Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—Food52 Creative Director and lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook.
Andrea Nguyen had all but given up on coconut rice. Every pot came out dull and mushy, tasting nothing like the subtly sweet, fluffy grains she and her parents remembered from her childhood in Vietnam.
But she had a breakthrough as she was developing the recipes for Vietnamese Food Any Day, her sixth cookbook, and her first to be laser-focused on making Vietnamese food accessible to everyone in the U.S., from any grocery store they have nearby (no specialty store shopping required).
“For years, I stuck to the general notion of making coconut rice with coconut milk, but my rice was always gummier than I liked,” she wrote to me. “Then I realized that the difference is that in Southeast Asia, coconut milk is a lot lighter than what we have in canned form in America.”
So, even though it was one of only two seemingly non-negotiable ingredients (coconut rice should probably have…coconut and rice), she ditched it.
Andrea trolls supermarket shelves with the no-stone-unturned tenacity of a deal-scavenging Black Friday shopper—then (unlike the average Black Friday prowler) she shares her best tips. Her book includes all kinds of shopping intel, like which jasmine rice is the best to buy (look for the ones grown in Thailand) and hot tips on no-compromise swaps, like Trader Joe's gourmet fried onions for homemade fried shallots.
TJ fried onions are back in seasonal stock! That meant I got to add extra to today’s chicken and glass noodle soup (miến gà). The tasty onions are my easy sub for fried shallot so stock up! The noodle soup recipe is from VFAD on page 82. pic.twitter.com/wZcQ3flEAX
So when she first saw coconut water popping up in even the most basic convenience stores circa 2009, she saw it as more than just a natural source of electrolytes, but a flavorful, ready-to-go liquid for cooking (see also: her glazed chicken and vegetables and Yi Jun Loh’s Coconut Water ABC Soup). Coconut milk out, coconut water in.
Then, to bring back some of the richness of coconut milk without all the heft (plus a soothing, extra-coconutty scent), she stirred in a couple spoonfuls of virgin coconut oil just at the end. There’s also a bit of turmeric—ground or fresh—to bring a bit more grounding flavor and the vibrant color the recipe title promises.
The Genius Desserts cookbook is here! With more than 100 of the most beloved and talked-about desserts of our time (and the hidden gems soon to join their ranks) this book will make you a local legend, and a smarter baker to boot.
I'm an ex-economist, ex-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."