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,, to learn more about her culinary adventures.

Happy Belly's Kimchi Dog

Now that Namu is taking a break from serving lunch, to focus on opening a new deli at Balboa and 3rd, their outpost in the park, Happy Belly, has been receiving lots more visits from yours truly. The next time you're strolling from the Conservatory over to the DeYoung or taking a break from Lindy in the Park, stop at this modest little hot dog cart and read the menu carefully.

The Great American Soup

This 1970s commercial shows how to make a big production out of soup. Ann Miller was a much-loved dancer who was discovered before she even hit puberty right here in San Francisco at the historic and colorful Black Cat Cafe.

Prepping at Restaurant Picco

Last month, during one of those gorgeously sunny weeks, a friend visiting from China (read: escaping from Beijing's craziness) requested a fun outing that would include a meal highlighting local foods. The perfect side trip came to mind immediately. There's no better way to take in the Bay than on a leisurely ferry ride. And for local flavors, Restaurant Picco offers Marin Mondays, special weekly prix fixe dinners that highlight the best of Marin Country farms. I told my friend to meet me on the Larkspur Ferry.

A Taste of Hong Kong: Kee Wah Bakery

With summer fast waning and the autumn fruits making their way to market, it's time to turn to one of my favorite holidays. The Mid-Autumn Festival or, as many of us call it, the Harvest Moon Festival, celebrates the brightest and fullest moon of the year. It was once a time for families to relax and enjoy finally the fruits of their summer labor. Nowadays, in that peculiar way modernization and urbanization has of thinning out traditions, people might simply exchange moon cakes or go out to eat at their favorite Chinese restaurant. A few purists will try to hike up a hill for a midnight picnic with hot tea. Or, if you're Andrea Nguyen, you spend days making your own moon cakes from scratch.

Campfire Shrimp Boil

Then, I got an email from a PR agency. Did I want to try some new regional recipes from a classic seafood seasoning company? I had just hosted a big Zatarain's tasting a few weeks ago, so I was somewhat curious about how the East Coast classic would compare. I made a point of specifying two tins of each new flavor. But in that funny way PR way, a few days later a huge box arrived with a gigantic logo stamped on the side. Inside, a big stockpot. A stockpot that I do not need. In a box that was a waste of someone's time to produce and pack and ship. There was one set of seasonings, even though I had requested two for testing and photography purposes. (This isn't expensive stuff, folks. I'm not asking for two tins of caviar.) And my favorite...there was one pot-holder. Stamped, of course, with a big fat logo.

California Coolers

If you live anywhere near the Northern California coastline in a house that was built during the first two decades of the 20th century and if you haven't had a chance or don't have the heart to remodel your home completely, then you probably still have a strange, little cabinet in a corner of your kitchen. Unlike the other cabinets in the room, it has open shelves of wire or slats or perforated wood. It also feels very cold and breezy, and you might even be able to glimpse sunlight through the back of it if you stand at a certain angle and tilt your head a certain way. It may have a lock or, at the least, a secure latch.

Freezer Pickles

My original recipe for this, passed down from my mom on a handwritten 3x5 card, is named "Ice Box Pickles" for the days when large blocks of ice were cut during the winter, buried in straw through the summer, and delivered house to house on a horse-drawn wagon. A modern-day, electric-powered freezer works just as well, though, for one my favorite ways of highlighting the season's crisp cucumbers.

Finding Oakland's Pho Ao Sen

After we picked her up from the Oakland airport, she wanted to stop for a bowl of pho. We scrambled, with our iPhones and our keyword searches, to come up with a place that would hold up to her standards. While we were still trying to locate a good signal, she pointed us over to a group of people who looked suspiciously Vietnamese standing on a corner of International Boulevard. She rolled down the window and asked them where to eat. They gestured to two pho houses nearby. She asked them point-blank: Which one is better? Without hesitating, they pointed to...Pho Ao Sen.

Druze Cuisine and Korean Chicken in NYC

Two places that I was delighted to try this past weekend in NYC, with the guidance of friends, are Gazala Place in Hell's Kitchen (or, as the real estate agents have been calling it since the new high-rises came in: Midtown West) and the infamous Bonchon Chicken in Koreatown.

Infusing Hibiscus

My drink of choice at taquerias has always been a large, refreshing glass of jamaica, the brightest and probably healthiest agua fresca in the glass barrel lineup. The beautifully scarlet infusion of hibiscus flowers is rich in Vitamin C and carries a tartness that I love.

Provencal Beef Stew

As a member of a recently formed meat club, one that divides up monthly deliveries from Marin Sun Farms, I have been revisiting some of my favorite beef, lamb and goat recipes. After a few years of rarely cooking big pieces of meat in my kitchen (the meat lover in my heart is always duking … Continue reading Provencal Beef Stew →

Pie and Politics

On Sunday, July 13, Colleen and her friend, David Pistrang, will be serving up dish after dish of their favorite homey dessert at the Women's Building. It's a Pie Social, their grassroots and very delicious way to raise money for Equality California's fight against the November ballot initiative that would nullify gay marriage.

Homey Soybean Milk

My Midwestern parents live at the epicenter of the soybean industry, but tracking down whole beans still requires a 45-minute drive to the nearest Asian market. We all consume soybean in some form every day, yet few know what the bean even looks like. Tofu has come a long way in the US from its … Continue reading Homey Soybean Milk →