The "Little Saigon" that I saw in Garden Grove

When I was in California, two weeks ago, I was able to check out just an "icing" of the Vietnamese community.  I do wish I spent more time there, but split time with being with family and this project. 

What I did see was an extremely vibrant community.  One that I know that I will be returning to.  Well whenever I head back to California that is.  Where I went to were banh mi shops, which are very numerous, hair salons, and super markets.  I did get into trouble at a super market.  I just had my camera around my chest and a security guard came up to me and told me no photographs are allowed inside. 

This community is really a self sustaining one and growing.  Everywhere I went, there were political signs for Vietnamese politicians.  It looks like this community has really adapted, but maintained our Vietnamese culture when they moved here. 


Be a part of "Searching for Little Saigon in America."

I was on my flight to Irvine when I drafted these questions.  As I hope to put this entire project into book form, I am slowly working on a long form essay to help build this narrative.  But it can't just be from literary research.  I need to get stories from others in it just as much as I want to put the photographs in.  If you want to be photographed and/or be a part of this story, "Searching for Little Saigon in America" kindly email me: ted@tednghiem.com or fill out the following questionnaire.  I would love to photograph and interview you!

  • Where were you born in Vietnam?
  • What were some of your fondest memories?
  • What were some of your worst memories?
  • When did you leave Vietnam?
  • When did you arrive in America?
  • What were your first impressions of America?  Did America fulfill those impressions and or goals that you had before coming to America?
  • What do you miss from Vietnam?
  • How long have you been living in the United States?
  • What foods do you miss from Vietnam if you cannot find them or the ingredients here?
  • Has the transition from Vietnam to America changed the food, the way you eat, and or the way the food is prepared in any way?
  • Are all or some of your family members living outside of Vietnam?
  • Do you plan on going back to Vietnam in the near future?  If so what kind of memories and traditions do you miss there that you can't recreate in the US?
  • How did you situate in your current location?
  • What are your dreams for the future?  For yourself, your spouse and or children?
  • Did you meet the goals or dreams in America that you dreamed of before coming to the country?
  • How do you see Vietnamese culture in America?  Is it the same as in Vietnam or has it transformed?  For better or for worse?
  • What traditions of your family do you hope to be passed on?
  • What do you think of the food in America?  The culture of food?  Has it affected Vietnamese cuisine?

Searching for Little Saigon in America: NYC

Over the weekend I went up to NYC to the Elmhurst Queens area to check out the Vietnamese community up there.  I know on Mott Street there are two Vietnamese shops and a cart, but I wanted to see a larger picture.  So taking my project, "Searching for Little Saigon in America" to NYC I went to Elmhurst and saw that it was really a large pocket of the Asian American community.  I went towards Joju Modern Vietnamese sandwich shop to check it out and to get some lunch.  I was pretty hungry!  

I did see some pho shops and a major supermarket that had mostly Chinese and some Vietnamese products inside.  So this was not necessarily a Little Saigon in this area.  I could be wrong and I should go back up there to explore.  I was hoping to walk by nail salons, which a majority of Vietnamese run and own, more banh mi shops and markets.  But I didn't find them in the area I explored.  

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After meeting and talking to Kelly, the blogger, I had some new ideas- I am going to have to start interviewing people which means... I need to learn Vietnamese and or get a translator and try to see if I can make a kickstarter program to help fund this project.

In Search of Little Saigon in America.

This weekend was full of food and time spent with friends.  Saturday I went to a picnic that my friends' folks hold annually- I Smell a Grilling Party!

This project that I am currently working on, I named it, as the title shows, "In Search of Little Saigon."  Originally I was planning on going back to Vietnam in the Fall to explore and photograph the food there.  But at this moment that does not look it is going to happen.  I am heading to Texas and then to California, leaving me with only a week of vacation days from work.  Which sounds kinda lame, but it is what it is.  I don't want to fly all the way to Vietnam for a week or two weeks.  It will have to be a month or more to make it worthwhile.  

So since I decided not to head to Vietnam, I realized I could do a series here as like a primer.  There is a huge population of Vietnamese immigrants in America and they brought much of what they knew of Vietnam here.  Like Italians have pockets of neighborhoods, some call Little Italy, China Chinatown, the Vietnamese set up communities called Little Saigon.  Saigon is what we know today as Ho Chi Minh City.  These communities are all over country where Vietnamese immigrants settled.  

So while I probably won't get the street stall, which I really wanted to go back to, I will have an almost similar experience photographing them here in the US.  Till I can make it back to Vietnam for that required time frame.  But as the idea stewed in my head, this project became much more fleshed out of an idea.  What traditions have we, as Vietnamese, brought over to wherever we immigrated to, what do we look like in this country, what part of our culture did we lose as assimilated into this culture?  

Like any place, sometimes the best way to judge how a culture is doing is going to its markets.  So that's where I am starting.

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Washington Avenue, Philadelphia.