Bread story

When my grandmother made catfish in a clay pot in the United States many years ago, the neighbors unfortunately called the fire department.

The smell and pungent cooking made our neighbors worry. They complained to the authorities about "some toxic smells". My family had to apologize, pledging to close the window whenever Grandma wanted to prepare some Vietnamese food in her original style.

My family moved from Vietnam to live in San Francisco, USA many years ago. When I was just over 10 years old, I was under pressure to "Americanize" when I left my home country, adapting to another country - where we are a minority. The cuisine has connected us to the old country.

Many years passed. Grandma is no more. But I can be confident that, if she knew, it would be very proud that some Vietnamese American dishes once considered "toxic" have become classics in the world today. Bread is such a "legend". Many Vietnamese could not imagine a day of Vietnamese-style sandwiches accepted by the whole world as great delicacies. A few years ago, I did my own survey in the US, Australia and Asia to discover Vietnamese bread.

In 1980, a man named Le Van Ba ​​and his sons parked their food cart in front of a computer factory in Silicon Valley, USA. At first, he only targeted Vietnamese customers who could not go far or pay much money for lunch. Mr. Ba, who used to be a wealthy sugar business trader before April 30, 1975 in Saigon, sold the cheapest goods in the market, including Vietnamese bread. Thanks to that, not long after, non-Vietnamese people and students in the area also came to enjoy.

By 1983, the sons of Mr. Ba, Chieu and Henry, upgraded the bakery truck into Lee Bros. Food and Beverage Company. Lee is an American surname Le, which today has more than 500 food vans serving northern California. The company also opened fast-food brand Lee's Sandwiches with dozens of sandwich shops from San Francisco to Houston and recently to Taipei.

When Mr. Ba died, San Jose Mercury News called him Ray Kroc of Vietnamese bread. Ray Kroc is the nickname of the person most credited with making McDonald’s the world's most successful fast food brand.

The Vietnamese bread fever in the US has created an author specializing in it, Andrea Nguyen. She lives in northern California and is the owner of a blog specializing in discovering and introducing traditional cuisine of Vietnam and Asia in general. She has published "Bread Handbook: The secret of the delicious Vietnamese style bread". It is on the list of "Best Cooking Book of 2014" by National Public Radio.

"Vietnamese bread brings a lot of richness at the same time," Andrea shared with me, "the crispy crust of the crust, the fat of the mayo and meat sauce, the crunchy force of pickles, the pungency of chili and the fresh taste of cucumber and vegetables ". Andrea pointed out the fascinating blend of breads from which it became friendly and easily accepted. "Bread is close, not too strange for new to taste," she said, "Vietnamese cuisine is a combination of East and Southeast Asia, South Asia and the West. In which, bread is a perfect representation ".

Also on my journey to discover bread, I talked to Pauline Nguyen in Australia, the author of the cookbook and the owner of Red Lantern - the leading Vietnamese restaurant in Sydney. "To be frank, the traditional French bread with cold meat, cheese, can add a little bit of pickled cucumber, not comparable to Vietnamese bread," she said, "there is a harmony between the sweetness and sweetness. and the roasted vegetables, the spicyness of the chili, the richness of the pâté or the mayonnaise, along with the richness of the frozen pork, the aroma of cilantro and scallions, and of course the crunchy sensation of the crust. " Biting into a piece of bread stacked with many layers of ingredients is a great experience.

Since the end of the Vietnam War, in the last 45 years, Vietnamese people have shared a lot of their culture with the outside world, including their homeland bread. Today, bread has spread from Vietnam to California, and from here spread across the planet. Every North American city now has a store or bakery chain: Saigon Bread in New York, Bun Mee in San Francisco, BONMi in Washington DC, Banh Mi Ba Get in Chicago, Bread Boys in Toronto. Bread carts are available at fairs from San Diego to Boston. And Yum! Brands - the parent company of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut - has opened a fast-food restaurant called Banh Shop in Dallas.

Further afield, south of the Mexican city border, there is a bright red and yellow bread, Ñham Ñham. In addition, bakeries and chain stores are sprouting everywhere. In London there are Tails !, Banhmei11, and next to St. Church. Paul has Banh Mi Bay. Chen among brands in Shanghai has Mr. V with Obscene Double Triple - a type of bread served with sausage, sausage, and peppercorn meat. Coming to Singapore, people can try Bread 888. And in the middle of one of Tokyo's busiest places, one can still find a shop called simply Sandwich.

The origin of the bread, as its shape suggests, is certainly from France. The French came to Vietnam initially as missionaries in the 17th century and imposed colonial policy on Vietnam in 1887, along with the formation of a cluster of three Indochinese countries. The French brought their language and food, including bread, each oblong-shaped loaf that was common in France. Growing up in Hanoi, my grandmother called it "Western bread", which means bread made in the Western style. By the 1950s, the Vietnamese gradually changed it towards Vietnamization and called bread - simply made from flour. Bread has long been a staple of poor workers. Carts and bakeries are everywhere on the streets of Vietnam, offering people a delicious, simple, but nutritious diet.

Since the 1950s, Vietnamese bread can be found in overseas Vietnamese student and immigrant communities. Located in District 13, Paris, Hoa Nam's self-service restaurant for many years has been selling bread wrapped in wax paper, although the trend of bread today must be Bobo like the starboard side of the Seine, the type of bread like Saigon Sandwich or Bulma.

The story follows after 1975, followed by the mass migration of Vietnamese who brought bread into the world. Shortly afterward, the refugees in the United States opened Vietnamese restaurants, bakeries, and boutiques, offering all the dishes from their homeland - including bread - for their compatriots and food. curious American guests. The CEO of Hodo Mung Bean Company in Oakland, Mr. Minh Tsai, said that bread was quickly considered a "bargain" because Americans always thought that Vietnamese food was delicious but not expensive. Pho and Vietnamese dishes have also become popular throughout the United States.

"It's all thanks to cheap labor," said Steve Do, a Vietnamese boat man who came to the United States in the 1980s, who has achieved financial success by engaging in real estate and technology stocks. network - tell. "I lived with bread making during my time in high school and college, and I know a few other houses," he told me. "Families working together at a bakery are a way to reduce labor costs. Even teenagers work after school to help support the family. Often these shops hire no one but the people." When the Vietnamese first arrived, they did it while still receiving government subsidies. That's how refugees are. And they lived. "

So I hope, if bread is still a popular street food in Vietnam today, let's not forget that overseas Vietnamese have made it famous and shined around the world.

"If there is a Lee's Sandwiches bakery that corresponds to each McDonald's, the world will be better," said Cathy Chaplin, author of the book "A Guide for Food Lovers on a Visit to Los Angeles." multiply.

The culinary culture of Vietnamese people has transcended borders and ethnic groups to become popular. What once belonged to Vietnamese immigrants now belongs to the world. That is the natural progression, I think, of globalization. Bread, pho, spring rolls, some elements of ethnic minority culture have proven able to integrate into mainstream culture in the US and globally - similar to people. I believe, my grandfather is also satisfied in heaven.

Andrew Lam