Cooking Vietnamese comfort food

Eric and Sophie Banh make it easy to cook great Vietnamese dishes at home

Saigon comfort food
Photo by Thomas J. Story

Saigon comfort food

In 2000, when Sophie Banh couldn’t find the Vietnamese dishes she was craving in Seattle, she persuaded her brother Eric to open a restaurant with her. Called Monsoon, it was the first of several restaurants from the Banhs that have introduced Seattle to a modern Vietnamese cuisine grounded in traditions from their childhood in Saigon.

“It makes Sophie and me happy to cook what we remember,” says Eric. Even though they depart from their grandmother’s dishes by using Northwest ingredients, “it’s not really fusion,” he says. “The smell of her cooking is still there.”

On a recent drizzly day, Eric and Sophie welcomed Sunset into the kitchen of their more casual restaurant, Ba Bar, to show us how to cook some of their favorite at-home dishes. Although the more exotic ingredients they use (broken rice! shiso! pickled leeks!) can be substituted with easy-to-find choices, a trip to the Asian grocery store is a worthwhile part of the cooking adventure too.

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