Here at Simply Recipes, we often partner with cookbook authors and recipe writers who want to share their skills, cuisines, and recipes with us. For the past few months, we’ve partnered with Andrea Nguyen, an award-winning recipe writer and cookbook author, most recently of Vietnamese Food Any Day: Simple Recipes for True, Fresh Flavors.
Below we’ve included some thoughts from Andrea on how her recipes came to be.
“Vietnamese cooks have always been resourceful and innovative, doing their best under harsh circumstance, foreign intrusion, and displacement. My family came to America in 1975 and in our efforts to resettle here, we mined American supermarkets to cook the flavors we missed.
Like many displaced people (my parents are northerners who’d migrated to Saigon decades earlier and raised five kids during the Vietnam War), we made do and shared new ideas with our community.
In the main, those new ideas were rooted in foundational cooking but were also forward looking. They helped people realize that they could be Vietnamese in America but more importantly, to become Vietnamese Americans.
The exciting initial years were full of discovery and learning. Just like in the motherland, people cooked with care — a notion that’s expressed in the Viet term khéo, which means “smart” and “adroit”, but when applied to cooking, it conveys food that’s been thoughtfully and skillfully prepared with intention and a grounding in the fundamentals.
Mostly based on my latest cookbook, Vietnamese Food Any Day, the recipes in this Simply Recipes collection reflect the Vietnamese notion of khéo in how it captures the essence of Vietnamese foodways. I incorporate cultural notes in the recipe write ups [you’ll have to click through to the actual recipes] to explain the roots and foundations of the recipes.
For example, char siu chicken is based on a [Chinese recipe] char siu pork (thịt xá xíu); the reason for chicken is it’s faster to marinate and cook, is delicious and people cook up lots of chicken nowadays. The wok seared beef pho is a quickie take on a 1940s dish that my mother had in Hai Duong, where she grew up; if you’d like the original version, check out my book, “The Pho Cookbook.”
We encourage you to spend a little time with these recipes. Hopefully, they’ll add a few new ideas to your repertoire!
If you want to learn more about Andrea Nguyen, ingredients used in Vietnamese cooking (and other cuisines as well), cooking equipment and her approach to Vietnamese Food follow these links:
- Q&A with Cookbook Author Andrea Nguyen
- Beginners Guide to Cooking Vietnamese Food at Home
- Ingredient Spotlight: Fish Sauce
- Kitchen Essentials for Cooking Vietnamese Food at Home
- Explore all our Vietnamese Recipes
- Andrea’s website: VietWorldKitchen.com
These are recipes you can do at home with ingredients you can easily find in the supermarket. You can, and should, make them for dinner. (And in the case of the sorbet, dessert, too!) In many cases, there are elements of these dishes that can be prepped ahead, which makes them even easier.
The only tough part is deciding which one to start with!