The Blind Goat's Christine Ha On Making Authentic Vietnamese-American – HexClad Cookware

The Blind Goat's Christine Ha On Making Authentic Vietnamese-American Food

by HexClad Cookware

The Blind Goat's Christine Ha On Making Authentic Vietnamese-American Food

It’s not many cooks that can say they got their professional start cooking for Gordon Ramsay on his show MasterChef. But that is Christine Ha’s story. The chef/owner of The Blind Goat and Stuffed Belly in Houston, Texas was a graduate student at University of Houston’s prestigious MFA Creative Writing program when she was accepted onto the show, which—spoiler alert—she won. Ha competed as the first blind contestant on the show, and at first, she thought she’d compete and leave with a great story to write about. But then, her cookbook, Recipes from My Home Kitchen: Asian and American Comfort Food, became a New York Times bestseller and many other opportunities came calling, including hosting the Canadian cooking show Four Senses and judging on MasterChef Vietnam. Seven years after winning her season of MasterChef, Ha decided to open The Blind Goat in a 400-square-foot space inside a food hall in downtown Houston. “It took off,” says Ha, and in 2023, they moved into a brick and mortar space that can accommodate the devotees of Ha’s Vietnamese-American food.

Learning to cook the recipes that are the building blocks of The Blind Goat’s menu was a hard-won accomplishment. She grew up eating her mom’s Vietnamese food (her parents had left Saigon right before the fall of Saigon in 1975) and Ha sometimes took it for granted. “I was always trying to assimilate into quote-unquote American society,” she says. “So, I would always try to trade my Vietnamese lunches for my friends’ bologna and cheese sandwiches on white bread or their bag of chips.” When Ha was 14, her mom passed away, and she hadn’t had a chance to learn to cook from her. So, in her twenties, longing for the food of her childhood, she began to recreate them, dish by dish. It was around this time that Ha lost her vision as a result of an illness, which sent her down a path of pursuing writing after years studying and working in the business world. The creativity she honed in her MFA program is never far from her work as a chef, whether it’s writing cookbooks or creating new dishes.



The resulting food at The Blind Goat (and what she makes at home) is a diaspora-inspired hybrid of the comfort food dishes Ha loves. In a time where questions of authenticity plague chefs, Ha pushes back on strict ideas of what “authentic” Vietnamese food is. “I think it’s a difficult conversation for a lot of us chefs to have,” Ha says, “because we do get ridiculed by certain people saying ‘This isn’t authentic anymore or this isn’t really Vietnamese food’, but what does authentic food really mean, you know? Even my mom who moved here from Vietnam had to substitute some of her ingredients when she would cook what I thought was authentic Vietnamese food.” Ha was referring to her recipe for braised pork belly, which she’d always thought was made with Coco Rico coconut soda, because that’s what her mom was able to get. It wasn’t until her cookbook was translated into Vietnamese and her editor asked why she’d used the soda instead of fresh coconut juice that she realized. “It wasn’t until that moment that it dawned on me,” she says, laughing, “I realized, ‘Oh, even the Vietnamese diaspora all over the world, they were changing their recipes to fit what they could afford or what was available at the time, so even my braised pork belly I thought was authentic, that I cooked in the finale of MasterChef wasn’t really ‘authentic.’” For this reason, it’s important to Ha to teach people that yes, it’s important to respect the traditional version of a dish, but that can mean many things.

After four years of growing The Blind Goat and launching Stuffed Belly, her new sandwiches concept, Ha was ready to grown in new ways, and she joined The James Beard Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership program (WEL), a 10-week advanced educational, training, and networking program for women and non-binary entrepreneurs in the food and beverage industry looking to expand and grow. There, Ha found a community of other women in the industry with whom she could be honest and vulnerable about the challenges of running restaurants and the unique difficulties faced by women of color in the restaurant industry. “It was like a crash course in a restaurant-specific MBA program,” Ha says. Coming out of WEL helped her solidify her intuition as she headed into the next chapter of her business.


Ha’s HexClad Pick: 10" Hybrid Fry Pan with Lid

“I really like the skillets because, usually, a nonstick skillet is what I would use to make pancakes or eggs—something you don’t really want to mess with in a stainless steel pan—so I use it for that the most. I like that they feel sturdy and heavy enough that you can tell they’re good quality, but not too heavy where they’re difficult to use. I am still a petite woman! So, you know, it’s hard for me to lift a 16-inch wok or something. I also really appreciate the nonstick factor but the fact that it still conducts heat well, so you can get the best of both worlds in terms of searing and cleaning up easier, too.”

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