Award-winning chef and restaurateur Charles Phan opened The Slanted Door in San Francisco in 1995, inspired by the food of his native Vietnam. Since then, The Slanted Door has grown into a world-class dining destination, and its accessible, modern take on classic Vietnamese dishes is beloved by diners, chefs, and critics alike. The Slanted Door is a love letter to the restaurant, its people, and its food. Featuring stories in addition to its most iconic recipes, The Slanted Door both celebrates a culinary institution and allows home cooks to recreate its excellence.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
It’s hard to imagine that the Slanted Door is turning twenty. For so long it was just a thought in the back of my mind. A belief, really, that simple Vietnamese food, served in a modern setting, would be a hit with San Francisco diners.
When we opened in the Mission in 1995, we were blessed to be pretty busy within a few months.
If you had told me then, though, that our spring rolls and shaking beef would eventually anchor the Ferry Building and spawn a family of restaurants, I would have called you crazy.
That’s exactly what the bank called me, by the way—crazy—when I first asked them for a small business loan. It’s what a lot of people said when I first talked about opening a restaurant.
I’m thrilled to be able to share the Slanted Door story with you because it’s one that I never could have planned. My family arrived in San Francisco in the 1970s as boat refugees. I was the oldest of six kids, and Mom and Dad—formerly successful merchants in Vietnam—had to work two minimum-wage jobs each to make ends meet.
My dad was a janitor at Malcolm Stroud’s Coachman, one of San Francisco’s famous watering holes. I started busing tables there when I was a teenager. I got to know one of the hostesses, Mary Lou, and she helped me land a few shifts at Mum’s, a dance club. Disco was all the rage, and Mum’s was one of these big private clubs with a dining area surrounding the dance floor. People would eat and dance and pretty much party the night away. Between the pub and the club, I was working three or four nights a week, as well as most weekends. I’d bus tables, then work a bar back shift, refilling ice buckets and cocktail trays and the like.
I might not have realized it at the time, but what I was really doing was gaining exposure to the restaurant scene, to the wide world of food and drinks. I became the kid who would stop for an espresso and a croissant on his bike ride from Chinatown to Mission High School every morning.
I drank Calistoga bottled water. For my senior prom, I organized dinner at a French restaurant in Nob Hill and preordered soufflés for everyone. I was the food guy.
When I went off to college at UC Berkeley, I studied architecture and became really interested in design. Over the years, my family got into the garment business, and I ended up taking over. When that went belly-up, I went to work for a software company. But I never lost my love of restaurants. After the software firm folded, I moonlighted as a chef.
I was living in a loft in downtown Oakland, and twice a week I’d ride my bike to Market Hall in the Rockridge neighborhood and have a three-hour lunch. I’d read cookbooks, pick up groceries on the way home, and throw a dinner party, taking up collections from my guests to help pay for the food and wine. I even planned a mock breakfast service. My sister took orders and I was the cook, and boy, did people wait forever to get their food.
Around that time my friend Pat Ingram asked me for help with her mother’s truck stop cafe in Concord. The business wasn’t doing too well, so I started cooking for Pat’s mom for free. I’d drive out there with a wok and groceries from Chinatown and make up daily specials. I was stir-frying and flipping burgers in the middle of nowhere. And I was loving it. I soon got serious about running a restaurant. I wanted to open something small, maybe a Vietnamese crepe stand or a noodle shop, but I couldn’t find a space. I saw a spot in the Tenderloin, but the landlord wouldn’t lease it to me because he thought there were already too many Vietnamese restaurants in the neighborhood. I tried to get into an office building in downtown Oakland, but they ended up leasing to Starbucks. (It wasn’t a loss at all, though: I met my wife, Angkana, there.) In the end, it was pure luck that brought me to the Mission. I was on my way to dinner at the creperie Ti Couz when I passed a vacant storefront on Valencia Street with a “For Lease” sign in the window. I called the real estate agent and set up a meeting to look at the property. But when I arrived for the appointment, there was already a huge line of people waiting to see the space. I couldn’t even get in.
I noticed this Chinese guy standing outside the laundromat next door. He was surveying the scene, arms crossed, and I just had a gut feeling that he was the landlord. I went over and started chatting him up. Sure enough, he owned the building. I asked how much the rent was. He said $2,000.
I told him I’d take the space, and ten minutes later, I came back with a check. The Slanted Door had a home.
Cabbage Rolls with Tomato Garlic Sauce
At the Slanted Door we use cabbage mostly in raw salads, but it’s also excellent steamed. Here, we blanch cabbage leaves for a steamed roll that’s almost like a wrapped meatball. I love the contrasting textures of the pork filling, which is studded with corn and jicama, and the tomato sauce adds a nice tang.
½ cup canola oil
¼ cup minced garlic
1 cup diced peeled tomatoes
¹⁄³ cup minced shallots
¼ cup ketchup
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons minced Thai chiles
2 teaspoons sugar
¼ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup chopped green onions,
green parts only
½ cup canola oil
½ cup finely diced yellow onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 pound ground pork
½ cup finely diced jicama
½ cup finely diced carrots
½ cup finely diced stemmed fresh shiitake mushrooms
½ cup corn kernels
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large heads green cabbage
1 bunch green onions
Makes about 22 rolls;
serves 10 to 12
1. To make the dipping sauce, in a skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil until shimmering. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and continue stirring for another minute. Add the shallots, ketchup, oyster sauce, fish sauce, Thai chiles, and sugar and cook until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer the mixture to a blender and carefully blend at medium speed until the tomatoes are broken down. The sauce can be made ahead. Reheat in a skillet and stir in the cilantro and green onions just before serving.
2. To make the filling, heat a wok over high heat until a drop of water evaporates on contact. Add the oil and heat until shimmering. Add the onion and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the pork, jicama, carrots, mushrooms, and corn and continue stirring for a minute. Add the fish sauce, sugar, pepper, and salt. Cook, stirring, until well combined and the pork is cooked through, about
2 minutes more. Remove from the heat and set aside.
3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Separate the cabbage leaves by snapping them off, one by one, from the core. Place a few leaves at a time in the boiling water and blanch until they are soft, about 2 to 3 minutes. Using a spider, remove the leaves from the water, cut off the thicker parts of the stem, and set aside to drain. Blanch the green onions in the boiling water until soft, about 15 to 20 seconds. Cut the bottoms off so only the green parts remain, and set aside to drain.
4. To assemble the rolls, lay a piece of cabbage on your work surface. Place about ¼ cup of the filling toward the bottom of the leaf, fold the sides in, and roll from the bottom toward the top to create a fully enclosed cigar-shaped roll. Tie the roll with a green onion stalk. Repeat with the remaining cabbage and filling, adjusting the amount of filling to the size of the leaf.
5. Set up a steamer and steam the rolls until heated through, about 5 minutes. Serve warm alongside the dipping sauce.
Table of ContentsList of Recipes xii Foreword by Patricia Unterman xx Introduction
1 Act One
584 Valencia Street
63 Act Two
100 Brannan Street
109 Raw Bar
147 Act Three
1 Ferry Building
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I've followed 2 recipes exactly as printed in my life - something always needs a tweak. I've cooked two recipes from this book in the last week, and both were perfect. My new favorite cookbook.
The Slanted Door by Charles Phan is amazing. So many recipes can be boring with few photographs and that always upsets me because I adore visuals. I devoured this book from the pictures, the back story, the recipes, and the techniques shared. I can honestly say that I will be giving this book to other home cooks it is that demonstrative and not at all scary to try. I'm ready to become a better cook of vietnamese food with the guidance of this magical recipe book. It is by far the most beautiful collection of images and recipes I have seen in a long time. I can only hope that he will create more books to collect. I recieved this book from Blogging For Books for this review and all opnions are my own.