5 Questions for Thi Tran


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Thi Tran is chef of Starry Kitchen, which she runs with her husband, Nguyen Tran. She’s famous for her fried tofu balls, he’s famous for more than occasionally wearing a banana suit. The duo who started as an underground supperclub from their apartment have closed the Starry Kitchen restaurant but will be launching a collaborative at Tiara Cafe downtown, called Starry (Kitchen) Nights.

What’s coming up next on your menu? The Vietnamese minced Beef-tacular (FYI, my husband comes up with these crazy names, not me) makes a comeback because we also served it at the LA Street Food Fest at the Rose Bowl. It’s not actually an authentic Vietnamese dish, but it’s inspired by Vietnamese flavors I grew up on: fish sauce, coconut cream, curry, Thai chiles and we put a runny fried egg on top for the win. (It’s REALLY good with the egg!)


Latest ingredient obsession? Filipino kalamansi. It’s kind of a lime ... but kind of orangey and really tiny but has such a distinct flavor. I find it’s not used very often in food, and I’m trying to figure out how to incorporate it into what I’m making next (and also to drink that juice because it’s good!).

What restaurant do you find yourself going to again and again? So Kong Dong in K-town for pork or kimchi soon tofu. So simple, but so comforting especially after a long day at work. Mix it up with all the Korean banchan/sides, and it’s so good, comforting and ... CHEAP!

The one piece of kitchen equipment you can’t live without, other than your knives? Carbon steel pots/pans/wok. As long as it’s carbon steel and can burn hot, I’m a happy camper. (The Robot Coupe commercial food processor is a close second.)

Favorite kitchen soundtrack? Not a soundtrack per se, but (don’t laugh) I do prefer ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ (which my husband loves to karaoke as well!).

For updates about Starry Kitchen and catering, visit


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-- Betty Hallock