JULY | AUGUST 2019
The Asian Issue
The French Influence on Vietnamese Food
The Chinese Cajun Cowboy
Heart & Seoul Korean Fried Chicken
At Rouses, we’re Coco for Coconuts.
We traveled all the way to Thailand for our naturally hydrating, nutrient-rich coconut waters, and coconut milk from the country’s prized Koh Samui. Our refreshing coconut sparkling waters were sourced in Vietnam. These are the some of the best-tasting coconut products you can buy anywhere in the world.
Crabbing on the Coast by Donny Rouse, CEO, 3 rd Generation
photo by Romney Caruso
One of my fondest childhood memories is crabbing with my father and grandfather on Grand Isle. You didn’t even need a boat; you could just set a trotline in the sandbar, with one pole here, one pole there, and a long line baited with chicken necks or turkey necks from Rouses running in between. When the crabs were really thick you could walk the shore, dragging the bottom of the water with a dip net, and scoop them up. My wife’s family has a camp in Dulac where we’d go crabbing from the pier. You simply take some string, tie a net with some bait on it, and hang it off the pier. A few years back, she and the kids started a new crabbing ritual in Orange Beach: On summer evenings, they’ll take a couple of flashlights to the beach to chase toodaloo crabs along the shoreline. Now, I can think of a few better things to do with crabs than chase them — like eat them. At Rouses, we made our name selling local seafood. We boil crabs and shrimp in our stores all summer long, using my grandfather’s recipe. I boil crabs at home on the regular. Here’s a little tip: There’s no need to boil crabs for 10 or 15 minutes;
you’re overboiling them. Turn the fire off after five minutes, and the crabmeat will flake better when you pick it. Today, Vietnamese-style seafood boils are becoming popular across the Gulf Coast. We experimented with Vietnamese crawfish boils during the crawfish season, and I love the idea of tossing boiled crabs with Viet-Cajun garlic butter (see page 15) , because crabmeat, like fish, loves butter. And this recipe’s also a delicious example of the Gulf Coast as a true melting pot. You could also try using Drago’s Butter Garlic Charbroiling Sauce on your crabs, which we sell in our stores. Crabs are in season almost year-round, but July and August are when they’re really running. They can be found in the Gulf, back bays and passes, spillways and saltwater estuaries all over the Coast — and at your neighborhood Rouses.
SUMMER’S HERE...LET’S GET CRACKING!
Table of Contents COVER PHOTO BY ROMNEY CARUSO
Pu Pu Platter
In Every Issue
27 44 46 47 77 15
1 4 5 6 7
Tech Support BY DAVID W. BROWN
Letter from Donny Rouse Contributors Letter from the Editor How I Roll BY ALI ROUSE ROYSTER
A Product-finding Trip to Thailand BY DAVID W. BROWN
Rice & Noodles Sushi Sake & Beer Ramen vs. Pho Asian Pantry
The Traveling Chef BY DAVID W. BROWN
Cooking & Recipes
In Our Stores
Viet-Cajun Seafood Butter Coconut Red Curry Thai Coconut Curry with Shrimp Green Curry with Tofu Butter Chicken Biryani Rice Paper-Skin Fried Chicken Korean Ribs Leftover Fried Rice Thai Pineapple Fried Rice Som Tum (Papaya Salad) Lo Mein Thai Peanut Sauce Pad Thai Take A Wok on the Wild Side BY DAVID W. BROWN
12 16 18 24 28 32 36 42 48 54 60 64 65
Bahn-jour BY SARAH BAIRD
Leah Chase BY LOLIS ERIC ELIE
59 63 72 73 74 75 76
Un-pho-gettable BY SARAH BAIRD
A New Place to Trawl Their Own BY DAVID W. BROWN
Bun Appétit! BY KEN WELLS
New Orleans’ Chinatown BY JUSTIN NYSTROM The Chinese Cajun Cowboy BY DAVID W. BROWN
Life in the Chinese Delta BY JUSTIN NYSTROM
Kanpai! (Cheers!) BY WAYNE CURTIS
Funk on da Table BY MICHAEL TISSERAND
The Gulf Coast is filled with dining gems, many of which have been featured in this magazine’s pages. For this issue, we asked our foodie friends to share their favorite off- the-beaten-path Asian restaurants. They include a windowless hole- in-the-wall under the expressway on Perkins Road in Baton Rouge and a Nepalese Indian restaurant on Alabama's Gulf Coast. Look for these hidden gems throughout the magazine.
Curry Favor BY SARAH BAIRD Heart & Seoul BY LOLIS ERIC ELIE
Lanexang Village in Cajun Country BY DAVID W. BROWN
Common Threads BY SARAH BAIRD
We’re hungry for football!
Official supermarket of the new orleans saints and lsu athletics
groceries beer catering
Family owned since 1960
SARAH BAIRD Sarah Baird is the author of the books New Orleans Cocktails and Short Stack Edi- tion: Summer Squash . Her work appears regularly in/on Saveur , Eater , GQ , First We Feast , PUNCH and Food & Wine . She was the longtime food editor and restau- rant critic for the New Orleans alt-weekly, Gambit Weekly . DAVID W. BROWN David is a regular contributor to The Atlan- tic , The Week and Mental Floss . His work also appears in Vox , The New York Times , Writer’s Digest and Foreign Policy magazine. He is a regular commentator for television and radio. ROMNEY CARUSO Romney is a Mandeville resident and has been a professional photographer for over 25 years. He has styled and photographed food for hundreds of local and national publications, and for several cookbooks. His portrait series of chefs and bartenders, titled “Shakers, Knives & Irons,” was recently dis- played in New Orleans and Los Angeles. WAYNE CURTIS Wayne Curtis is the author of And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in 10 Cocktails , and a contributing editor to The Atlantic and Imbibe . He is a frequent contributor to the book review section of The Wall Street Journal . LOLIS ERIC ELIE Lolis Eric Elie is a New Orleans born, Los Angeles based writer/filmmaker. He re- cently joined the writing staff of the Amazon series The Man in the High Castle . Before that, he wrote for the OWN series Green- leaf and the HBO series Tremé . A former columnist for The Times-Picayune , he is the author of Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country and editor of Cornbread Nation 2: The Best of South- ern Food Writing . A contributing writer to Oxford American , his work has appeared in Gourmet , The Washington Post , The New York Times and Bon Appétit .
JUSTIN A. NYSTROM Justin A. Nystrom is an Associate Professor in the History Department at Loyola Univer- sity New Orleans. He is the author of Creole Italian: Sicilian Immigrants and the Shaping of New Orleans Food Culture. PATTI STALLARD Patti is a freelance copy editor, proofreader and copywriter with decades of editorial experience in both the marketing and pub- lishing arenas. A native New Orleanian and a culinary devotee, she was part of many creative teams that crafted ADDY award- winning campaigns for a variety of clients, including tourism, professional sports and higher education. MICHAEL TISSERAND Michael Tisserand is a New Orleans-based author whose books include The Kingdom of Zydeco ; Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White ; and a post-Katrina memoir,
Sugarcane Academy , about Tisserand and other parents persuading one of his children’s teachers, Paul Reynaud, to start a school among the sugarcane fields of New Iberia. Tisserand is a founding member of the Laissez Boys Social Aide and Leisure Club, a Mardi Gras parading organization. KEN WELLS Ken Wells grew up on the banks of Bayou Black deep in South Louisiana’s Cajun belt. He got his first newspaper job as a 19-year-old college dropout, covering car wrecks and gator sightings for The Cou- rier , a Houma, Louisiana weekly, while still helping out in his family’s snake-collecting business. Wells’ journalism career includes positions as senior writer and features edi- tor for The Wall Street Journal ’s Page One. His latest book, Gumbo Life: Tales from the Roux Bayou , is in stores now.
A Long- L ost Restaurant... Formosa Gardens, Thibodaux
"When I was growing up, Formosa Gardens was the place to go in Thibodaux for Chinese food. (It may have been the only place.) It was located on St. Mary Street — not far from Rouses #1, which is now our store support office — and I have fond memories of eating there with my family as a child, especially going on lunch dates with my dad. Usually on Sundays after Mass, my momwould go home with the smaller ones, and my dad would bring me to Formosa Gardens to eat, just the two of us. The best part of the whole place (in the eyes of a five year old, anyway) was the four golden dragon posts out front. When the whole family was there, we kids would name them, make up stories about them, try to scare each other by popping out behind them—whatever! We almost looked forward to having to wait a fewminutes to be seated. The food was great, and my dad still talks about their egg drop soup being his absolute favorite!" - Ali, 3 rd Generation
Letter from the Editor by Marcy Nathan, Creative Director
For this issue I asked our team members to submit their Asian hidden gems: restaurants that don’t get a ton of publicity, but that you just have to try. Mine’s out of the bag: Lilly’s, now and forever. Everyone’s answers were very telling. I guess it’s true; you are what you eat. We got more than one Asian buffet (“It speaks to my inner fat girl”). A few “weren’t dere no more.” Others were too well-known to be considered gems, like this one, which came from Kenneth, our regional district manager for Alabama and parts of Mississippi: a sushi chain called Rock N Roll Sushi, started — where else? — in Alabama. Kenneth is a fifth member of the band Metallica. He has close-cropped hair now, but I guarantee he wore it much, much longer in the past (and wore way fewer sleeves). The rolls at Rock N Roll are named after bands and singers. Kenneth, of course, likes the Metallica, but Rock N Roll also has a Guns N Roses roll and a Slash Roll, but no Springsteen Roll. May I suggest Thunder Roll, or Streets of Philadelphia Roll? I don’t know why the Led Zeppelin roll is made with softshell crab rather than the ZZ Top one. And I’m pitching for a jamming Grateful Dead buffet — or, hello , Phish? This issue is a tribute to all the women, men and cultures that make the Gulf Coast so unique. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed making it. Especially McNally, our store artist, who orders crab rangoons — those crispy crab and cream cheese wontons — at every Asian restaurant she’s ever visited. We shot this issue over two days, and by the time we were done, McNally said she had eaten so many crab rangoons that her body was at least 90 percent cream cheese. Mine was easily more than 50 percent egg roll. And I guarantee if you’d tested Jeremy’s blood, it would’ve been pure peanut sauce. Bywater Bakery, New Orleans "This spot is owned and run by our former bakery director, Chaya Conrad, and it’s really cool. Chaya and her husband, Alton Osborn, go to Thailand on the regular. Last summer they introduced a Monday night pop-up, Bywater to Bangkok, with Chaya cooking her favorite Thai dishes from a recent trip to Chiang Mai. Everyone was talking about those Pandan Filled Rice Crepes. I legit can’t wait to see what they have on the menu." - McNally, Store Artist
My father — whose memory these days is fallible — can still recall with perfect accuracy our family dinners at Trey Yuen, Genghis Kahn, and House of Lee. Trey Yuen required a 24-mile drive across the Causeway and a lot of hoopla, with four young daughters fighting the whole way over who would get to sit in the way way back of our station wagon during the drive. Food memories are that powerful. Today, Vietnamese food is a national sensation, but nowhere more than in New Orleans, which has the largest Vietnamese community on the Gulf Coast. Before Katrina, you had to travel to the outskirts of the city to get good pho, but now it seems like every restaurant in town is fusing its menu with dishes and ingredients from Vietnam and other Asian cultures. From gumbos to seafood boils, “local” is a mere matter of perception. The whole world is local in New Orleans. I still sometimes get pho on the West Bank — we have three stores there and another opening in Marrero later this year. When I’m headed east to our stores in Mississippi and Alabama, I’ll stop at Dong Phuong for banh mi. But more often than not you’ll find me (and at least a few friends from Rouses) at Lilly’s on Magazine Street. Lilly is one of those people who makes you feel as though you’ve known her your whole life; she has an innate sense of hospitality. (Sarah Baird profiles her on page 16) . Lunch at her Lower Garden District restaurant is practically a rite of initiation for anyone who works in our Downtown New Orleans office. The food is delicious. Jeremy, the downtown store director, says the same thing every time we go: “I could drink that peanut sauce.” (Lilly, consummate restaurateur that she is, always packs extra for him when we order takeout.)
FRESH SUSHI You’ve probably seen our professional in-store sushi chefs handcrafting sashimi and sushi rolls. We also have a variety of sampler platters, and sides like edamame and seaweed salad. Special orders and sushi platters are available. BOILED GULF SEAFOOD As the Gulf Coast’s grocer, and avid fishers ourselves, we feel a particular commitment to preserve and protect our seafood industry, which plays such an important role in our culture and economy. Most of our seafood comes from local fishermen with whom we have close personal and professional relationships. But our commitment doesn’t end at our coast. We’re mindful of how all of our seafood is caught and farmed. Our tropical fruit selection goes beyond pineapples, papayas, mangos, guavas and coconuts — we even have passion fruit, star fruit, and pink dragon fruit, which tastes like a cross between a kiwi and a pear. Jackfruit is our most distinctive selection. This giant spiky fruit can be used for both savory and sweet dishes depending on its ripeness. Firm green jackfruit is great cooked. It has a meaty flavor and texture similar to pulled pork. Ripe jackfruit has a sweet taste like a combination of pineapple, mango and banana. Look for a yellowish skin with spikes that have softened, and a shape that yields under gentle pressure. We have full-service butcher shops specializing in fresh meat, sausages and specialty prepared food items. Our trusted butchers are available to answer your questions about cuts, grades and cooking techniques. Beef and pork are cut by hand. Choose from steakhouse quality USDA Prime beef and USDA Choice beef. On the more affordable end, we also have USDA Select Beef. Most of our stores also have a dry- aged beef locker, in which the beef is aged at least 25 days. Special orders are welcome. AT SEASON’S PEAK: TROPICAL FRUITS AN OLD-FASHIONED BUTCHER SHOP
How I Roll by Ali Rouse Royster, 3rd Generation
I may be showing my age here, but when I was younger, eating sushi was not on my radar—at all.While I think I knew that people ate raw fish and rolled it up in seaweed and sticky rice; I just never imagined eating it myself. In the late 1990s, maybe early 2000s, that began to change. Sushi restaurants popped up in nearby bigger cities, but it still seemed pretty far removed from me in small- town South Louisiana. I tried restaurant sushi as a student at LSU in Baton Rouge and quickly fell in love. Even more of a shock was the takeoff of grocery-store sushi! When we opened our first Rouses in Covington in 2003, we started making sushi for our customers, and it was a hit. I think when we expanded the program to our Thibodaux store not long after, that may have been Thibodaux’s first sushi for sale! Fast forward to 2019, and sushi is about as mainstream as chicken nuggets. My husband and I bring our three little ones out to eat at local sushi restaurants pretty regularly for a quick bite, and they’re all little edamame-eating machines. Our little girl (age three) loves to pop the beans out with her fingers, dissolving into giggles when one gets away from her. We still have to pop the beans out for the baby (he’s two), and we can hardly keep up. I tell my husband we need to start ordering two servings, because most times I don’t even get to eat one! Our oldest orders for himself now, and his usual is a clear soup and California rolls. (Y’all. He’s four.) We’ve started picking up rolls for him from Rouses as a lunch treat every now and then. If you’d have told 1999 me that in 20 years my toddler-age children would be eating sushi, I guarantee I would never have believed you!
In Our Stores
PRIVATE LABEL PRODUCTS If Rouses Markets is on the label, you know it’s good. We have close relationships with the dairies that bottle our milk, bakeries that make our sandwich bread, and manufacturers who package our products. Every Rouses Markets private label food item has been personally tasted by the Rouse Family and is guaranteed to deliver the best quality at the best price. FRESH FLOWER SHOP Our licensed floral directors are as picky about the flowers we sell as our chefs are about the ingredients that go into the foods we make. Visit www.rouses.com to order flowers for delivery within specified areas. SOUP & SALAD BARS Our make-your-own salad bars feature an ever- changing selection of prepared salads and fresh- cut vegetables and fruits. Our hot soup menu changes daily, though you’ll always find our famous gumbo — it’s a favorite year-round. GROCERY DELIVERY If you don’t have the time to come to your closest Rouses, Rouses can always come to you! Order online at www.rouses.com for same-day delivery to your home or office. CAKES & DESSERTS There are as many reasons to order our cakes and cupcakes as there are ways to customize them. If you’d like to place a special order for a cake or dessert, stop by or call your neighborhood Rouses Market. For locations visit www.rouses.com.
EAT RIGHT WITH ROUSES Imagine having your own personal dietitian with you when you shop. Rouses registered dietitian, April Sins, has handpicked more than 500 grocery items that have lower sodium and saturated fat, healthier fats, more fiber and less sugar. Just look for the Eat Right logo on the shelf tag or package. DIGITAL COUPONS Get offers online at www.rouses.com and redeem directly in your local Rouses store with no need to download yet another mobile app. CHEESE & CHARCUTERIE Our cheesemonger is an American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional, a title that requires passing a master exam covering everything from dairy regions to cheese making, ripening, storage and serving. Get his tips about cheese and how to build the perfect cheese board at www.rouses.com. WINE, SPIRITS & BEER We offer wines and spirits at every price point and have experts on the floor to answer questions and offer pairing suggestions. Our craft beer selection includes cans, bottles and kegs from all over the Gulf Coast. PREPARED FOODS You’ll always find something hot and delicious on our line. Depending on your location, you might find barbecue, pizzas, burritos or a Mongolian grill. All of our stores feature grab-and-go meals, including $5 daily deals, fresh sandwiches and salads, and heat-and-eat dinners.
Reproduction, alteration, transfer or sale of this coupon or its contents is prohibited and is a criminal offense. MANUFACTURER’S COUPON EXPIRES: 8/31/19
SAVE $ 1 .00 on any TWO (2) NABISCO Cookies or Crackers (3.5 oz. or larger, any variety) RETAILER: Mondelēz Global LLC or a subsidiary, will reimburse the face value of this coupon plus handling if submitted in compliance with its Coupon Redemption Policy, previously provided to you and available upon request. Cash value 1/100¢. Coupon can only be distributed by Mondelēz Global LLC or its agent. Mail to: Mondelēz Global, LLC 1538, NCH Marketing Services, P.O. Box 880001, El Paso, TX 88588-0001. Offer expires: 8/31/19. CONSUMER: One coupon valid for item(s) indicated. Any other use constitutes fraud. VOID IF COPIED, TRANSFERRED, PURCHASED OR SOLD. Valid only in the USA, FPOs and APOs. © Mondelēz International group
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Back To School Snacking With
Introducing new French Market Coffee. Master crafted in small batches for a bold, smooth flavor that’ll be music to your mouth. Try it today at Rouses. NEW BLENDS. RICH COFFEE. RISE AND GRIND NEW ORLEANS
INTRODUCING ROUSES NEW DIGITAL COUPONS Save on your favorite brands with our new digital coupons. Get offers online at www.rouses.com and redeem in the store with no need to download yet another mobile app. Create your free account today. We’re Celebrating!
Shrimp bahn-mi, a popular Vietnamese sandwich photo by Romney Caruso
by Sarah Baird
Banh mi. Egg coffee. Pho. These dishes are now staples of Vietnamese cuisine, but their omnipresence is a rather re- cent development in the country’s long, complex culinary and sociopolitical history, which has been sculpted by ed- ible influences from China, the Khmer Rouge and beyond. Above all others, though, it is arguably the French —who colonized the country we now know as Vietnam in 1883 — who have left the most lasting mark on the dining habits of the Vietnamese. “Wandering the streets of Hanoi, one can now find pho shops near bakeries selling banh mi (warm, crusty baguettes, which make for excellent sandwiches), and market vendors selling freshly sliced and salted pineapple next to cafes where Vietnamese and tourists enjoy rich cups of coffee,” writes Erica J. Peters in her 2011 book, Appetites and Aspirations in Vietnam , which examines the food politics of Vietnamese culture during French colonial rule. “Two hundred years ago, none of those delights were there. A hundred years ago, they had all just arrived. The French colonizers who conquered Vietnam in the second half of the 19th century are long gone, but certain culinary contributions remain.” If you’re up for a highly specific edible adventure, spend a day seeking out, making and eating only Vietnamese dishes with French influence for a delicious lesson that traces global history. (Trust me, it’ll be better than any bar crawl or progressive dinner you’ve ever experienced.) Here’s how to get started. BREAKFAST: SUA CHUA Start off your sunrise-to-sunset, French-Viet culinary exploration with a little sua chua, or Vietnamese yogurt. “The Vietnamese had not used milk, butter or cheese in their diet before the French colonial period and consequently had never bred their cows for milk-giving abilities,” writes Peters. And while some Tamil immigrants from Southern India were producing goat milk in Saigon in the latter half of the 19th century, the French began importing their own cow’s milk, including condensed milk, from France. The Vietnamese quickly adopted milk into their culinary repertoire, not as much
Ca phe da, a Vietnamese-style iced coffee• Get the recipe at www.rouses.com/recipes
Tho through the Dalat region and north to Ninh Binh and beyond. Near those planta- tions, Vietnamese villagers drank an infusion of coffee leaves, prepared with fresh leaves like local tea. In colonial cities, however, a new style of coffee drinking found favor: brewed strong, with sweetened condensed milk, and iced in the tropical south.” Vietnam soon developed a distinct and dedicated caffeine-fueled tradition all their own, while wholeheartedly adopting the culture of the French café as a meeting place and focal point of neighborhood social activities in cities like Hanoi and Saigon. Ca phe da (literally, “iced coffee”) typically begins with a robust dark roast that’s been brewed in a phin (a metallic, French-style siphon), then added to a cup full of ice — much like the iced coffees that are now ubiquitous in second- and third- wave coffee shops in the United States. A more popular version involves scooping a few tablespoons of sweetened condensed
for its drink-it-by-the-glass tastiness as for its ability to be morphed into other foods — like yogurt and flan — which more readily matched with traditional flavor profiles and provided a cooled-down counterpoint to the country’s warm climate. Most often made using sweetened condensed milk as a base, Vietnamese yogurt is slightly less tangy than other yogurt varietals and retains a smooth, almost fluffy, consistency. MID-MORNING BREAK: VIETNAMESE COFFEE Need a little early-in-the-day pick-me-up? Look no further than Vietnamese-style cof- fee: a saccharine, but potent, elixir that took France’s coffee habit to a completely new level of delicious complexity. “Before [French] colonialism, few Vietnamese had tried coffee,” Peters explains. “But during the period of French rule, coffee plantations stretched from Ca‘n
Ava Street Café, Baton Rouge "There are a lot of really great choices for pho in Baton Rouge —Drunken Fish, Pho Café, Nine Dragon, Dang’s. My fiancée, Gloria, and I are addicted to the pho at Ava Street Café. We pick up or eat in at least once a week. Gloria orders the mixed vegetable pho. The vegetable broth is so good I get it as the base for steak pho instead of the usual beef broth. We also order the garlic butter edamame, which is equally addictive." - Chris, Category Manager
Today, the term for the bread and the term for the sandwich are synonymous, with the crackly exterior and light, porous interior of a banh mi loaf a necessity for soaking up the sandwich’s rich condiments and juices. DINNER: BUN OC Often served as a street food — and a favorite of the late, great Anthony Bourdain — bun oc is a vermicelli rice noodle soup with a rich, pork-fat-dappled, tomato-based broth that features snails ( à la the French love affair with escargot) and a wide range of local accou- trements: shredded banana blossom, bean sprouts, curdled morning glory leaves, strips of fried green banana — you name it. Snails have, of course, been eaten across Southeast Asia for centuries, but the French inspired new ways to prepare and enjoy the gastropods, from the aforementioned bun oc (which is, according to many, best enjoyed with an ice cold beer) to oc hap nhoi thit, a buttery, stuffed, baked snail preparation that closely resembles something you’d find on a menu in a Parisian bistro. DESSERT: VIETNAMESE BÛCHE DE NOËL Ah, dessert — you’ve reached the end of your French-Vietnamese food crawl! But now it’s time for, wait, a Christmas confection? While you almost assuredly will not find a bûche de noël on any bakery shelves outside of the holiday season, the Vietnamese adaptation of this charmingly twee French cake is too fascinating not to explore. A tubular chocolate cake shaped like a yule log (hence, its name) with an interior that somewhat mimics a higher-end, massive-scale Little Debbie Swiss Roll, bûche de noël is a wintertime delight across France and Francophone countries, with modern bakers going to extremes, blinging out the cake’s traditional woodland-like details (like mushroom-shaped meringues and frosting foliage) with every- thing from gold foil to non-traditional flavors, including strawberry and pistachio. Records of French-style cakes being advertised in Vietnamese metropolitan areas date back to the turn of the 20th century and, by 1941, a newspaper ad in the French-language L’Echo was offering bûche de noël-making lessons in Saigon. Known as banh khuc cay giang sinh (Christmas stick cake) or banh bong lan cuon (rolled sponge cake), it’s a central component of modern Christmas activities in the country, which take the holiday celebrations very seriously — even though less than 10 percent of the country identi- fies as Christians. “Kinh Do Bakery, a chain in three Vietnamese cities, reported in 2010 that they made 140,000 cakes in 50 different varieties, including a slew of different flavored logs,” writes Thu-Huong Ha in a 2016 article for Quartz about Vietnam’s bûche de noël affection. “In 2007, the bakery’s celebrations included gifting a 22-meter- long version of the log, and the following year they served 50,000 people with their 4-ton cake.” Try capping off your French-Vietnamese dining adventure by making a bûche de noël with Vietnamese flavors. Sure, it might be a little out of season, but a coconut-coffee-flavored log on a hot summer day is just quirky — and tasty — enough to be worth the trouble.
Le Bakery & Café, Biloxi "A lot of the local restaurants get their French bread from this family-owned, French- Vietnamese restaurant and bake shop on Oak Street. They also make croissants, cakes and pastries, both sweet and savory. The turnovers are to die for. I get the lemongrass-garlic grilled pork banh mi topped with house-pickled vegetables and a bubble tea. Check out Kim Long in Biloxi — another family-owned spot — for more great Vietnamese food." - Jeremy, Customer
milk into the cup where the phin drips hot coffee, and then the marriage of coffee-and-milk is poured over ice, creating a more caramel-like beverage. And in Hanoi, a creamy, eggnog-like treat known as Vietnamese egg coffee brings together egg yolks, sugar, condensed milk and full-bodied, locally grown Vietnamese coffee for a multilayered edible exploration that’s become something of a local culinary touchstone. Today, Vietnam is one of the world’s largest producers of coffee, second only to Brazil. LUNCH: BANH MI For lunch, what else would be quite as satisfying as a banh mi — a sandwich that some (myself included) would rank among the world’s greatest? “With banh mi, for a modest amount of money, you get to ingest Vietnam’s delectable history and culture,” writes James Beard Award-winning author Andrea Nguyen in her 2014 book, The Banh Mi Handbook: Recipes for Crazy-Delicious Vietnamese Sandwiches . “The bread, the condiments and some of the meats are the legacy of Chinese and French colonialism. The pickles, chiles and cilantro reflect Viet tastes for bright flavors and fresh vegetables." Creating the perfect bánh mi filling is, of course, a matter of personal taste. There’s the mayonnaise or salted butter; the chiles, cilantro, pickled carrots and cucumber; the Maggi seasoning or hoisin; the pâté; and then the filling: cold cuts or lemongrass pork or gingery tofu — the sky’s the limit. (It’s a real “choose your own adventure” of delight.) But at its core, the sandwich starts with the bread — literally, the banh mi. “The French, who officially ruled Vietnam from 1883 to 1954 but arrived as early as the seventeenth century, introduced baguettes to Vietnam,” Nguyen explains. “At first the Viets called the bread banh tay (Western or French bread; banh is a generic term for foods made with flour and legumes). By 1945, the bread had become commonplace enough for its name to switch to banh mi, literally meaning bread from wheat (mi). Dropping the Tay signaled that the bread had been fully accepted as Viet food.”
Aaron Gravois & Tuyet Vo, a first-generation Vietnamese American from Houma
by David W. Brown Tech Support This month’s tasty cover image is a Vietnamese-Cajun crab dish prepared by Marc Ardoin, the corporate chef of Rouses Markets. The idea came from Aaron Gravois, our director of software development, and is our easy-to-make take on his sister-in-law’s recipe. “I grew up with all the traditional food from around here,” says Gravois, who is from Vacherie. He counts off the usual — red beans and rice, gumbo, jambalaya — and adds: “Then I learned 20, 30 minutes away, there’s a whole other culture that eats much different food — food that I had never even heard of.” He was introduced to this food by his wife, Tuyet Vo, who is a first-generation Vietnamese American from Houma. According to the University of Louisiana Center for Louisiana Studies, after the United States’ withdrawal from Vietnam and the subsequent fall of Saigon in 1975, Catholic Charities in Louisiana took a leading role in resettling Vietnamese refugees in the state. Houma was one of the cities where sponsors and housing could be found. Today it has a small but vibrant Vietnamese community. “I just dove right into the food,” says Gravois. “It was definitely a culture shock, but there are a lot of similarities. Cajuns
eat rice with every single meal. So do the Vietnamese! Both styles of cooking use fresh seafood, and have lots of flavor.” As for the differences: “Their food is a lot lighter than Cajun food, that’s for sure.” Gravois and his wife have been married for over five years now. He says he has been spoiled by the meals he has enjoyed. Vietnamese home cooking uses fresh ingredients. A vegetable is usually served on the side — sautéed Chinese broccoli, for example. Things like lemongrass chicken are a common home dish. It’s a simple sauté with garlic and oil. The chicken is cut and sautéed, lemongrass is added with fish sauce, and the whole thing is served with rice. “It’s delicious,” he says. “When I first had that a couple of years ago, I thought: Oh man, what have I been missing my whole life?” His wife’s parents are from Vietnam — “My mother-in-law is an amazing cook,” he says — and he has enjoyed watching his three children grow up with such an extraordinary culture. “Their favorite food is curry!” he says. “It’s pretty cool to see that, and a lot of fun.”
Viet-Cajun Seafood Butter
(Enough for 5 lbs of crabs)
WHAT YOU WILL NEED: 1 pound (4 sticks) butter 1 (3-inch) piece lemongrass, chopped fine 10 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped 1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and chopped 11/2 teaspoons kosher salt 3 tablespoons lime juice 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped for garnish HOW TO PREP: Melt cup butter (1 stick) in a stainless steel saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the lemongrass and sauté until very soft. Add the remaining butter, garlic, ginger, seasonings and salt , and sauté over medium heat until the garlic is fragrant and translucent. Remove from heat; stir in lime juice. Toss boiled crabs with the butter sauce and garnish with cilantro. 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
Lilly's rare flank steak pho, fresh spring rolls with strawberries and mango bubble tea.
by Sarah Baird, photos by Romney Caruso
New Orleans is home to the kind of Vietnamese food that inspires daydreams: from the pho tai at Pho Tau Bay in Mid- City, to the lemongrass ribs at Tan Dinh in Gretna, to pretty much everything in the bakery at the James Beard Award- winning Dong Phuong in New Orleans East. For many people, though, it’s Trinh “Lilly” Vuong’s eponymous restaurant, Lilly’s Café, in the Lower Garden District — with its cozy, unassuming space that seems to always be filled with regulars — that has become the epitome of Vietnamese comfort food in the city. “Before my parents married, my father was a French chef for a French doctor in Vietnam in the 1960s,” says Vuong of her French- Viet cooking lineage. “After that, he worked at a French restaurant in Vietnam. My father had a talent in cooking. The way that he cooked was very unique, very special, and the food was very, very excellent. So I kind of think I get it from my father!” Soon, though, Vuong and her father fled the country as part of a large group of refugees who left Vietnam by boat and ship following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. They landed first in Indonesia in 1980, then found American sponsors in Falls Church, Virginia and New Orleans before migrating to the Northeast. “After the Vietnam War, my father [and I] escaped from Vietnam. We lost everything. He left literally everything behind: Even my mom didn’t come with us on the boat. She stayed behind, and then my father sponsored my mother after two years. When we got to America, he had to do this, he had to do that — he had to do every- thing! My father worked very hard to provide for us and he worked many, many jobs. He could build a house for you, fix a car for you, he could do anything. But he didn’t follow through with restaurants [in America] with his background — I don’t know why.” The heart and determination behind Lilly’s Café is nothing short of extraordinary, and a testament to how, through honoring a family culinary tradition, Vuong’s father passed away in 1999 in Massachusetts, and she returned to Louisiana. (“I had family here — aunts and uncles. It’s going back to your roots; going back to your family; going home,” she explains.) Lilly began working at an aunt’s nail salon in Mandeville, eventually moving to a salon on Magazine Street. All the while, though, her thoughts were in the kitchen. “So, I’m doing nails, but in my mind and my heart I’m thinking that I want to work with Vietnamese food. It’s a tribute to my father, because you know, food was in him. Cooking was in him, and so I get it from my dad. I’m telling my customers, ‘That’s my dream. I would like to have my own restaurant.’” She would even bring in handmade Vietnamese dishes for her customers to try — spring rolls, banh mi — that were met with rave reviews. And in 2012, Lilly’s Café opened on Magazine Street as a Vietnamese food pioneer in the Lower Garden District, rapidly attracting attention from hungry diners across town while simul- taneously becoming a linchpin restaurant for the neighborhood. a person can help create new memories and legacies of their own for generations to come.
Trihn “Lilly” Vuong of Lilly’s Cafe
Today, Lilly’s operation continues to be a true family affair: Her brother and mother both work front-of-house, her husband serves as chef, and Lilly’s aunt and sister-in-law pitch in on occasion. Vuong also points to the community itself as a key part of the restaurant’s success. “I couldn’t do it without everybody — they’re all so great. We have a wonderful neighborhood,” she says. When asked to pick a signature dish, Vuong refuses to point to a personal favorite, but knows which one customers seem to adore: spicy tofu. “Spicy tofu is unique. All the chefs come to have the spicy tofu, so that’s our trademark dish,” she laughs. “Pho, of course, is essential, and our pho is very different from other places. But I think the spicy tofu is the first choice that people come and try. Even Tom Colicchio from Top Chef came by, ate the spicy tofu, then came back two more times just for that!” The heart and determination behind Lilly’s Café is nothing short of extraordinary, and a testament to how, through honoring a family culinary tradition, a person can help create new memories and legacies of their own for generations to come. “I think my dad would be very proud. There were two siblings: my brother and me. My brother’s like my mom, and I’m very similar to my dad, so I think he would be proud. I thank God and thank my family. This is all for my dad, you know?”
by David W. Brown Gulf Coast culture has a dynamic richness greater, perhaps, than any other region of the United States, and much of that derives from the long history of enterprising immigrants settling here from every corner of the map. Whether it’s the Italians who somehow found Daphne, Alabama (of all places!), and developed an unlikely yet thriving potato industry in the United States, or the cultural jambalaya that is New Orleans, where every building, festival and restaurant is equally likely to be derived from French, Spanish, Asian or Creole cultures, to deny the astonishing contribution of immigrants to the Gulf Coast is to deny the coast’s very existence. Even the magazine now in your hands would not exist without the family of immigrants who made their way to Louisiana and founded a grocery store chain. In a time of withering debates over walls, it’s good to remember that large-scale immigration isn’t something that ended long ago, during the days of Ellis Island and a few Model T Fords rolling down New York City streets. The United States wasn’t built by immigrants, past tense; rather, it is still being built by them today. About a million people immigrate to the United States every year, and nearly 14 percent of the American population was born in some other country. Immigrants are 30 percent more likely to start a small business than non-immigrants, and own 18 percent of small businesses today. They started a few big ones as well — if you’ve googled something lately, or bought something on eBay, you can thank an immigrant. One group of immigrants in particular has enriched and sustained the Gulf Coastal culture, adding among other things their stunning cuisine, while helping simultaneously to sustain the Southern seafood industry — and, relatively speaking, they just got here . The Vietnamese by far make up the largest Asian population in Louisiana, and are the fourth-largest Asian group in the United States. Over half are first- or second-generation Americans. And if you think that all of this has something to do with the Vietnam War, you are absolutely correct. CONFLICT AND CROSSING OCEANS Vietnam after America’s withdrawal from the conflict was every bit the nightmare of descending forces you might imagine — especially for the South Vietnamese and particularly members of its government. Flaring tensions with China, meanwhile, meant that the Hoa people — ethnically Chinese citizens of Vietnam — were no longer welcome. For 800,000 Vietnamese, after the last U.S. helicopter lifted off from Saigon soil, it was time to leave — and fast. “Boat people,” as many Vietnamese refugees were called, then set sail in one of the largest sea migrations of the 20th century. These desperate people in dire straits rarely received warm welcomes where they traveled. Thousands of Vietnamese attempted to flee via large cargo ships to various nations across Southeast Asia. Refugee camps proliferated. Many countries were ill-equipped to deal with the influx; many others simply didn’t want to. With large ships now being identified and turned away, fishing boats were an obvious option: Vietnam is a coastal country surrounded by water. Refugees attempted to abscond in the dead of night in hopes of slipping surreptitiously into some foreign land. These were journeys fraught with peril, and refugees faced down everything from sharks to pirates to typhoons. Refugee camps grew until they were bursting ANewPlace to Trawl Their Own
at the seams and, eventually, the United Nations convened an inter- national conference to figure out how to handle a situation growing worse by the minute. The conference yielded the Orderly Departure Program. The Vietnamese government allowed expedited expatriation, and the international community accelerated the resettlement process. The idea was to stop these highly dangerous, attempted escapes by boat; between 200,000 and 400,000 Vietnamese perished at sea — it was the very definition of a human rights catastrophe. IN AMERICA Five years after the U.S. pulled out of Vietnam, about a quarter- million Vietnamese refugees had been brought to the United States for resettlement. They were processed through military facilities and dispersed across the country. They didn’t have it easy at first — the U.S., a nation of immigrants, has always been a bit schizophrenic on the subject. (Build a wall, but pass the tortillas on Cinco de Mayo.) “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” reads a plaque inside the Statue of Liberty — “…but not in my backyard,” says public opinion. About half of the immigrants ended up in Texas and California. A big percentage found their way to the Gulf Coast. And it was hard. When these poor people weren’t dealing with the triple traumas of surviving an unimaginably brutal war, a swift campaign of oppression by the victors and the hell of frantic escape, those who resettled in the U.S. had new nightmares of dealing with such new monsters as the Ku Klux Klan — a particularly loathsome menace in Galveston, Texas. When the Vietnamese arrived and attempted to take up shrimping — a trade they could actually do without the need to speak English — locals resisted. The Klan militarized and mounted an intimidation campaign that included burning crosses and fishing boats — one fire aimed at eliminating human dignity, the other at eliminating livelihoods. Klansmen in robes patrolled waters in boats of their own. Members of the Vietnamese fishing community eventually worked with the Southern Poverty Law Center to sue the local Klan and won, though the community would have to work hard to rebuild its sense of security, and fishermen their livelihoods. When refugees weren’t facing fear at the point of a gun, they were up against such simple, tiny terrors as having no money and zero social status, not to even mention learning a wholly alien language under difficult conditions. (It is hard to conceive of two languages as different as Vietnamese and English.) Moreover, there wasn’t exactly much of a Vietnamese footprint in the U.S. before the fall of Saigon. (Between the years 1950 and 1974, about 650 Vietnamese, total, immigrated to the United States.) So the refugees could rely only on themselves and on the kindness of strangers. Resettlement continued until as late as the 1990s. All told, about a million Vietnamese have immigrated to the United States. FAMILIAR CLIMES Vietnamese refugees to the Gulf Coast in those tumultuous years of the 1970s and ’80s were drawn in part by a familiar climate and a geography perfect for practicing a common trade at the time: fishing. Louisiana in particular drew large numbers of immigrants be- cause many Vietnamese were Catholic, and Catholic humanitarian The Vietnamese by far make up the largest Asian population in Louisiana, and are the fourth- largest Asian group in the United States. Over half are first- or second-generation Americans.
A traditional Vietnamese meal: Hot Pot
groups helped them resettle. (It is somehow fitting that both Louisiana and Vietnam are former French colonies.) Religion has thus been a unifying force for many large Viet- namese communities; it allowed these areas to grow, survive and thrive, and it gave im- migrants a sense of self and of safety. You can basically follow Highway 90 from Biloxi to New Orleans and find strong Vietnamese communities all along the way. The Gulf Coast was well-suited for Vietnamese cuisine and the staple dishes migrants brought from home. Fishing was a trade many practiced in Vietnam, and immigrants worked — and continue to work — long, hard hours. Today, a majority of the shrimping businesses along the Gulf Coast are run by men and women of Vietnamese descent. In the process of settling in, the Vietnamese community has rejuvenated neighborhoods and set first- and second- generation Vietnamese Americans on paths for success — especially with the language barrier removed for the younger generations.
or shrimp, or other seafood that might be caught in areas along the Gulf Coast. The proteins are basically poached in the broth, absorbing the flavors of the various ingredi- ents. It is a communal noodle dish, with its amazing aromas adding to the experience. Because Vietnamese dishes so often use ingredients familiar to locals not of Vietnamese descent, but who use them in a different and interesting way, it can be exciting for locals to try Vietnamese cuisine for the first time. It is familiar and yet not familiar, and the popularity of Vietnamese restaurants along the Gulf Coast today reflects the interest of the non-Vietnamese locals in the cuisine. It’s not just via food that the Vietnamese have added to the region. Vietnamese festivities have also joined the rich tapestry of Southern celebrations. The three-day Tet festival — the “Feast of the First Morning of the First Day” marking the Vietnamese New Year — has been celebrated annually at Mary Queen of Vietnam Church in New Orleans since 1990. The event is marked with live music, traditional cuisine and dancing, and fireworks. Other Tet celebra- tions are held all along the Gulf Coast. VIETNAMESE AMERICANS TODAY Far from being an economic drain on the U.S., Vietnamese immigrants today have a
mi, sometimes called a Vietnamese po’boy, is a wildly popular sandwich composed of a baguette split lengthwise and filled with meats and vegetables (and when prepared as a dessert, even ice cream). And these days restaurants specializing in pho, the Vietnamese soup comprised of broth, rice noodles and meat, seem to be on as many corners as McDonald’s. Vietnamese cuisine is known for its potent chilis and aromatic vegetables — things like garlic and shallots, cilantro and green onion. Those foods were already being grown in the South, helping to make this place seem a little more like home. Moreover, like traditional Louisiana cuisine, Vietnamese food often features strong flavors in its broths. And of course, the dishes use fresh seafood — things like crabs, shrimp and fish. So it’s no surprise that Vietnamese food was a natural addition to the region, and it has influenced local cuisine as well. One classic Vietnamese meal that would have been prepared by new immigrants — as well as in restaurants today — is a hot pot. It is just what it sounds like: a big, hot pot sitting in the middle of the table, filled with flavorful beef or chicken broths, or fish stock, or a combination thereof, with heavy aromatics: ginger, garlic, lemongrass. The dish often has chilis in it, and the aforemen- tioned vegetables are added with whatever proteins are desired — white, flaky fish
VIETNAMESE CUISINE AND CULTURE
Though early Vietnamese immigrants chose to open Chinese restaurants, thinking they would have an easier time of it, Vietnamese cuisine has exploded in popularity in Loui- siana and along the Gulf Coast. The banh
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