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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Charles Phan's New Cookbook Lets You Visit the Slanted Door From Your Kitchen

Posted By on Thu, Oct 23, 2014 at 9:53 AM

click to enlarge phan_slanted_door.png
Whenever out-of-towners ask me the all-important question of where to eat when visiting San Francisco, I almost always recommend The Slanted Door.

In restaurant years, it’s been there forever, I know, it’s far from a hipster spot of the moment. But the food is reliably delicious, with the kind of care toward ingredients that many of us have come to expect. Plus, it’s easy enough to secure a reservation with a bit of advance planning and it’s centrally located. Plus, I’ve never taken anyone there who has left the least bit disappointed.

Clearly, I’m hardly alone in this, since the restaurant has remained a mainstay of the city’s dining scene since it first opened in the Mission in 1995, and its chef owner, Charles Phan continues to win James Beard awards and open new restaurants. And as the new cookbook The Slanted Door: Modern Vietnamese Food by Phan (with Janny Hu and photography by Ed Anderson) testifies, a lot has happened in the restaurant’s storied history since then (mainly a move to first Brannan St., and then the Ferry Building, and a visit by President Bill Clinton, causing Phan to remember the sharpshooter on the roof, the agents hovering in the kitchen and the white credit card with the presidential seal “To this day, I’m still not sure if I ever ran the card or not,” he writes).

Phan published Vietnamese Home Cooking in 2012, with recipes he makes at home. Within the pages of The Slanted Door, one will find the much beloved dishes off the menu, plus more than 30 pages of cocktails.

There are also lots of anecdotes about the restaurant, like this gem in which Phan reminisces about all the purveyors he knew at the start because it was such a small world back then: “Tim Ports at Ports Seafood. Paul Johnson at Monterey Fish. Albert Straus at Straus Creamery. I remember sitting with Bill Niman as he folded cardboard boxes in a rundown butcher shop after hours.”

But as in the restaurant, the food in the book is what makes the greatest impression. Grilled Rack of Lamb with Tamarind Sauce. Ginger Beef Vermicelli. Caramelized Chicken Claypot. Seared Scallops in Vietnamese Beurre Blanc. While some of the recipes require great effort, just as many of them are stir-fries or require minimal ingredients.
While replicating the Slanted Door’s food at home may seem daunting at first, looking at this book, it sure will be fun to try.

Charles Phan will be in conversation with KQED’s Thuy Vu, at 7 p.m. on Weds. Oct. 29 at Book Passage in Corte Madera. $45 includes book and food samples. He will also be at Omnivore Books in S.F. at 6:30 p.m on Thurs., Oct. 30. 
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About The Author

Alix Wall

Alix Wall

Alix Wall is an Oakland-based freelance writer and certified natural foods chef. Her web site is


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