Sister Thien Anh Khong, With a Recipe for Strawberry Cream Cheese Pie

‘Mealtime is a valuable family time,’ says Sister T.A., ‘where warm, lasting memories are made.’

Sister Thien Anh Khong
Sister Thien Anh Khong (photo: leungchopan / Courtesy Photo / Shutterstock Background)

What a wonderful surprise to interview a Vietnamese Catholic sister, Thien Anh Khong, who is a Salesian Sister of St. John Bosco living in Corralitos, California.

“My family moved to the United States in 1992,” she said, “and lived in Schenectady, New York. My family is very Catholic, and my dad used to be a seminarian. He met my mother while he was teaching in Hanoi.” He was captured by the communists and sent to a concentration camp for eight years. Thankfully, after his imprisonment, the family was sponsored and emigrated to the United States.

Known by all as Sister T.A., she explained why she desired to follow this life. Thanks to her parents, Sister T.A. growing up felt the urge to dedicate herself to help others and to know and love God. “When I was young, I worked with kids in my neighborhood. I discerned to join the Salesian Sisters because we work with youth in education and our charism is joyful, very open, and has a strong family spirit.

Sister T.A. is surely a smart teacher, but she has another skill that she developed in her youth: cooking. Because both her parents worked, Sister T.A. and her brothers took turns cooking daily. As they started, they assessed all the available ingredients and would wonder what they could create. “It must be healthy, tasty and appealing to the family,” she said.

More importantly, Sister T.A. has always thought of cooking as an art form. “When you cook, you must think of something to add in for color and flavor,” she said. “And be creative! Mealtime is a valuable family time where stories are told, and warm, lasting memories are made.”

Because of her dedication to meal preparations, Sister T.A. has learned to cook dishes from many different cuisines, including American, Italian, French, Korean, Chinese and Thai.

“I cooked Thai last night,” she said. “My brother taught me not to be afraid to try something new. I think if I have the ingredients, I can make almost anything.”

She noted that she never cooks the same thing twice, but checks what ingredients are in the refrigerator and goes from there. And although she is Vietnamese, her first-choice cuisine is Italian because it is the quickest to prepare. “I love baking as well, especially fruit pies.”

Not surprisingly, she concluded, “I have a license to teach cooking classes.”

Recipe: Strawberry Cream Cheese Pie


  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 cups of frozen or fresh strawberries
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (about half a lemon)
  • 1 cup heavy cream (235ml)
  • 8-ounce cream cheese, softened (225g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • One 9” to 10” graham cracker crust


  1. Mix together the gelatin and water in a small bowl and allow it to bloom for about five minutes. 
  2. In a small saucepan, combine 2 cups of strawberries (280g), 1/4 cup sugar, and lemon juice over medium-low heat. Stir frequently until strawberries release their juices.
  3. Add the bloomed gelatin to the strawberry mixture, stir well to combine, and let it dissolve. Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice, then set aside to cool for about 15 to 20 minutes while you prepare your cream cheese layer.
  4. In a medium-sized bowl, beat 1 cup of heavy cream to stiff peaks. In a separate, beat together cream cheese, 1/2 cup of sugar, and vanilla extract until combined. Add the strawberries and gelatin mixture to the cream cheese and beat for another minute.
  5. Fold the heavy cream into the cream cheese mixture; the resulting mixture will be thick and fluffy. Spread evenly into the prepared graham cracker crust. Place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours (preferably overnight) before slicing and serving.