My parents emigrated to the United States in the early 1980s after the fall of Saigon to the communist North. Through treacherous circumstances as “boat people” refugees, they made their way to Southern California. A Vietnamese community in a diaspora made this foreign land home, and it was even christened Little Saigon in honor of the former capital of South Vietnam.
Growing up, I have to admit I did not appreciate the gifts that were bestowed upon me from my family. A life of leisure where only education was a priority. We did not know the feeling of hunger or oppression. Instead I complained about being pulled from art class for ELD (English Language Arts) lessons in elementary school and of my stinky Asian lunches packed by my mother.
If you spoke to me today, you wouldn’t even know that English was my second language. Through assimilation, I lost my accent but I also feel like I lost my heritage. I seem to crave it more and more through my eating habits. I now long for the traditional dishes I grew up on like Canh Chua (Vietnamese Sweet and Sour Fish Soup) as opposed to the Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwiches I used to beg for in my youth.
Rich knows this more than anyone as he has driven me down an hour away to Orange County countless times just because I was craving a Vietnamese dish. So when I told him it was imperative we visit my family’s ancestral homeland, he whole-hardheartedly agreed that we needed to check this off of our bucket list. Let’s be honest, he’s in it for the food too.
I’ve never met another American who appreciated Vietnamese cuisine as much as my family. I mean seriously… what non-Vietnamese person loves Mắm Nêm (Fermented Anchovy Dipping Sauce)??
While we sit here at LAX airport filled with excitement for the unknown, there is also a sense of familiar homecoming I’ve never felt before on any other trip. For the next two weeks, we invite you to share this journey with us while we explore Vietnam’s various cities and its history through the individuals we meet and the dishes we taste.