Quick Take:

“It’s a very flexible book, it’s very sustainable, and it’s for everyone,” Andrea Nguyen says of “Ever-Green Vietnamese.” Her seventh cookbook comes out next week, and she’ll talk about it in June at Bookshop Santa Cruz.

This story was originally featured in this week’s Lily Belli on Food newsletter. Be first the first to hear about food and drink news in Santa Cruz County — sign up for Lily’s email newsletter here and text alerts here.

Back in 2019, a health scare got Santa Cruz-based author Andrea Nguyen rethinking her diet.

“I realized I was eating a lot of the wrong things for my body,” said Nguyen. “I decided to really double down on eating [more] vegetables and less animal protein.”

That ethos has inspired her seventh cookbook, “Ever-Green Vietnamese,” which comes out April 25. The book isn’t fully vegetarian, but is heavily veggie-based and offers vegetarian/vegan alternatives for those recipes that do include meat or seafood. Nguyen even includes a recipe for making your own vegan version of the ubiquitous fish sauce using seaweed, pineapple juice and marmite.

“The beauty of being in Santa Cruz is that we have some of the best produce in the nation — and have access to Asian veggies,” she said.

Not everyone has the same access to top-notch produce or certain ingredients, so “Ever-Green Vietnamese,” like all of Nguyen’s books, is meant to be very accessible. Approximately 80 to 90% of the ingredients in the book’s 125 recipes can be found in a standard grocery store. She also offers substitutions and cooking hacks, and every variation has been tested by herself or a member of her recipe testing team. Providing options is important to Nguyen, whose own family had to learn to substitute many ingredients for their favorite dishes when they moved to the U.S. from Vietnam when she was a child.

Santa Cruz cookbook author Andrea Nguyen.
Santa Cruz cookbook author Andrea Nguyen. Credit: Via Aubrie Pick

“It’s a very flexible book, it’s very sustainable, and it’s for everyone,” she said. “I think we can all get on board with eating more vegetables.”

While choosing a favorite recipe is impossible — “every single recipe in this book is there for a reason,” she says — Nguyen thinks readers will especially like the cover recipe, an easy-to-make rice paper roll, and a faster vegetarian pho that uses bouillon base to build the dish’s flavorful broth. The recipes run the gamut, ranging from salads and snacks to entrees and desserts, and five different takes on banh mi, the classic Vietnamese sandwich.

The book’s name is twofold: The recipes within are ideas that come from enduring notions of Vietnamese food, but it also plays on the veggie-centric nature.

“I’m looking to live longer and healthier, [but] I don’t want to go on a strict diet; that’s not fun,” said Nguyen. “Food is fun and I don’t think you should deprive yourself of things you love — just eat less of it.”

Andrea Nguyen will be at Bookshop Santa Cruz on Tuesday, June 13, at 7 p.m. to discuss her new cookbook, “Ever-Green Vietnamese,” and sign copies. The event is free but registration is recommended. And check out Lily’s interview with Nguyen from last spring.

Jessica M. Pasko has been writing professionally for almost two decades.She cut her teeth in journalism as a reporter for the Associated Press in her native Albany, NY, where she covered everything from...