Visiting Vietnam


We haven’t “traveled” to any countries in a while, so I thought it was about time to continue our adventures around the world again. This time we are off to Vietnam. The trip is multi-faceted: we love Asian food and want to try more Vietnamese food, recently around the dinner table the question “Why did America fight in Vietnam?” was raised, and I’m hoping it also touches a special note with my brother who is adopted from Vietnam.

Growing up, my parents primarily focused on assimilation into American culture. Maybe it was the times, or maybe it is just who my brother is, but there seem to be some missing pieces that have led to some adulthood struggles. When we see my brother this summer, my hope is to have him read a few of the books with the kids, gleaning what he might on a personal level and opening up new possibilities for exploration.

Here are the books we found at the library and descriptions from the Adopt Vietnam Organization Web Site:

by Sherry Garland.

“This wonderful book features Vietnamese culture from a 2nd generation Vietnamese American girl."

by Maxine Trottier

"A young Vietnamese boy carries a brass-tipped walking stick his uncle makes and gives to him saying that the Buddha "will watch over you no matter where you go, and bring you safely home." He carries the stick when fleeing from Vietnam to America. The circle is completed when his granddaughter brings the stick back to Vietnam."

by Michele Surat Surat

"This beautifully illustrated book is about a young Vietnamese girl who has recently moved to the US with her father and sisters. Adjusting to an American School proves very difficult at first, children laugh at her when she speaks Vietnamese and make fun of the ao dai she wears. Most of the taunting comes from a red haired boy, named Raymond who picks on her almost every day. Mostly this little girl misses her mother who had to stay behind in Vietnam. But to her surprise it is Raymond

by Truong Tran and Ann Phong

This summer, Ami Chi is taking a trip to far off Vietnam, where the streets are crowded with zipping scooters and the fruit are shaped like dragons and stars. To her parents, Vietnam is still home—a home they haven’t seen since they left during the war. But all this talk of going back home leave Ami Chi confused. How can you go back home to a place you¹ve never been? Ami Chi finds her answer in the rolling green rice paddies that blanket the countryside, in the bustling Cho Lon market, and in the quiet rooms of her grandmother’s house. Vietnam may be nothing like America, but some things—like the help of a new friend—make this strange place feel familiar. Before long, Ami Chi finds that sometimes, you can travel farther than you ever thought possible and still find yourself at home. Text is in English and Vietnamese.

by Norah Dooley

"This is a neat multi-cultural children's book. The author & illustrator drew on their own neighborhoods for the characters & illustrations. The story: A young girl is sent out into her neighborhood to find her younger brother & bring him home for dinner. As she searches, she discovers that everybody is cooking a rice dish - but since the families come from different countries, each dish is unique. Following the story are eight recipes, including one for Tam's Nuoc Cham (fish sauce)."

As we learn more about Vietnamese culture, we are enjoying Beef Pho this week. Pho is a Vietnamese Soup, topped with fresh mint, basil, cilantro, bean sprouts, chiles and lime wedges. Rare meat is added in addition to cooked beef, and the kids LOVED seeing the beef cook when steaming hot broth is added. Purchasing a local cow has provided access to bones for amazing broths like the one used in Pho. I’ve frozen the extra broth and packaged it up with love, for a special delivery this summer to my brother. We used the Pho recipe found in Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors by Andrea Nguyen but a similar recipe is available at Serious Eats.   

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