Friday, June 4, 2010

Bonjour Vietnam: Scents and Sounds of Home

I made a music slideshow above tonight to pay homage to my birthplace and as a dedication to my grandmother who died during my return to Vietnam several years ago. Why would I chose a scratchy French song?

A few years ago, I happened upon the song on the Internet. After the beautiful song was accidentally posted online, it immediately struck a worldwide chord among the Vietnamese community -- both inside and outside Vietnam. It's from an emerging singer of Vietnamese decent from Belgium named Quynh Anh.

The song -- "Bonjour Vietnam" was written by Marc Lavoine, a longtime French pop star and actor. The two later teamed up with a pop hit, "J'espère," that made Quynh Anh a household name ... at least in France, Vietnam and other places with large Vietnamese communities.

I had the chance to meet her last year at a concert in Orange County. I marveled at how someone who had never been to Vietnam could sing with such sentimental remiss. Perhaps it's because the longtime culinary and musical traditions had been steeped into her heart and soul as they had been for me. 

After hearing that song again, I was feeling a bit homesick for my Mom's homemade noodle soup. It's not the ubiquitous Pho soup, a clear consume nuanced with beef stock and subtle spices and herbs considered the national dish of Vietnam.

Tonight, I'm forgetting Pho and turning my culinary attention to Bun Rieu Cua. It's made with ripe tomatoes that would put some Italian mothers to shame -- especially my Mom's version. It's full of delicious meatball-like morsels of crab and shrimp handcrafted by Mom.

I'm working up the courage and the appetite to try to make this wonderful dish. Luckily, I found these easy-to-follow instructions.

I'll give it a go. But I know it'll only be a temporary fix until I come back home for the real deal.

What's your favorite dish that reminds you of home? I'd love to hear about your comfort foods and read any recipes you'd like to share.


  1. Great post. Yes, music (sound), food (taste) are memory-packed sensors. When I'm wanting comfort food I think of two things: macaroni and cheese (the nasty powdered kind that I had as a child, not the good kind I make with real cheese) and McDonald's cheeseburgers. (Obviously, I grew up poor.) Though my tastes have diversified exponentially from these two "dishes," they are my "comfort foods," nevertheless.

    Keep up the postings; love 'em.

  2. Comfort foods from mom...Simple, but perfect: Homemade flour tortilla, right off the comal, with a little bit of butter.

  3. I'm sad and hungry now, ha. That is seriously a great song, and some beautful pictures!! What a wonderful country.

  4. The food that most reminds me of home is roast w/ potatoes and carrots that's been slow cooking in a crock pot all day.

  5. You totally need to get on Yelp Ted! And add me =) I'd love to follow your list of best viet places to eat in SoCal! ---@DianaWei

  6. Comfort food for me means anything that has broth in it: Phở, bún riêu, miến gàn, bún thang, mì, hủ tíu. The list can be quite long. But then, if you bring me steaks and French Fries, I will be very happy, too.

  7. Ted, this interview of Quỳnh Anh was done by Hồng Vân a while back. I thought it might be of interest to you. There are 2 parts and some of it is in French.