As an elementary schooler, I did not understand why my family never cooked pizza or lasagna for dinner like my friends ate. Instead, there were weird soups made from weird animal parts. I didn’t understand that my family was different and that we weren’t the typical American family betrayed on Disney channel. It wasn’t until the cultural week at my school that I realized I wasn’t just American but Vietnamese American. Slowly afterward, I began to embrace my culture and the foods that came with it.
Question 1: Growing up as a Vietnamese American, I’ve eaten everything from pho to pizza (or as my parents pronounce it “pissa”). My Mom was raised in Vietnam and was taught how to cook traditional Vietnamese cuisine. For breakfast, I would often wake up to the smell of banh xeo (Vietnamese yellow crepes/pancakes) or scrambled eggs and bacon. For lunch, I would have the basic chocolate milk, a piece of fruit, and a cheeseburger, but for dinner, there would be a nice warm bowl of lemongrass noodle soup called bun bo hue. I’ve eaten snakes, black turkeys, and every part of a pig and cow including their blood. Instead of chocolate or vanilla smoothies, I grew up with sinh to bo which is a simple blend of ice, whole milk, sugar, and fresh avocados. In grocery stores, pocky and yam yams filled the isles instead of traditional chocolate bars. I was raised in a Vietnamese household but sometimes have the taste buds for a greasy cheeseburger. I embrace both cultures and appreciate the unique flavors each have to offer.
Bun Bo Hue: A spicy lemongrass noodle soup served with herbs and vegetables
Question 2: As a child, I LOVED egg rolls and spring rolls (goi cuon). Not only for their amazing taste, but for the memories associated with them. My mom would only make egg rolls when there would be big parties with my family. Food was a way to bring together my distant aunts, uncles, and cousins. Sometimes my family hosted parties and relatives from Florida would drive up to see us. Food would always be an icebreaker for me. When people began to eat, they began to open up and talk. As a result, whenever I would be meeting a new cousin or second aunt, I would offer them food and connect with how delicious everything was. This was the same in school except instead of discussing pho and durian, I would connect over curly fries, pizza, and burgers.
Goi Cuon: Spring rolls filled with vegetables and shrimp. It’s wrapped in banh trang.
Question 3: Georgia is my home state and I’ve enjoyed the various communities this state offers. Atlanta is a unique city with many ethnic groups living together. I enjoy living in Atlanta because there are so many opportunities to explore different cultures through food. For instance, I know there is a huge korean population in Georgia and I’ve experienced my fair share of traditional dishes like haejang-guk and bibimbap. Atlanta is also home to multiple bubble tea shops which sell a sweet twaininese drink with tapioca pearls. Unfortunately, I have a bad habit of getting getting bubble tea every chance I get. I just can’t help how delicious these drinks are. I haven’t explored as much of Atlanta as I would want, but I hope with my years at Emory I get a chance to try even more tasty dishes.