A North Texas mom embraces the messiness of life and now has 2.1 million TikTok followers

Alissa Nguyen’s relatable style has helped the Vietnamese and Korean recipes she posts as gaming_foodie go viral.

By Elizabeth Myong, KERAFebruary 3, 2023 9:01 am, , ,

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After she propped her iPhone up against a baby blue tumbler and scrawled her recipe on a paper towel, Northlake resident Alissa Nguyen began filming her latest recipe.

It’s not the kind of high-tech set-up you’d expect from Nguyen, also known as Gaming Foodie, a food influencer with over 2 million followers on TikTok. But it’s how she’s made viral videos like her sushi bake, a creamy, spicy umami casserole of salmon and rice that can be scooped up in dried seaweed wrappers.

Elías Valverde II / The Dallas Morning News

Alissa Nguyen’s viral sushi bake recipe is made with imitation crab, salmon, cream cheese, rice, seaweed and sriracha.

“I just tell people measure until your ancestors tell you to stop,” Nguyen said, as she covers a raw salmon filet with a generous coating of garlic and paprika. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to add some “blackity-peppy” also known as black pepper.

Nguyen’s quirky vocabulary, catchphrases and cartoon villain-like laugh are beloved by her followers. It all started when she slipped up one day into the casual way she interacts with her family. That includes her husband or who the kids call apa. He’s the “gaming” part of her handle for his love of video games and frequent appearances as the back of a head or arm in videos. Tired of being a different version of herself on camera, she started letting her personality show.

I’m like, ‘You know what? I’m just going to leave it.’ I’m not going to try to change the way I talk.”

These days, “relatable” is a buzzword that many influencers know is part of a winning formula to grow a platform. But after the high-end ingredients, perfect technique and magazine-like aesthetics, how relatable are they?

Nguyen springs past that conversation. Most days, she’s in front of her camera in sweatpants and a t-shirt, no makeup and her hair thrown back in a ponytail. Nguyen held her 1-year-old Adam as her 4-year-old AJ ran and screamed in the background. When she burns her food, she doesn’t edit it out. She also doesn’t use caviar, truffles and ridiculously expensive cuts of meat in every dish.

“I just like that my style of content is not perfect and that’s kind of like my branding,” she said. “So sometimes, my head will be cut off and it’s just how it’s going to be in the video.


30 MINUTE SUSHI BAKE⤵️ Makes 3-5 serving 1/2 lb salmon, seasoned to preference 1/2 lb imitation crab, shredded & cut into smaller pieces 3 oz cream cheese 1/4 cup Japanese mayo 1 TBSP sriracha 2-3 cups cooked rice 2 TBSP rice vinegar Furikake / shredded seaweed 1. Season salmon to preference. I seasoned mine with garlic powder, salt & black pepper. And then airfry at 400 for 9 mins. If your salmon is thicker, you may have to cook more 2. Then shred salmon and add it into your shredded imitation crab. 3. Then add the rest of your ingredients: cream cheese, Japanese Mayo & sriracha. Combine well and set aside. 4. Combine 2-3 cups of cooked rice with 2 TBSP rice vinegar. Mix well. Then pour rice into an oven safe dish and flatten it/ create an flat - equal surface. 5. Top the rice off with shredded seaweed or furikake. I used 3 seaweed sheets 6. Then top your rice + seaweed off with your salmon mixture and spread it evenly 7. Bake at 380 for 10 mins (broil for 2-3 mins optional) 8. I served my sushi bake wrapped in seaweed. I also like to at cucumbers and/ or avocados into the wrap but I didn’t have any☹️ Bon Appétittites

♬ original sound - gaming_foodie

Nguyen’s on-camera confidence seems effortless, but the food influencer said her content wasn’t always so carefree. She started posting to her Gaming Foodie account in 2019.

Back then, Nguyen said she tried to be a “cookie cutter mom.” She woke up around 2 or 3 a.m., before the day’s chaos, to carefully script and record her voice overs. But she noticed her channel wasn’t growing.

The turning point for her channel came in 2021 when she moved from California to Texas for her husband’s new job. Without her family nearby to help with childcare, Nguyen was forced to embrace the messiness of everyday life. One day, she just hit “record.”

“I just included everything in my video,” she said. “It’s going to be loud. They’re going to be saying ‘mommy, mommy, mommy’ every five or ten minutes. People actually loved that because they’re like, ‘You know what? This is what I want to see, because it’s just the reality of being a mom and cooking.’”

Nguyen said the move helped her stop comparing herself to other creators in their 20s and 30s who don’t have young children.

Shifting her content to be “the haggard mom” actually helped her social media platforms take off with a surge in followers and brand deals.

What I realized is people don’t like me because my imitation crab looks really nice and bright and red,” she said.

They like her because they can relate to her. Jenny Bui, a wedding photographer, is a fan. She lives in the Wylie-Richardson area with her 4-year-old and one on the way.

Bui follows Gaming Foodie on Instagram, along with other food influencers like Dzung Lewis (@honeysuckle) and Tue Nguyen (@twaydabae) and has tried many of Gaming Foodie’s recipes, from lemongrass pork to goi.

I liked following her because she’s a mom. Like, I’m a mom, too,” she said. “So the way that she does the recipe … it’s simple and quick to make.” 

Elías Valverde II / The Dallas Morning News

Alissa Nguyen coats a piece of fresh salmon with spices while preparing a sushi bake at her home.

Bui was scrolling through Instagram reels when she came upon Gaming Foodie’s account, which several of her friends already followed. She was happy to find Nguyen using ingredients Bui already had at home.

I saw one of her reels and it was one for a porridge and salad dish, it’s a traditional food item but you don’t usually see recipes for it online,” Bui said. “So I was like, this looks interesting, you know? After I looked at that video, you kind of get lost in a loophole of all the reels.”

Nguyen’s life still looks a little different than other moms. She gets recognized while running errands or grabbing groceries. Viewers in Texas seem especially shocked because they don’t realize she recently moved to Northlake – one of the most Northwest suburbs of Dallas-Fort Worth.

All of the recognition has come as a surprise to Nguyen’s parents, like her father who recently joked ‘this is the first time I’ve ever had a celebrity cook for me.’

Elías Valverde II / The Dallas Morning News

Alissa Nguyen chops scallions as she makes a sushi bake. To produce her popular videos, Nguyen props her phone up against her water tumbler and hits record.

Behind the ‘Foodie’

Nguyen often shares Vietnamese dishes from her childhood, like chao. She was born inVietnam. When she was four, her parents moved to Philadelphia and eventually settled in California’s Orange County.

Nguyen said her family was receiving housing assistance and food stamps but, thanks to her mom, she didn’t realize they were struggling until she got older.

“Despite all the hardships and the struggles, she always made sure that we had food, whether it was something fancy like pho or something super quick and easy like spam, rice and eggs,” she said.

Nguyen was her mom’s sous chef, cutting, peeling and washing. But her mom did the cooking. After she moved out and got married, Nguyen started cooking on her own. But that time helping in the kitchen paid off.

After 20 years in the kitchen by her mom’s side, Nguyen said, “You kind of learn how to cook yourself just by watching, you know?”

Growing up, Nguyen wanted to be a teacher. She still can’t believe she’s sharing her recipes with millions.

But in her own way, Nguyen is teaching. She breaks down home recipes that reflect her Vietnamese culture and her husband’s Korean background. And as her followers have noticed, instead of following flashy food trends of the moment, she leans into home-cooked recipes like goi ga and gamjatang.

‘Stayed for the personality’

Just like her recipes, Nguyen packs a punch – she’s just as likely to make you laugh as she is to inspire your next meal.

Followers tell the content creator “they came for the recipes, stayed for the personality.”

She’s not afraid to clapback to haters, whether they’re criticizing her for not eating dinner with her husband or complaining that she’s not smiling.

Elías Valverde II / The Dallas Morning News

Alissa Nguyen makes sushi bake, adding a mix of imitation crab and salmon on top of a layer of sushi rice.

“I have two kids. I’m not going to let user 456822 hurt my feelings for not having my hair brushed or whatever, you know what I mean?” she said.

Other food influencers may proclaim their obsession with cooking or researching other recipes. Not Gaming Foodie. She doesn’t cook because it’s “a passion.”

“I cook because it’s something that I have to do to keep my family alive,” she said. “I can’t go out to eat every single day in today’s economy.”

And she finds watching recipe videos kind of boring. This food influencer would much rather watch comedic skits, lip injection pranks or even news segments.

Don’t get her wrong — she loves filming recipe videos; she’s just being real.

That’s the charm of Gaming Foodie: she’s built a space on social media where viewers are much more likely to say “relatable” than “I could never.” Plus, after a long day, it’s easy to scroll through video after video that makes you laugh and salivate all at once.

That’s why Nguyen’s audience is willing to watch her cut off the burnt edges of her pork or walk out of frame with a “yo, my baby is crying.” She may have over 2 million followers, but Nguyen is just as weird and flawed as the rest of us.

Arts Access is a partnership between The Dallas Morning News and KERA that expands local arts, music and culture coverage through the lens of access and equity.

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