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Supper Club

Supper Club

The supper club is held in my home in London Fields, Hackney. It is like a dinner party in the tradition of a Vietnamese feast with homemade Vietnamese food.



Vietnamese food is about the balance of flavours, of sweet, salty and sour – there is no measuring device that can ever match your own taste buds.

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The Monsoon, Bun Bo Hue, Elephant Man & My Uncle Thu

Me & My uncle Yung shared a chicken heart

The earliest memory I have is of the monsoon rain falling hard and fast on to the pavement outside our house in Saigon. I was sitting on my aunt’s lap and she was bouncing me. It was June and it was my birthday and she had bought me a sponge cake with cream on top and a strawberry syrup drink. She sang to me into my ears-songs of prayer and read Vietnamese poems to me.

The rain kept falling as if it were nails dropped down from heaven. The noise was deafening as many people had metal roof tops. I was mesmerised by the sound, by the hundred and millions of drops that bubbled up on the ground and made many exploding balloons everywhere you looked. The grey grey days of the monsoon was a relief to everyone although it was still very humid, there was a welcoming breeze and I always sat on my little table in the Bun Bo Hue street cafe that was the living room of our home and watched my grandmother serve bowl after bowl. She would smile all the time at the customers. She tells me now, that she always saved her youngest son, my uncle and I a heart and a liver from the chicken, “I would cut it in half for you every day because you both loved it.”

I remember seeing her somewhere among the cloud of steam – that would surround her by her stall. Her hair was always up in a bun and she was a round and handsomely chubby woman who would at any given opportunity sniff me whenever I came near her. The Vietnamese’s kiss is a sniff. Instead of using their mouths to kiss, they kiss with their noses, a sniff kiss.

Then I would remember practicing my alphabets and I would see the elephant man who lived nearby. He always walked across from the street – never on the same side but always over the road. He had a very big deformed head and he used to walk from the left to the right of my view with a straw bag. He always wore a white shirt with short sleeves and a beige pair of shorts. I would see him very often and I think I must have just stared at him. I knew he was different but I didn’t know why.

My Uncle Thu- (the most handsome man I ever saw)

One day, the family received a parcel. My uncle, Thu, had escaped Vietnam with his brother Vinh. He had arrived in New York. My grandmother received a few dollars, my aunts received some fabric for clothes and he had sent me, his first niece some chocolate. It was the first time I ate chocolate and only was it such a special occasion, that it is engraved in my memory- the delights of the succulent unknown from a far away land. It melted in the heat of Saigon and ran all over my fingers. My teenage aunts were panicking over the melt. I was covered in brown and the house was enchanted by the news that our beloved Thu & Vinh were alive and well. A celebration. Times were hard just after the war. The Communists were watching every household.

I am in California now – somehow we all exiled eventually. After over thirty years, I sit with my uncle on my grandparent’s American couch at his parent’s 60th wedding anniversary and he tells me his story of how he escaped, in his early twenties; his weeks at sea facing storms, starvation and almost death. He ends up in Brooklyn with a toothbrush, the clothes on his back and someone gave him $20…

  • fascinating, looking forward to the sequel!

  • Oh, what stories you have to tell… would love to read the story of your whole family!

  • Hear hear. More family stories please!


  • So very beautiful, and your Uncle Thu is very handsome indeed.

    ps if my grandmother had had a bun bo hue cafe, I would be demanding more than a heart and liver – the customers would be lucky to get anything 🙂

  • May

    OMG, how moving. Your uncle was one of the lucky ones.

    I remember working with my parents helping out the refugees when they were flooding into Malaysia at the time. Their leaky fishing boats were being pushed back out to sea by the local fisherman and sinking. The luckier ones managed to land, survive and were given shelter.

    I met a lot of the women on the boats and they had all been robbed and raped several times by the pirates in the South China Sea.

    We then helped them build a transit camp in KL before being resettled in the other countries.

    All these people had were the clothes they were wearing and jewels and gold leaf sewn into their clothes. They were offering diamonds just to make a call to their family in France. It was a horrific time.

  • What a beautiful post Uyen.

  • What a wonderful post and how fantastic that you’re with them all right now!

  • thank you all – you’ve made me smile so much. I am having such an intense time with my family and hearing all the stories. My heart wants to burst.

    @May – perhaps you can tell me your stories one day, of what your parents did to help, I would love to hear x

  • May

    @Uyen Absolutely, will tell you the stories that I remember from then.

    We went to a Vietnamese place in SF Chinatown and when we told them we were from Malaysia, they were so thrilled and sat down to tell us their story of their journey. Funny how the world goes round.