by Anna Scott (edited by Tat’yana Bedan)
Linda Pham and her son Thanh (or “T” for short) moved to Whiteville, North Carolina from Da Nang on the south central coast of Vietnam almost 20 years ago. She is now an owner of a successful nail business downtown. Pham is Buddhist and attends a temple in Wilmington. She cooks traditional Vietnamese food, usually on Sundays, her only day off of work, and cooks big meals for celebrating Chinese New Year, birthdays, and full moons. Traditionally, her family in Vietnam would cook a whole pig over a fire for birthdays, but, since money was tight when they moved to the US, Linda began a new birthday tradition by cooking egg rolls for T every year. For her rolls, she fills rice paper wraps with shredded cabbage, carrots, green onions, soaked bean thread noodles, marinated ground pork, and shrimp–then deep fries the mix. She makes at least fifty at a time, sharing with T’s friends and delivering extras to shut-in friends and neighbors.
Linda spends her Sundays tending her vegetable and herb garden in her back yard and cooking. In her garden, she grows melons, tomatoes, cucumbers, a variety of lettuces, basil, cilantro, and six different kinds of mint. T says that his family’s diet has always been comprised primarily of rice, vegetables from the garden, and supplemented with a few favorite traditional Vietnamese dishes. Some of T’s favorites growing up were Ban Seo– an egg pancake stuffed with bean sprouts and shrimp, Pho- a beef broth and noodle soup, and spring rolls– cold raw rice wraps filled with meat, lettuce and vermicelli.
During our fieldworker Anna Scott’s visit, Ms. Pham demonstrated how to make Mi Quang, and kindly shared her cooking process.
Mi Quang (Quang Nam style):
Pile in a bowl, in this order:
-raw washed lettuces, watercress, purple basil
-hot yellow rice noodles cooked in homemade chicken broth to package instructions
-pork belly and shrimp pan-fried with green onions, salt, and 5-spice powder
-a ladle full of homemade chicken broth
Serve with (on table, for topping):
-rice paper with black sesame seeds (cooked in microwave for 1 minute until crispy) –eaten as a side like chips