A friend recently asked if I ever stop to take a break and right now, it’s kind of hard to. There are many exciting things going on with regard to interest in Asian food and Vietnamese food, and I’m happy to be part of that rising tide. I’ve been pushing the envelope for years, trying to spotlight the richness and nuance of Asian foodways. The cuisines of the region have just as much to offer as any other on this planet.
One sign of things pointing toward the Pacific is the summer 2016 issue of Lucky Peach: It is completely devoted to pho! If you’re not familiar with Lucky Peach, it’s a thought-provoking quarterly journal owned by uber chef David Chang. The award-winning arty magazine is considered a thought leader in today’s food media landscape. Lucky Peach asked me to contribute to the pho issue and I suggested a piece on the history of pho. Many wonder what its origin is – is it French? I spent a lot of time researching the pho backstory for my upcoming book and Lucky Peach excerpted the introduction.
You can read ”The History of Pho” online. Lucky Peach is also available at select newsstands, and you can subscribe like I do. There’s an email newsletter as well. The Lucky Peach pho issue is also sold at Amazon (the cover at Amazon is not the one that actually ran).
The pho issue includes all kinds of great content, such as pho-related stories from Vietnamese-American chefs like my friend Diep Tran who is part of the Pho 79 family, San Francisco restaurateur/chef Charles Phan’s chicken pho recipe, and a short list of pho shops by HCMC-based expat Calvin Godfrey. There is a lot of irony and edge about Lucky Peach, which has done a lot to stir the pot when it comes to giving Asian food a higher profile.
My history of pho article went up online around the same time that the Los Angeles Times published a very interesting story about the role of Latinos at Little Saigon restaurants in Southern California. Vietnamese journalist Anh Do interviewed me for the story. We have all observed Latino staff at Viet restaurants but rarely have they spoken Vietnamese. Yes, you read that right.
Anh’s beat is Little Saigon, and she reported on why Latinos are looking to master Vietnamese to advance their careers in Little Saigon. It’s fascinating and quintessentially American. Latino cooks absorb and replicate flavors exceptionally well at restaurants all over. They may not be apt to change things up as much as Viet cooks do so maybe they’ll be part of a group of cooks preserving Viet food traditions?
I once observed a Latino-Vietnamese couple managing a pho shop in El Monte (Los Angeles) so imagine the kind of flavors that that marriage may bring. (Jalapenos are already served with pho!) As I started out saying, a lot is going on the Vietnamese food front.
In the pho cookbook arena, I’m working on reviewing and polishing it. The Pho Cookbook won’t be released until early February –- design, proofing, printing, shipping and distribution take a long time. The interior pages look smashing, with location photos and studio photos. The cover is still being finalized. I hope you like what we come up with.
(Pre-ordering won’t be available until later this year. I’ll definitely let you know what that happens. You may also sign up for a pho cookbook pre-order notification email list!)