Want to know where to find good Vietnamese food? Look on a map and
check Census data. That’s how you find the Little Saigon enclaves. I used to
have to piece the information together but today, I found an amazing resource
from the Orange County Register, a newspaper
in Southern California, home of the largest population of Viet-Americans.
According to reporter Jim Hinch, the newspaper is running a series
on how Orange County influences other areas of the country and world. Hinch
interviewed me for his story on Little Saigons in America. Today he emailed to
say that it been posted online. “OC’s Little Saigon? Nothing little about it” contains great
insights on the complex nature of the Vietnamese American community, the push
and pull between Vietnam and expatriates populations abroad. This isn’t
anything new, but the OC Register has done an excellent job in presenting
information about Vietnamese people. Major newspapers have featured Little
Saigon enclaves but the OC has the granddaddy of them all. Thus, the Register has a strong understanding of
and commitment to Vietnamese-Americans.
Click on the image to see it enlarged. Note where Vietnamese
populations concentrate. Those are the major Little Saigons with a critical
mass of people wanting good ingredients and food. That’s to say, on the East
Coast, folks need to look to Falls Church in Virginia. People in the Bay Area
need to head to the Oakland or to San Jose for Viet food. When I’m in Texas
again, along with Houston, I’m going to visit Dallas and Tarrant.
Once you’ve absorbed all the Census data and Little Saigon
factoids, check the lower part of the graphic for quick digest of how
Vietnamese got to America in 1975. My family went to Camp Pendleton in
California. I didn’t realize that we were among the 45,000 people who went
through the camp that year. We had
family members and friends scattered among the other camps too.
The graphic also squeezed in information on how people left
Vietnam and how long it took them to get to the U.S. It was a long journey, my
first flights on an airplane and I had no recollection of the actual time
involved; I was too scared. My family was among the luckier ones to escape by
What can you do with the information in the graphic and factoids?
Use them to strike up conversations with Vietnamese people. And, of course, search
for good food. Keep this graphic in your back pocket. You could be extra charming at a cocktail party!
If there are Little Saigon gems (restaurants, bakeries, delis, markets, etc.) that you'd like to share, please do. Your picks don't have to be in the major enclaves. As you see below, I’ve been to small
ones like in the one in Denver!
P.S. If you live in the U.S., please vote, if you have not already! Voting is your political voice.