When the last helicopter pulled out of Saigon 36 years ago, the Vietnamese population in American numbered in the thousands. Today, there an estimated 1.6 million Vietnamese Americans, with more than 135,000 of them in Orange County, the largest community outside of Vietnam. I've written extensively before about the history of Little Saigon and by extension, Vietnamese American history. So let's move the discussion further to how food and culture assert themselves into the American landscape.
In my musings on American cuisine, I argue that our food is made up of ethnic absorption and mass popularization. American cuisine is a reflection of America itself. Our strength lies in our ability to absorb other cuisines and their culture. No more so is that evident than last month's addition of banh mi, the Vietnamese sandwich, into the Oxford English Dictionary. These days, with trendy bars hawking banh mi sliders and Korean Americans selling their version of Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup), having a few Vietnamese dishes enter the American lexicon still doesn't really tell you much about the cuisine.
Needless to say, Vietnamese cuisine is far, far more than sandwiches and beef noodle soup.