Thy Tran

Thy Tran writes literary nonfiction about food, the rituals of the kitchen, and the many ways eating and cooking both connect and separate communities around the world. She co-authored the award-winning guide, Kitchen Companion, and her work has appeared in numerous other books, including Asia in the San Francisco Bay Area: A Cultural Travel Guide and Cooking at Home with the Culinary Institute of America. Her writing has been featured in The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Fine Cooking and Saveur. A recipient of a literary grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission, Thy is currently working on a collection of essays about how food changes in families across time and place. Though trained as a professional chef, she works on cookbooks by day, then creates literary chapbooks by night. An old letterpress and two cabinets of wood and lead type occupy a corner of her writing studio, for she is as committed to the art and craft of bookmaking as she is to the power of words themselves. In addition to writing, editing, teaching and printing, Thy remains active in local food justice and global food sovereignty movements. Visit her website, wanderingspoon.com, to learn more about her culinary adventures.

Lunar New Year Sweet Rice Dumplings

In China, where they're known as yuan xiao or tang yuan, the dumplings are traditionally served during the Lantern Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the 1st lunar month. During an especially important season, the festival comes on the first full moon of the new year and marks the end of the new year festivities. Here in San Francisco, this is typically the time when the Chinese New Year parade winds its way up the streets of Chinatown.

Homegrown: The 21st Century Family Farm

Just a mile from the skyscrapers of downtown Pasadena lies a tiny plot of land that has become the heart of an urban homesteading movement. The raised beds of the Dervaes family farm cover 1/10 of an acre. Imagine the area from a football field's goal line to the very first 10-yard mark, or if you're an average suburban homeowner, scan your backyard. Now, imagine harvesting 3 tons of organic food from this short span of soil every year.

Taking Time in the Kitchen: Down to the Brown

Two simple techniques increasingly omitted from recipes now are salting eggplant and browning butter. Neither are absolutely necessary. Both, however, are worth doing every once in a while to remind yourself just what amazing flavors you can create in the kitchen.

Rules of Thumb

There was a time, before Pyrex and Oxo, calculators and even cookbooks, when rules of thumb ruled the kitchen. My mother taught me my first one when I was six and still standing on a barstool to reach the kitchen faucet, the infamous and eerily accurate "one-knuckle" rule for cooking rice. Like all good R.O.T., the measures were flexible. It didn't matter how much rice or what size pot or what kind of stove. It worked.

Summer Trifle

The best summer desserts are simple to make, portable for picnics, and highlight the season's sweet, luscious fruit. Trifle would be at the top of my own list.

Red Crawfish

One of my favorite culinary mash-ups of recent years is the Vietnamese-Chinese-Cajun crawfish boil served with rice or garlic noodles. Following the arc of families moving from Vietnam to New Orleans to Southern California to, finally, San Jose and San Francisco, mud bugs have taken a garlicky turn and shown up, of all places, in Little Saigon's across the country.

Fry Bread and Indian Tacos

Many give Navajos of the Southwest the blue ribbon for making the best fry bread, but tribes all across the country have perfected their own versions.

Hungry for Change: FOOD, INC.

Last month, Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez, an outspoken leader on food safety and animal rights, hosted a special screening of the documentary, FOOD, INC. for a roomful of legislators in Sacramento. Thanks to a friend who works at the capitol, I was able to sneak in.

Arepas: Homemade Flatbreads

A staple in Venezuela and Colombia, arepas fill the workaday cook's most important need: foods that are easy to make and easy to use and never boring.

Chile Lindo Empanadas

For the past 10 years, Paula Tejeda has been quietly working her own brand of business development and cultural exchange, one empanada at a time, in San Francisco's Mission District.

Duc Loi Supermarket

For over twenty years, seven days a week, Howard and Amanda Ngo have sold fresh, affordable produce and a quirky blend of both Latin American and Asian ingredients at the heart of the Mission District.

Event: Taste of Tamales By The Bay

Slim as a finger or big as a fist, wrapped in papery corn husks or supple banana leaves, sweet as spring or spicy as summer -- the humble tamal in all its forms and flavors has become the star of an annual fundraising event in San Francisco. Taste of Tamales By the Bay will be coming again to the Fort Mason Center on Sunday, April 26, 2009.