Sep 21, 2022 - Food and Drink

Chef's Table with Gabriella's Vietnam chef Thanh Nguyen

Thanh Nguyen
Owner Thanh Nguyen at Gabriella's Vietnam in South Philly. Photo courtesy of Thanh Nguyen

Thanh Nguyen came to the U.S. to study biochemistry but instead followed her passion and became a chef.

State of play: Nguyen is the owner of Gabriella's Vietnam in South Philly, where she serves up dishes from her native Saigon, Vietnam.

  • She opened the spot at 1837 East Passyunk Ave. β€” her latest venture following previous restaurants in Philly, Norristown and Ambler β€” with her husband, Chris, in February 2021.
  • Gabriella's was the only Philly eatery to make it onto The New York Times' 2022 Restaurant List this week.

Axios asked Nguyen a few questions for our culinary advice series, Chef's Table:

Must-have tool in your home kitchen? Chopsticks. We use wooden chopsticks to cook just about every dish.

Go-to grocery store for home cooking? Hung Vuong Food Market on Washington Avenue in Little Saigon.

  • Fresh ingredients are a must for us. We like to use ingredients that are as close to its natural state whenever we cook at home.
  • This means bone-in fish and meats, shell on crustaceans and shellfish and, of course, we always must have a serving of leafy greens with every meal.

Most overlooked spice? Turmeric. It gives food a very comforting flavor and an eye-pleasing color that kind of triggers your tongue to want to eat the food.

Favorite home-cooked meal: Thα»‹t Kho β€” braised pork belly with boiled eggs. It's Vietnamese soul food and the best Vietnamese dish you'll ever have.

  • The pork belly is slowly braised with caramelized fish sauce until it is melt-in-your-mouth tender. We add boiled eggs in the braise so the whites soak up the braising liquid.
  • This dish is eaten with white rice but a simple blanch of leafy greens is a must.
  • When we eat, we use our chopsticks or a spoon to break the eggs in half and drench the yolk in the braising liquid.

What's your go-to dish at your favorite local restaurant? Mike's BBQ in South Philly, which is the only American BBQ joint my husband, Chris, and I crave and the only place we'll probably ever eat at.

  • Our go to is the juicy, tender, perfectly cooked brisket and the amazing crispy pork belly. We've had other menu items and they're all pretty much up there in taste and quality.

Quick tip for at-home cooks: The best way to clean your ingredients, and hold their quality and color is to flash blanch it in boiling water first.

  • By giving it a quick blanch, you're going to wash off and release any impurities of the meat or vegetable. This also helps to hold their shape and color.
  • After flash blanching, you can use the ingredients to steam, stir-fry, or cook, and the texture will almost always be perfect.

How do you unplug: I read a lot. You'll find me on my phone almost every time that I'm not working. Besides that, there is one video game that I've been enjoying for almost 10 years now: "Mobile Legends: Bang Bang," which I play with my husband.

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