty market not required.


In the introduction to her new cookbook, Vietnamese Food Any Day, Andrea Nguyen recalls the three-hour treks that her family would make to Los Angeles’ Chinatown as recently arrived Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s to stock up on staples like fish sauce and lemongrass. Back then, writes the Santa Cruz-based cookbook author, shopping at the neighborhood Albertsons “meant certain compromises on ingredients” for the Vietnamese home cook. Fast-forward some 40 years, and the Asian food aisle at almost any big supermarket chain will stock decent-quality rice flour, coconut milk and fish sauce, and, yet, for many Americans, Vietnamese cooking still feels like some exotic, impenetrable endeavor. So Nguyen decided it was time to create something rare: a Vietnamese cookbook for the wide swath of America that doesn’t have easy access to a specialized Asian grocery store—for the cook who hasn’t yet felt the need to invest in a wok or a bamboo steamer. Due to be released by Ten Speed Press Feb. 5 (on Tet, or Vietnamese New Year), Vietnamese Food Any Day doesn’t present a watered-down version of Vietnamese food, so much as it draws inspiration from the kind of hybridized cooking that crafty, adaptable Vietnamese-American cooks have been doing for decades: seafood stew spiked with homemade pomegranate molasses, instead of tamarind; pho made with smoked turkey thighs; and roasted cauliflower seasoned in the manner of Viet-style chicken wings.


Originally published in the February issue of San Francisco 

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