Home Cooks: Theresa Nguyen

20130419-155752.jpgI’ve been quiet for a little while. Work, life– things happen. I’d been intending to post all week, but between Boston, Waco, and a few other things– well, I decided I needed to write about something really positive.

I love the things home cooks do and share around the city.  I can name a dozen chefs in town who started off cooking for friends and family, or on a very limited basis, who now own full-fledged restaurants.

As much as reviews drive wine me, dine me, what I’m really fascinated with are the dishes around town and the stories behind them.

This is one of those stories (insert the Law and Order “doink doink” here).

A few months ago, I was in 1215 with some girlfriends and chatting with my regular barista/waitress, Theresa Nguyen.  I mentioned I was going to head home and find some food and she said, “Well, I made banh mi for the staff. I have extra. Would you like one?”

Never one to pass up a banh mi, I accepted.  It was delicious– crusty bread, flavorful chicken filling, lots of fresh ingredients.  Occasionally, I’ll stop in and she’ll have something else– spring rolls, for example.  Everything is fresh and homemade and she shares it with genuine passion.

A few days ago, she texted me to tell me she was bringing in banh mi, and wondered if I’d like one.  Well, yes, of course!

banh mi

This version involved chicken, roasted “beer-butt” style and combined with a yellow curry sauce and topped with a tangy carrot-cucumber slaw and cilantro.  Incredibly good; one of the best banh mi I’ve had.

While I was eating, we chatted about her inspiration.  “I’ve had lots of banh mi, and I always thought I could do better.  Banh mi traditionally uses French bread, but it falls apart so easily.  I use bolillo [a Mexican bread] because it’s still crusty, but holds up better to the ingredients.”

Does Nguyen plan on doing more than occasionally feeding customers at 1215?  She’s not sure– perhaps a banh mi night at 1215 is in the future, or maybe some late-night bites.  Keep your eye on her, though– this won’t be the last time you hear of her.

Theresa and her banh mi