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KCBS Foodie Chap Podcast:
Charles Phan truly is San Francisco, a chef and restranteur with 7 restaurants to his name and each every one operates within the city and county.
However, his life began in another country a long way from America and his beloved Bay Area. Phan was born in South Vietnam, but when his homeland fell to the Vietcong, he and his family moved briefly to Guam and then settled in the city by the Bay.
He went to Mission High and studied architecture not culinaire at college. According to a few close college friends Charles running a restaurant empire seemed unlikely but he was the guy who used his brave pals as guinea pigs when he would experiment with food. “The food was okay but it got better …..James Beard better” said one college friend at a recent book signing for Phan’s first book “Vietnamese Home Cooking” (by 10speed press). I had the joy of interviewing Chef Phan before an audience of fans and friends, fittingly above the Slanted Door at The Ferry Building.
Food is history you can tell a lot about a culture
by looking at how and what they cook and eat.”
– Chef Charles Phan of Slanted Door
The Slanted Door was an immediate success and has continued to be so in it’s new space in the Ferry Building. Phan was the first Chef and tenant to make the restored Ferry Building home. His gamble paid off.
In 2004, Phan won the coveted James Beard Award for Best Chef: California. Driving all of Phan’s culinary endeavors is his belief that it is the duty of those in the food business to preserve cultural traditions. “Food is historyóyou can tell a lot about a culture by looking at how and what they cook and eat,” he says. “I would hate to see clay pots go out of fashion 50 years from now.”
Phan’s restaurant empire now comprises Out The Door off Fillmore near Pacific Heights, Moss Room at the Academy of Sciences, Heaven’s Dog on Valencia Street where he opened the original SLANTED DOOR almost 20 years ago. His latest venture is SOUTH a cafe housed in the new home for SFJAZZ in Hayes Valley, San Francisco. Opening in February for breakfast, lunch and dinner the menu will serve up comfort food that will change with the seasons. Bar bites and killer cocktails will be the offerings during evening showtimes. Leave it to Phan to hit all the right notes here. He will.
Charles Phan’s first book “Vietnamese Home Cooking” is a delicious if not crispy, crunchy, sticky read. Many years in the making it really was worth the wait, it’s brimming with approachable recipes you can try at home and photos that will make your mouth water. “Shaking beef” anyone – yes it’s in there on p.140 – yum!
Enjoy the conversation and our Foodie Chap chat with San Francisco’s very own CHARLES PHAN.
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1. Being a chef to you is What?
Making good food
2. What dish most reminds you of home?
Vietnamese crepe with fresh lettuce and mint.
3. If not a chef if you come back in a second life what would you be?
4. Sound track to your culinary journey one artist one song?
I was in Guam I had just learned to speak English and Hotel California by the Eagles always stuck in my head. I was listening on the Island of Guam and you can check in but can’t check out, something like that.
5. Finally chef your last supper, you can have a couple of guests famous or not, dead or alive, Who will they be and what will be on the table?
Last super I would definitely love to have my kids and family. I would love to have dad again. He’s not around anymore. Close friends and people who knows that I am not a very good cook and doesn’t care as long as I cook for them. Those are the people I want to be with. It would be something really simple and hamey. One of the dishes I love the most is render roast pig fat with fried egg and perfect rice and perfect soy sauce.
CHARLES PHAN EGG FRIED RECIPE
Fried rice is never something I intend to make, but it’s something I’ll cook for myself when I’m home, my wife and kids are away, and there’s not a whole lot in the refrigerator. Fried rice is best made with day-old rice, so it’s essentially glorified leftovers.
Scrambling the egg in the wok or saute pan first helps prevent the rice from sticking to the pan. And while every Chinese restaurant in America seems to add frozen peas and carrot chunks to fried rice with abandon, I like to use real vegetables: shredded leafy greens, tiny steamed broccoli florets, or inch-long pieces of green bean. You can add a little shrimp or some leftover roast pork. In other words, this recipe can be made with almost anything. The only essential ingredients are rice, egg, and scallion. This is best eaten out of a bowl, beer in hand, after a long day.
1/2 cup canola oil
6 ounces shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut into small pieces
4 cups cooked long-grain white rice, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups finely shredded leafy greens (such as bok choy, Swiss chard, or spinach)
2 teaspoons Golden Mountain seasoning sauce or light soy sauce, plus more to taste
2 teaspoons fish sauce
3/4 cup sliced scallions, white and light green parts only
1. Heat a wok over high heat; the metal will have a matte appearance and a drop or two of water flicked onto its surface should evaporate on contact. Add the oil and heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the shrimp and cook for 1 minute, until pink. Using a spider or a slotted spoon, transfer to a small bowl and set aside. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of the oil from the pan into a small heatproof bowl and set the bowl aside.
2. In a bowl, stir together the rice, salt, sugar, and black pepper, breaking up any clumps and mixing well to combine.
3. Return the wok to high heat and heat the oil until it is shimmering. Crack the eggs into the pan. With the back of a spoon or spatula, immediately scramble the egg, smearing and spreading it around to coat as much of the bottom of the wok as possible. When the egg is no longer wet but has not yet begun to brown, add the rice and toss to combine. Continue stir-frying until the rice is heated through, about 3 minutes.
4. Add the greens and cook, stirring, just until wilted. Add the cooked shrimp and toss to mix well. Add the seasoning sauce and fish sauce and mix well. Season to taste with additional soy and fish sauce. Remove from the heat and stir in the scallions. Transfer to a warmed platter and serve immediately.
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(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Recipe reprinted from the book Vietnamese Home Cooking by Charles Phan. Copyright © 2012 by Charles Phan)