Cooking Tips

Vietnamese Food Cooking Tips from Chef Andrea Nguyen

Vietnamese food is an excellent place to start for individuals who want to sample cuisines from around the world. There is something for every palate at your table because it uses everything from tofu to meat to shrimp. Vietnamese cuisine naturally encourages communal dining, so it’s a good idea to always offer the food with a variety of sauces, fresh herbs, and sides to improve any dining experience, no matter how big or little.

The best aspect is that modern grocery shops stock more items that are compatible with the rising demand for food around the world. Ingredients that were formerly difficult to find are now simple to find at your neighborhood market. If the international foods aisle doesn’t have what you’re looking for, try the health food aisle, where you’re sure to discover speciality ingredients like rice noodles and coconut milk.

Famous cookbook author and expert in Vietnamese cuisine, Andrea Nguyen,  lists her go-to products, gadgets, and methods for making excellent Vietnamese food at home.

Ingredients essential to Vietnamese cuisine

Assembly is a significant distinction between Vietnamese and Western cuisines. Every bite is built at the table as part of the dining experience; one person may add a sauce that the other person does not. Someone person might add a bundle of fresh herbs, while someone else might merely add a couple of sprigs. Part of the experience is providing variety and letting others at your table express their unique tastes with what you’ve prepared.

Lemongrass, fresh herbs, chiles, and strong umami flavors from the meat, sauces, and cooking methods are all abundant in Vietnamese cuisine.


Thai, jalapeo, Fresno, or serrano chiles are among the suggestions made by Andrea for keeping on hand. Simply freeze them if you’re concerned you won’t finish them in time.

Fresh Herbs: Mint and cilantro are necessary, but basil, whether Thai or not, is a great accent if you have any on hand.

Ginger is easier to clean if it has less knobby nooks and crevices. In the refrigerator, it will keep for approximately a month.

When it’s available, Andrea advises using fresh lemongrass. Get enough to freeze if you do discover it so you have some on hand. It has a three-month shelf life.


Spices: On Andrea’s list of must-haves are Madras-style curry powder and Chinese five spice powder.

Vietnamese Food Any Day contains a recipe for homemade chili garlic sauce, but if you want to buy it already made, seek for one that has a nice mix of heat and tang. Huy Fong is advised by Andrea.

Fish Sauce: Fish sauce gives a meal extra punch. It has the umami flavor of a bomb. However, not all fish sauces are created equal. Red Boat is Andrea’s favorite brand, and her second and third choices are Three Crabs and Megachef.


The ingredients in Vietnamese food range from wheat, rice, and bean noodles. Check the gluten-free or health food aisles of your shop if you can’t locate them in the international foods aisle.

Check out the Three Ladies brand for round rice noodles, flat rice noodles, rice paper, and jasmine rice. It’s also available at Asian marketplaces like Cost Plus World Market.

Look for the Wel-Pac and Golden Dragon brands of Chinese wheat noodles.


Everything from tofu to beef, pork, and shrimp can be used in Vietnamese cuisine, sometimes interchangeably.

Tofu: Tofu absorbs the flavors of the dish’s sauces and spices like a flavor sponge. You should verify the tofu recipe to make sure you’re choosing the right level of firmness because it comes in different textures. Don’t worry if you’ve never worked with tofu; it’s simpler than you may imagine.

Shrimp: Shrimp come in all sizes. They are often sold per pound and by the count. For instance, if a pound of shrimp is marked 36/40, it implies you will get 36 to 40 shrimp in that pound. Shrimp that has already been peeled can be purchased, but for best results, peel and devein the shrimp manually.

Chicken is a very adaptable ingredient. Char Siu Chicken is a terrific place to start if you want to experiment with chicken and Vietnamese flavors.

Kitchen Equipment

My favorite aspect of Andrea’s book is how she encourages even a beginner to try with Vietnamese culinary techniques and flavors. Her book’s “Essential Equipment” section is remarkably devoid of ostentatious culinary gadgets.

She advises using basic kitchen appliances like a big pot, a grill pan or an outdoor barbecue, and a skillet.

After completing a few dishes, you could decide that you need to upgrade some of your kitchen’s appliances. In that instance, Andrea suggests a light, heat-conducting carbon steel wok and a straightforward bamboo steamer.

About Chef Andrea Nguyen

Chef Andrea Nguyen

Andrea Nguyen is a San Francisco-based Vietnamese-American chef, instructor, culinary writer, and cookbook author. She is a specialist in Asian culinary techniques and cuisine, and has authored a number of cookbooks on the cuisine of her native Vietnam. Her first cookbook, Into the Vietnamese Kitchen (2006), has been referred to as “indispensable” for those wishing to prepare Vietnamese cuisine. It was a nominee for the 2007 James Beard Foundation Award for best Asian cookbook and was nominated the same year by the International Association of Culinary Professionals for best debut book and best international cookbook.

Find easy yet tasty Vietnamese recipes by Chef Andrea Nguyen

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