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 plane.
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!