I have been meaning for the past decade to record my family’s history beyond our beloved recipes, to learn as much as possible—big and small—from my grandparents. I have always wondered how they met and courted, what motivated them to leave Vietnam after the war, and even what foods they missed most during the early days at Camp Pendleton. While I’ve gathered bits and pieces of information over the years, the busyness of life kept me from immersing myself in the subject and fully satisfying my curiosity.
Earlier this summer, I took on a freelance writing assignment from Eater National, and it was just the push I needed to finally ask all the questions I ever dreamed of. While on a self-imposed writing sabbatical, I interviewed my Ong Ngoai (maternal grandfather) and we even took a hundred-mile road trip together to Little Saigon in Orange County.
My article was published recently, “There’s No Place Like Little Saigon,” in The Essential Guide to Eating California. Please enjoy.
All photography by Andrea D’Agosto.