The book is aimed at the home cook who might be interested in the dishes from Phan’s native Vietnam. But it is not only filled with recipes and pictures – there is also the story behind why each recipe was selected and the importance of that particular dish to the culinary culture of Vietnam.
“I’ve always thought there has been a missing category in terms of cookbooks involving Vietnamese cuisine. After years of being asked about a cookbook, I finally succumbed. I wanted to bring a piece of Vietnam to the U.S.,” Phan said, speaking at a book event in Burlingame recently. “The book is along the lines of what we do at The Slanted Door.”
Phan starts with broths, which are essential for not only soups like pho, but also for braising dishes. “It’s really one of the basics in Vietnamese cooking. And we use it so often, you can make more than you need and freeze or refrigerate the leftover.”
Recipes in the cookbook are spelled out clearly, taking readers through each step of the process. There are recipes from different parts of the country, many of which Phan encountered on his return to Vietnam as he and his family left the country when he was a teenager. “Street food is so prevalent. Many of the recipes I encountered just wandering around to different markets and from street vendors. They were very secretive about their recipes because basically, their business is their life,” Phan said. “So while they might not be exactly what I experienced, they are true to the general idea behind each recipe.”
Along with the book, Phan also dished on some of his favorites in the Bay Area (Turtle Tower, Chutney Restaurant as his favorite hole-in-the-wall, fried rice as his after work meal when he gets home). He is building out another restaurant on the Embarcadero at Pier 3 with a New Orleans theme (think plenty of bourbon cocktails and items such as fried chicken) and although it is scheduled for a late December opening, he said that may be pushed back as he is also working on another project – heading the culinary program at the SFJazz Center, scheduled to open next year.