Early Morning and the grind.

Pursuing my project, "In Search of Little Saigon in America" has been an endeavor of personal journey and understanding.  One of the reasons I came up with doing this project was to understand where I particularly fit in America and in Vietnam, well if found myself uprooting my life to live there.  As I mention in the story, I am a Vietnamese American.  My parents emigrated to the United States at the end of the Vietnam War, then had us four.  We grew up with a dual cultural identity. 

Being a food and culture photographer, the other pressing idea that I wanted to address in this project, not just to discover where I fit in, is how as our food changed.  Either from cooking methods to ingredients.

As great as all of that sounds above, the hustle is real.  I have been finding difficulty in trying to get more portraits and interviews in.  I am not complaining, it is training me to just keep going and pounding the pavement.  There are three major reasons for this.  At least in my perspective.

  1. I am not fluent in Vietnamese.  I said it.  Although I am trying to learn it, being able to discuss this prospect with the cooks and owners has been pretty daunting with me not being able to fluently speak and understand the language.  To alleviate this I have been asking friends who can speak it to go with me. 
  2. I am terrible at pitching this project.  But this could just be an issue that goes with #1. 
  3. They don't want to talk to me about their story or for me to take portraits of them

But all of those problems to be able to interview and get portraits are trite in the end.  There are always solutions to problems.  So I am just going to keep on pounding the pavement to continue this series of work.  I do really want to put it all into book form. 

One of the shops that I really want to get portraits and interview with is with Cafe Pho Ga Thanh Thanh on Kensington Ave.  The two top photos are from that shop.  They make one of, if not the, best pho ga (pho with chicken) in Philly. 

The next project I have been working on is called "Portraits of Food in Philadelphia." It's a brief overview of the restaurants and food in Philadelphia.  Check them out on my Exposure.  On Sunday I went to Philly Style Bagels for their bagels and piece together photographs for their eventual addition to the series.  They will be moving into their own brick and mortar sometime in September.  Also I am going to do a Spot Burgers piece too.  Especially when they will get their own Brick and Mortar as well. 

Making banh mi

I am going to be honest with you.  I am probably going to get hate mail for this. ... please send me some kind of mail!  haha! 

Using the wrong bread...

Using the wrong bread...

Banh Mi, whether it is banh mi chay (vegetarian), Banh mi thit ngon (roasted pork), etc, is the best hoagie that you can ever have.  Take that Philly cheesesteak, meatball sub, etc!  It has the savory, the sweet, sour, and fresh flavors all packed into an airy bun. As in my previous post, where I went to pursue my project in Elmhurst, Queens, I went to this really great banh mi shop up there.  So I decided to make one for myself at home. 

Banh mi is, like pho, one of the most common street food that you can find on the streets of the major cities in Vietnam.  Probably on the countryside too.  Sometimes when a vendor is out of bread, they would run to their neighbor and buy some from them... even if they are direct competitors.  At least that is what I saw when I was in HCMC, Vietnam.  I mean it could be that I ran into sisters selling their hoagies at different locations, but this one that I went to ran out of bread so she ran to the cart 5 ft from me to get some bread.  I uhh... bought seven of them. 

So Sunday, I didn't have time to run to the Vietnamese market to buy the right kind of bread so I just used the leftover loaf of bread that I had from Whole Foods Market.  The bread is, as written, light inside and crispy on the outside.  This is actually pretty simple to make.


  • Bread (for the right bread, go to a Vietnamese market they make them fresh in the morning like every other bakery.)
  • Cilantro
  • Sweetened pickled carrots and radish
  • roasted meat
  • cucumber (sliced length wise)
  • mayo
  • crushed black pepper
  • fried egg (optional)

Depending on what kind of meat, or vegetarian item, that you use you will need to make that first.  For the roasted pork, for example, A blog of salt has pretty accurate recipes.  Go check out Thuy's. 

Slice the bread and spread the mayo onto both sides.  Line the bread with the meat/tofu/soy/etc.  Then layer in the sliced cucumbers, put in a helping of the sweet pickled carrots and radish.  Once you do that, put a piece of the cilantro on top and then sprinkle a pinch of crushed black pepper on top.

If you choose to add in a fried egg, which I think you should, add that in right after the main meat. 

Eat it and then tell me that that isn't the best hoagie that you have ever had!