Nine On The Line: Snow Peas Modern Asian Kitchen’s Erik Duong

Snow Peas Modern Asian Kitchen owner and chef Erik Duong hails from Vietnam. The brilliantly balanced cuisine of his home land, help mold his palate and love for the culinary arts.

When Duong left Vietnam in 2001 his first stop was Paris, France. Living in the culinary capital of the world refined his passion and broadened his outlook on food and technique.

Following France, Duong relocated to Flagstaff, Arizona to be closer to family. He received a degree in Hospitality Management at NAU, then moved to Tucson in 2008. Once in the Old Pueblo, Chef Duong attended the culinary arts program at Pima Community College.

After a stint at PF Changs, followed by Hot Wok, Duong opened Snow Peas at 1402 South Craycroft Road.

What was the first dish you had that changed your perspective on food?

I grew up in Saigon, Vietnam where the heaven of Vietnamese cuisine is pho. That dish changed my perspective on food. I can eat pho everyday: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. People also says it is the best cure for a hang over.

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What are you eating these days?

I usually go to Mama’s Louisa’s for the Veal Parmigiana with Joe’s Special pasta once a week. Fresco Pizza pretty much is a must with my little boy every weekend.  On weekdays, I play around with things I have in my kitchen to create some new dishes based on my Asian cuisine background. Just ask me “What’s good in the kitchen?” and I’ll create something good in no time after a walk in the kitchen. On days off, my mom and my wife create incredible dishes with all the veggies and herbs grown in the backyard.

What was the first dish you remember cooking?

I think it was fried rice with an over easy egg on top. I had to be home by myself since I was 5 years old, so I had to figure out a way to feed myself. Fried rice is the easiest fix you can make from rice and whatever leftovers you can find in your kitchen.

What concept, ingredient or food trend does everyone seem to love, but you just can’t stomach?

Recently, Sriracha hot sauce is the new trend in the food industry but I can’t stand the way people just use it in everything. How does it sound if someone offers you Sriracha mayo for your burger, or Sriracha ice-cream, or a shot of Sriracha vodka? Adding Sriracha in your food will not make it an Asian dish.

What chef, with us or passed on, would you most like to cook or eat dinner with?

I would say Anthony Bourdain is the first and only chef I would like to travel, cook, and get drunk with. His perspectives for food and different cuisines around the world just amaze me. He always speaks of food from his heart without fancy words.

As a member of Tucson Originals, I always love to team up and create a grand dinner with chef Michael Elefante and chef Michael Press from Mama Louisa’s, or chef Coralie Satta from Ghinis Café.

What city, other than Tucson, is your favorite place to eat?

Los Angeles, San Francisco, or San Jose.

Speaking in junk food terms, what is your favorite guilty pleasure?

I would say Japanese crispy fish skin snacks.

Top three Tucson restaurants?

Off the top of my head, Mama Louisa’s. They are just three minutes from my kitchen and they have the best veal pasta I’ve ever had. Fresco Pizza on Speedway. I just make a phone call and by the time I get there my hot pizza is ready and on the table. And, Pastiche is my favorite place to hang out with good friends and enjoy their famous whiskey collection.

With a figurative electric chair in your immediate future, what is your last meal?

I want a good bowl of Pho with thin sliced Japan Kobe beef, clear light beef broth cooked more than 14 hours. Couple slices of birdeyes chilies, and a squeeze of lime. It’ll make me sweat, cry then smile before I die.

C.J. Hamm is a native Tucsonan and has been covering the local culinary and cocktail scene since 2012.