Is it fair to sell the vision of a dream at the price of one’s survival?

Photo by Lorenzo Nafissi on Unsplash

My mother’s face lit up when the onion rings came out. The buzzing neon lights overhead were our sole companion in this diner. She must have been starving after a 28-hour flight, but that’s not the reason why she looked so excited. “It smells… amazing,” she exclaimed. Her intrigue took me by surprise because I had never heard my mother say anything remotely positive about deep-fried food, but somehow, she was fascinated by one of the most basic offerings at any American diner. …


A gastronomic delight that will cheer you up on the worst of days.

Have you ever woken up on a chilly morning and craved a dish that feels like a big, tight hug? A dish that warms you up like your favorite sweater and is as wholesome as a mother tongue? That dish for me is Clam Rice, or as we call it in Vietnamese, Cơm Hến. Originated from the Central region, it is a humble, everyday dish that will surprise you with a burst of flavors. Stir-fried baby clams are served on a bed of seafood-infused rice, alongside crunchy peanuts, fresh vegetables and a rich shrimp-based sauce. The charm lies in its…


A celebration of contrasts in a hearty bowl.

Pho is unarguably the most famous Vietnamese dish in the U.S., but did you know there are many variations of the dish in its home country? Hanoi-style pho is the version I grew up with and feel closest to. Picture this: Pan-seared beef. Poached eggs. Crispy breadsticks dipped in a rich, aromatic broth. The herbs. The tenderness. The crunch. All in one heavenly bowl. This tango of flavors will entice your taste buds like fireworks in your mouth. …


This dish encapsulates my whole childhood in a bowl.

When I was five, my family lived in a small pre-war apartment in Hanoi. All I remember is that it was damp. The tropical climate brought so much rain, and water leaked from the ceiling to my bed all the time. Winter was rough. I got sick on quite a regular basis because of that. When I fell ill, my grandmother always cooked me a bowl of crab noodle soup (bún riêu cua) and it instantly cheered me up. I grew up thinking it was a magic cure to all of life’s problems. …


This positive word got me through a negative year.

2020 really felt like that bad breakup with the guy you thought was your soulmate who turned out to have a fourth home on Long Island and run it as a brothel for billionaires. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit… probably just millionaires, but you know what I mean. It was that bad. You rang in the year thinking “this is it,” just to end it with “fuck off, I’ll never want to see you again.” We’ve all been through these kinds of relationships before. They’re painful. We wish they were as forgettable as Armie Hammer’s performance in any movies…


“If I see you on the street, I will shoot you.”

Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash

The Tennessee marble that makes up the ground of Grand Central was bitterly cold. The acorn-shaped chandeliers in Vanderbilt Hall hung eerily still at dawn of The Day After. Businesspeople in pea coats and briefcases hurried across the Main Concourse before heading out into the cold, the sign of a perfectly normal day at the Terminal. I was sitting in a corner near the entrance to track 15 after a night of no sleep, my back against the wall, waiting for my morning train upstate. I just got off the phone with a friend; the call ended when his sniffles…


And I used to hate it.

Image via Typic Travel Vietnam.

On September 2nd, 1995, my mom was on the disco floor before her water broke. I may have wondered once or twice what song she was jamming to when I decided that was enough. “Mom, we should get out of here,” I probably thought. The message translated well as she quickly left the club for Military Central Hospital. It was a humid day in Hanoi. Everybody was going out to celebrate Independence Day. There was only one other expectant mother in her room. A few hours later, I was born.

According to my mother, I was a strange kid. Unlike…


I’ve lived in New York for 74 washing cycles. Not two of them were the same.

Photo by Kolar.io on Unsplash

When you’ve lived by yourself long enough in a different country, you learn a thing or two about routines. Back at home, I could do laundry whenever I felt like doing it. Our house in Hanoi has a washing machine, which allows for such flexibility. It’s always funny to me how in-unit laundry is so common in Vietnam yet a luxury in New York. “Amenity,” they say. Such a fancy word.

In my first week of college, I realized that flexibility was gone. The…


There was a long line of people outside of Trader Joe’s on 14th Street. It took me a moment to realize that was just to get in. Once they were inside the store, they would soon realize that all the meat was gone, only a few bags of frozen vegetables were left, and there was no sign of toilet paper. The toilet paper shelf in Target across the street was empty as well, and so was that in any CVS and Walgreens on the island. It was supposed to be a normal Friday morning, even adorned by the nicest weather…


I think the second most well-known song in Vietnam, behind our national anthem, is ABBA’s “Happy New Year.” People play it in every home, at every bar and on every TV channel on New Year’s Eve. Teachers teach it in school and its chorus could be sung by most Vietnamese people, whether they speak English fluently or not. Just hearing the phrase “no more champagne” puts me in a festive mood, because those first three words signify the beginning of something so fresh and promising. It is an iconic musical masterpiece, well, until I came to the U.S. …

Sieu Nguyen

In a constant search for something mind-blowing // IG: littlepotatow

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