It’s a mark of how the Vietnamese culture has become in New Orleans that a business marketing itself can widely use a pun on a Vietnamese family name and get away with it.
That is Dough Nguyener’s Bakery, which takes its name from founder Betty Archote’s family name, Nguyen, which is pronounced “win,” hence “dough winners.”
Dough Nguyener’s officially opens its new bakery café in Gretna on Friday, March 17, and it turns out the business name is only the start of the polyglot puns.
Nguyener’s dough serves a dual role. It’s as a production bakery for baguettes, donuts and (during Carnival season) king cakes.
It also serves as a retail bakery and restaurant, with a drive-through for coffee drinks and quick items and a menu that covers a wide range of Vietnamese dishes and works in a special niche with fried chicken.
That includes an eye-popping whole fried chicken, which is not cut, but prepared and served whole. The name for this feast? Get ready. It’s “Nguyener Nguyener chicken dinner.”
It is like they are training the uninitiated.
But let’s start with the bread, since this is a bakery.
A different loaf
By now, aficionados of Vietnamese food are well familiar with the Vietnamese take on the baguette, which is very light with a brittle crust. It’s already standing in for New Orleans style French bread, the po-boy loaf, at some restaurants.
Nguyener’s dough has adopted a different style for its house standard. This has a softer crust, and is more dense, and is a bit closer to a Parisian baguette, in shape and texture.
It’s sold whole and also turned into an array of bánh mì, including a breakfast version with scrambled eggs and Vietnamese ham, chả lụa, which Archote’s family makes in-house.
The same dough is rendered as circular buns, used for other sandwiches here. These are called “bun me.” The hits just keep coming.
Some of the menu goes deep on Vietnamese tradition. You can get an iron skillet of beef stew with curry flavor and another with slices of steak and fried eggs and a pâté called, bo ne.
Another starts with thickly rolled strands of sticky rice, topped with sweet, chewy Chinese sausage and roasted chicken. There’s Vietnamese pastry, like the pate chou meat pies and steamed buns. One colorful dessert is che khuc bach, which is like a highly-composed tropical fruit salad of fresh and jelly fruit garnished with almonds.
“We’re digging into our roots more here,” Achote said. “We’re introducing new things from our tradition.”
Archote and his family have threaded the line between traditional Vietnamese and main stream Americana for years at the restaurants. They started with a straight-up New Orleans seafood market for boiled crawfish and such in Algiers before closing that and opening Thanh Thanh, which sticks with the classics of the Vietnamese noodle shop.
She also started Huey P’s Pizzeria & Daiquiris, which at several locations mixes pizza with pho and cheese sticks with spring rolls.
Dough Nguyener’s double dips a bit too.
Fried chicken can come at you as “Nguyener Nguyener wings,” with a soy-based fish sauce chile glaze, or as a fairly conventional multi-piece fried chicken plate with sides.
The Nguyener Nguyener chicken dinner, of course, is the whole bird extravaganza. For this one there’s a little bit of tapioca in the coating, which gives the texture just a little bit of stretch and chew. The sides toggle between East and West, with macaroni and cheese and coleslaw on one side, kimchee salad and garlic noodles on the other. A key part is the velvety garlic sauce; break off pieces of the chicken and skin and dunk it in for the full effect.
Nguyener’s dough has for the past two years been priming the local market for its debut with the highly-effective means of a really good king cake.
The brand started in Carnival season 2022 and continued this year, distributing at the family restaurants and other businesses. These cakes are out of season right now, but will return on Jan. 6, 2024.
However, if you want a hint of what the bakery’s café sua da-filled king cake is like, Dough Nguyener’s makes donuts that incorporate this sweet and creamy flavor of Vietnamese iced coffee. It’s the filling for one stuff donut and the icing on another glazed donut, alongside more traditional donut varieties.
You can try this with a different take on Vietnamese coffee too. Nguyener’s dough makes ca phe trung, or egg coffee, which substitutes an egg yolk for the usual condensed milk, following a custom said to stem from a milk shortage long ago in Vietnam. The result is a sweeter, silkier coffee drink.
The café also has frozen daiquiris at the ready, covering many different bases.
Dough Nguyener’s Bakery
433 Lafayette St., Gretna
Mon-Sat.: 6am-8:30pm, Sun. 6am-3pm
Opens March 17