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Eating Adventures in the Emerald City (Seattle)
+ Starbucks Viet Coffee Hack + People magazine + Shaking Salmon recipe + Taste podcast + 6/3 Oakland, CA, event
Whoa! Huzzah! And, Phew! I spent most of this week in Seattle, where I did three Ever-Green Vietnamese events to celebrate Asian food, culture and community. The joyful public events at Book Larder and Ba Bar were packed with people — a mixture of friends, long time fans, and curious cooks. The in-person events have been mini party scenes of sorts. We’re all looking for extra celebration these days to make up for lost opportunities during the pandemic.
Cooking and cookbooks bring people together in ways that I didn’t expect going into the EGV launch. A few weeks ago, Eric Kim, the New York Times columnist and author of Korean American (a personal favorite and not just for the excellent fried chicken recipe) recounted how people have told him that certain recipes of his have marked life moments for them. Surely I’d experienced a lot of that, yes? No, I hadn’t really, or so I thought.
Because my book tour events are limited in time, I don’t have much opportunity to connect with people. That said, our brief conversations can be intense. For example, Honor Rovai introduced herself by way of her late mother, Margaret Rovai (a beloved editor at eGullet.com), who supported my work and gifted Honor one of my books. Years ago, Honor prepared my pho to impress her future Vietnamese in-laws. The couple married and now nurture a Viet-food loving family. I’m thrilled to be part of Honor’s Viet cooking journey.
Two people said that they used my recipes for public school lunch programs to educate kids about Viet flavors. A millennial gay couple celebrated their 12th anniversary by attending my book dinner! Wowza.
At Book Larder, Maia (@thecookbooknerd) told the crowded bookshop how revelatory and easy the oven-fried imperial roll recipe was for an otherwise tricky dish. In the signing line, a pair of twentysomething brothers, Bảo and Phi, shared that their mother never taught them to cook. “I was asked in my English class here if I knew how to cook and who taught me. I was embarrassed to say I did not know how to cook because no one taught me,” said Bảo. That was six years ago, soon after they came to America from Vietnam. The brothers began using my recipes and sometimes translating into Vietnamese for their mom.
“Will your book be translated?” Bảo asked. I sensed he was a bit tired of translating for his mom. Our relationship to recipes and cooking is layered.
There was also last minute wonderfulness, such as having an impromptu dinner with J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, author of the Wok and Food Lab. He asked me to sign his copy of Into the Vietnamese Kitchen and whipped out a Sharpie!
I couldn’t get a reservation at Canlis, a landmark restaurant, but the universe had other ideas. I summarize it in this 90-second video on Instagram:
May 2023 Seattle Eating Tips
If and when you’re in Seattle, consider:
Canlis — Chef Aisha Ibrahim’s tasting menu allows guests to build their own eating adventure. If you don’t have a reservation, do a walk-in and sit at the comfy bar/piano lounge. The beverage and a-la-carte snack menu is affordable, given the quality and topnotch hospitality.
Harvest and Vine — The roasted beets, octopus and sea bass were incredible.
Ooink Ramen - Remarkable house-made noodles and broths prepared by the obsessively precise Chong Boon Ooi, who ferments his tare for weeks to deeply and distinctively season each broth. His Malaysian fried chicken is outstanding, too. The Fremont location is roomier than the Capitol Hill one.
Ba Bar Green - Korean American Chef Chris Michel’s pan-Asian vegan menu is well executed. His kimchi fried rice and laksa are splendid. He made the food for my book event and followed my recipes, to boot!
Ba Bar - Eric Banh’s confit duck noodle soup (mì vịt tiềm) is one of my all time favorite renditions outside of what I make at home. The Hanoi-style beef pho is great too.
Sea Wolf - A gem of a bakery in the Wallingford neighborhood. The sturdy whole wheat raisin cinnamon bread is flavorful and life giving.
Pho Bac Sup Shop - The beef pho is consistently good but unfortunately, the parking is consistently difficult. Plan ahead.
Monsoon - One of Seattle’s best Vietnamese restaurants, go for Dungeness crab, papaya salad, and the fried rice, along with other dishes. The Banh family opened it nearly 25 years ago and it still remains relevant and swank.
Uwajimaya — The pan-Asian market has a thriving food court full of Instagram worthy moments. I prefer the prepared takeaway food that’s surprisingly decent, including Viet bun noodle salads.
Add your Seattle tips in comments!
Starbucks Vietnamese Coffee Hack
Seattle is home to Starbucks and its corporate Women’s Impact Network and Asian American employee group invited me to chat about the book. It was a private event that my friend Thanh Tan, a journalist and one of the company’s lead communication officers, organized. What I didn’t expect was learning about a cool Vietnamese coffee hack created by a barrista named Bella.
Bella (below, talking) is a college student who is Vietnamese Chinese. She explained that she didn’t have much money and wanted an affordable, extra caffeinated drink to get her through classes and finals. She also wanted to pay homage to her heritage and late mother. Analyzing Starbucks ingredient flavor profile, Bella’s formula for a Vietnamese coffee hack is this:
iced quad espresso + 3 pumps of white mocha + a little soy milk
Bella explained that the intense espresso and sweetened white mocha mimicked Viet coffee and condensed milk. The soy milk added creaminess.
I tested Bella’s hack at SEATAC. The barrista had no problem with my order. She suggested a tall cup for a good ratio of ice to other ingredients. The iced coffee needed stirring and mellowed and came together after the about a third of the ice had melted. Is this a Starbucks Secret Menu item? No, it’s Bella’s brilliant hack! Starbucks is about doing whatever customers want, so just make the call.
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4 More AWESOME Things!
Spicy Mushroom and Cabbage Slaw — For the first time ever, I’m in People magazine. My friend John jokingly texted, “Didn’t know you and Ben Affleck were an item in People. #Bandrea.” 😆 On newstands this week, the Memorial Day coverage speaks volumes about Vietnamese food in America. Check out the recipe in Ever-Green Vietnamese (page 174), online, or in print. (Celia Sack, owner of Omnivore Books in SF, sent this photo.)
Shaking Salmon — This recipe from Ever-Green Vietnamese has been a hit with Californian newspapers as well as food writers like Georgia Freedman, who publishes the California Table newsletter at Substack and featured it this week.
Taste Podcast — Have a listen of my conversation with Aliza Abarbanel. I discuss the ups and downs of making a useful, evergreen book.
Saturday, 6/3 at Market Hall in Oakland/Rockridge, 12pm to 2pm — If you’re in the Bay Area and missed my earlier events, let’s meet up next weekend at Market Hall. The market will be preparing food from the book and I’ll be on hand to answer questions and sign your copy! Event and menu details.
I’m taking this long weekend to recuperate and will be back early next week with a recipe for y’all.