Chino Latino's Tuan Nguyen: Chef Chat, part 3 [RECIPE]

Chino Latino's executive chef, Tuan Nguyen, is an award-winning chef. Outside work, he is also a typical Minnesota guy and dad: While Nguyen is passionate about "pushing the envelope" with Chino Latino's menu, spaghetti and meatballs is his default dish when he cooks for his three sons.

"It takes me 15 to 20 minutes," Nguyen says. "The boys are happy. They eat, and they get to go back to their Xbox."

In this final part of our chef chat, Nguyen talks about his annual ice-fishing trip with the guys and cooking for his picky-palated mother. He also shares Chino Latino's recipe for baby back ribs.

What piece of advice would you give to home cooks? Get a recipe that's easy, and you can always improvise. And cook from the heart. Have the passion to do it. Don't do it if it's a drag for you, because that won't come out good.

Do you let your wife cook? She thought she had it made because she married me, but I'm always at the restaurant. She cooks when I'm not home through necessity. I cook on my days off. I'm getting my kids involved. They're getting very interested in hands-on--cutting, frying things up.

What is the weirdest thing you have ever eaten? Uni, which is sea urchin. I've eaten a lot of weird things, but that's the one that stands out. I even enjoy it, too. It looks like a little brain, and then when you eat it, the texture is kind of mushy, something you don't chew on. It slides down, like an oyster.

If you could cook for one person, dead or alive, who would it be? My mom, because I learned a lot growing up about cooking through her. She's hard to please. Even if I make it right, she'll still nitpick at it and tell me how I can do it better. That's a challenge for me, and I enjoy that.

What is your favorite Twin Cities restaurant other than your own? I enjoy any of Tim McKee's restaurants: La Belle Vie, Barrio, or Solera. I think he does a really good job. I enjoy all of the Parasole restaurants, too.

Where would you go if it were your birthday and someone wanted to take you out? Any of Nobu's restaurants. I've yet to have a bad meal. I always do his tasting menus, and then I get a little variety of all he does, because it's so hard to choose one item on his menu. He'd be one of the chefs, too, that I admire.

What is your favorite thing to do when you're not in the kitchen? I'm an avid outdoorsmen. If I'm not spending time with my family, it's spending time with my best friend. We fish and hunt. We have a traditional late February/early March ice-fishing trip to Lake of the Woods. Go sit in a closet with a bunch of guys for a couple of days and grunt at each other and hopefully catch a few fish. Every year I ask myself why I do it, when I could be drinking Mai Tais on a beach, but it's the bond that us guys have.

What would you do for a living if you could not be a chef? I'd be a stay-at-home dad. I admire what my wife does, because she's a stay-at-home mom. All the work that she does as a chauffeur for the kids, organizing their life, making sure that kids are getting homework done, that the kids are getting to play practice and sporting events on time. Two of my boys are in Cubs Scouts, Boy Scouts. That takes a lot of time. I admire that, and that's something that I would enjoy doing.

That ends our interview with Nguyen. In addition to sharing his own story with readers, Nguyen also shared a recipe for baby back ribs from Chino Latino's menu:


Ingredients: 5 pounds baby back ribs, trimmed

Brasing liquid: 1 cup soy sauce 1/8 cup five-spice powder 1 quart orange juice

Directions: 1. Combine braising liquids. 2. Place ribs in a single layer in a pan large enough to fit. 3. Pour braising liquid over ribs, adding enough water to barely cover. Cover pan tightly with foil 4. Cook at 300 degrees for 2 hours or until ribs are very tender. 5. Drain ribs and cool completely. Cut racks into individual ribs.

Yield: 5 pounds

RIB SAUCE Ingredients: 1/2 cup ketchup 1/4 cup hoisin sauce 1/4 cup honey 1 tablespoon five-spice powder 1 tablespoon garlic, minced 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

Directions: 1. Combine all ingredients and mix well.

Yield: 1 cup

BABY BACK RIBS (individual serving) Ingredients: 6 ribs 2 fluid ounces Rib Sauce

Directions: Brush riblets with rib sauce and cook on grill. Continue to brush with rib sauce as it grills until ribs are nicely colored and glazed.

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