Below are questions people often ask me about my blog or cooking in general. I hope you find my answers helpful. Please contact me if you have other questions not included here.
Where do you shop for groceries?
Let me just start off by saying that I am completely obsessed with Trader Joe’s. I like to buy organic whenever possible, and TJ’s carries so many organic offerings at affordable prices. It is a little out of the way for me, but the savings are completely worth the trip! (I’m talking about 30% to 40% savings here!) I plan my meals ahead of time and go once a week with a grocery list in hand so I don’t forget anything. For items I can’t get at TJ’s, I usually go to the Union Square Green Market.
I shop for all of my Asian groceries in Chinatown. My favorite store is Hong Kong Supermarket located on the corner of Hester and Elizabeth. This place is HUGE (two levels) with everything you’ll need for Asian cooking!
What ingredients do you always have on hand?
Here are some long-lasting ingredients that I always make sure to have readily available in my kitchen:
- Low-sodium beef and chicken broth: using store-bought broth instead of water in dishes such as soups, stir fries, quinoa, or couscous adds so much more flavor; it’s also a great way to cut down on oil or butter without losing flavor in your dish
- Pasta and canned tomatoes: the basic ingredients you’ll need to make a quick and simple pasta dish anytime
- Red pepper flakes: we LOVE spicy food, so adding a few pinches of these flakes kick up the flavor in any dish
- Fish sauce and chili sauce: absolutely essential in Vietnamese cooking
How often do you cook?
I usually cook dinner for us every weeknight and sometimes breakfast on the weekends. Weekend dinners, though, are for exploring restaurants in the city!
How do you come up with your recipes?
I get inspired from a variety of sources – cooking shows, magazines, relatives, and friends. I usually make a few tweaks to the original recipes to reflect my own style of cooking and personal preferences, but sometimes the recipes are perfect as is. Most importantly, however, I get inspiration from my travels. Michael and I LOVE to travel to different countries and try new dishes. I always try to recreate certain dishes from our trips upon returning to New York.
Does Michael cook with you?
How can I put this…NO, Michael is not allowed in my kitchen. Cooking is time for me to unwind and relax. Occasionally, I do allow him in the kitchen to bake. His grandfather was a baker in Germany so he makes some amazing desserts!
Do you cook Vietnamese food often?
Yes, of course! I make Vietnamese food 3 to 4 times a month. I usually make my favorite dishes, which are noodle soups. Don’t worry, I’ll post the recipes whenever I make them!
How do you correctly pronounce phở?
The correct pronunciation for phở is “fuh.”
Why do you use kosher salt in most of your recipes?
The main reason why I use kosher salt is because I prefer its taste over regular table salt. Believe it or not, there are subtle differences in the taste of kosher salt, sea salt, and table salt. When I bake, however, I usually use table salt because it dissolves much quicker due to its fine granules. I also like the crunchy texture that kosher salt has when sprinkled onto dishes right before serving. It’s sort of a nice surprise when biting into your food!
You can certainly use table salt instead of kosher salt when cooking with my recipes. Just remember to use a little less salt than the recipe calls for. Because of its fine grain, a single teaspoon of table salt contains more salt than a tablespoon of kosher salt.
What kinds of herbs do you grow?
I started planting my own herbs on our balcony a few years ago because I was so tired of wasting store-bought ones. Since most dishes only require small amounts of herbs, I found myself throwing away the leftovers once they wilted.
Every spring, I go to the Union Square Green Market to buy herbs that I use frequently – Thai basil, Italian basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, mint, and parsley. They only cost $4 each and last until the early fall. Not only do I save money, it’s also a lot of fun to grow and harvest the herbs!