Eric and Sophie Banh make it easy to cook great Vietnamese dishes at home
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.
Stir-Fried Bean Sprouts and Chinese Chives
Sautéed bean sprouts and Chinese chives are a true comfort dish that every family in Saigon makes. It’s ultrasimple, deliciously crunchy, and ready in a flash. If you can’t locate Chinese chives, use green onions instead. Make sure bean sprouts are creamy white. Brown sprouts are old.
Recipe: Stir-Fried Bean Sprouts and Chinese Chives
“You wouldn’t find fresh asparagus in Saigon when I was a kid,” says Eric, “but it’s the kind of thing that a fancy restaurant
would serve [from cans].” Now he and Sophie use sweet, juicy, local asparagus throughout spring. Slice asparagus on the bias
so the pointed pieces echo the tips.
Recipe: Asparagus Shrimp Stir-Fry
The Banhs excel at stir-fries, a tradition they picked up from their Chinese father’s family and from growing up in Vietnam.
This salad gets its unmistakable sweet-salty crunch from caramelized shallots, an addictive staple in Vietnamese salads. It’s
key to slice them uniformly, or they won’t cook evenly. Don’t chop the herb leaves too fine, or they’ll wilt in the vinaigrette.
Recipe: Cucumber Salad with Caramelized Shallots and Herbs
Thanks to bar manager Jon Christiansen, the Banhs’ cocktails have an evocative bent. This drink is named for 13th-century
Vietnamese military commander Tran Hung Dao and uses lime, fresh herbs, pineapple, and fragrant tea—all as popular in Vietnam
as the hero himself. To keep the herbs in place, you can put them in the glass before the ice.
Recipe: The Spirit of Saint Tran