More than a decade ago, I remember taking my parents to dinner at the Slanted Door for the first time.
Housed in its original location then on Valencia Street in the heart of the Mission District in San Francisco, I remember my Mom getting out of the car and looking around the neighborhood with trepidation. Walking quickly through the somewhat sketchy neighborhood, she clutched my Dad’s arm tightly and murmured, “Where are we going???”
But once ensconced inside the lively restaurant, my parents much enjoyed what was their first real taste of Vietnamese food — from crispy imperial rolls to shaking beef to claypot chicken in caramel sauce.
Indeed, since opening that first restaurant in 1995, Chef-Owner Charles Phan has helped introduce the cuisine of his homeland to countless diners like my parents, luring them out of their comfort zone by virtue of the addicting profusion of fresh herbs and pungent fish sauce that are its hallmarks.
For years, folks have nagged Phan to write a cookbook. But with six restaurants/cafes now, he hardly had the time.
Fortunately for all of us, he finally managed to do it, releasing his first cookbook last month, “Vietnamese Home Cooking” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy.
The book is filled with beautiful photographs of Phan’s most recent trips to Vietnam. The recipes highlight the fundamental techniques used in Vietnamese cooking: frying, steaming, braising, grilling and stir-frying.