I was thrilled to be invited to the An: To Eat cookbook celebration since I’m a huge fan of the Crustacean restaurant in Beverly Hills. I was able to meet Helene An, executive chef and matriarch of the House of An, who is known as the “mother of fusion” for her signature style that brings together Vietnamese, French, and California-fresh influences. I never met her before, but I did know that her signature garlic noodles were to die for.
I also had the honor of meeting three of Helene An’s five daughters – Jacqueline, who co-wrote the book with her mother, Cathy, who is head of catering and runs Tiato in Santa Monica, and Elizabeth who is the CEO of Crustacean. They were very warm and welcoming, and the family style dinner they had prepared for us did not disappoint.
We even got to see a cooking demonstration from Helene An and her right hand, Chef Tony.
Here’s a look at the elegant dinner experience.
There were over 18 courses planned for us and pairings with sake, white wine, red wine and even beer.
I love Vietnamese summer rolls and these were a great start.
Turmeric fish with dill wrapped with lettuce? Yes, please!
Since I’m a pescatarian and didn’t partake in many of the dishes, Elizabeth An had the staff serve me some garlic noodles (my favorite thing the restaurant). This recipe is not in the cookbook because of two reasons – it’s hard to make at home and lastly, it’s a secret!
They told us their “secret kitchen” story where in each restaurant there’s a kitchen within the kitchen where the garlic noodles and some of the crab dishes are made. Only family members and loyal staff of ten years have access.
I love to eat crab.. so much that Gordon, Elizabeth An’s husband, gave me another one.
It turns out they are remodeling the upstairs portion of the Crustacean and are still thinking of what to name it. They invited us to brainstorm name ideas and told us that there will be a fixed menu that constantly changes. How exciting!
About An: To Eat
In Vietnamese, “an” means “to eat” — a happy coincidence, since the An family has built an award-winning restaurant empire, including the renowned celebrity favorite Crustacean Beverly Hills. Helene An, executive chef and matriarch of the House of An, is hailed as the “mother of fusion” and was inducted into the Smithsonian Institute for her signature style that brings together Vietnamese, French, and California-fresh influences – making a unique modern cuisine that is all her own. Now her daughter Jacqueline tells the family story and shares her mother’s delicious and previously “secret” recipes, including Drunken Crab, Wok Noodles, Oven-Roasted Lemongrass Chicken, and French Onion Pho, a James Beard Favorite Dish of 2015.
Jacqueline An is one of Helene’s five daughters behind the House of An. Jacqueline grew up listening to stories of her mother’s childhood in Vietnam, the adventures, the dangers, and the elegance of the Indochine era. Jacqueline seeks to preserve her family stories and share Helene’s culinary inspirations so that home cooks can bring some of the same magic into their own kitchens.
Helene An grew up in French Colonial Vietnam, but fled with her family to Saigon in 1955 after the Communist invasion. Twenty years later, she had to flee Saigon and soon settled in San Francisco, where she opened the city’s first Vietnamese restaurant, Thanh Long, in 1971. The House of An now includes five restaurants throughout California, and was the first ever Vietnamese restaurant to receive the prestigious Five-Star Diamond Award from the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences. Both authors live in Beverly Hills, CA.