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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Taste and Explore Little Saigon; Help Japan

Little Saigon, Orange County - California 14

Part of my aim for the blog, whether consciously or subconsciously, is to show others what's available around them so they can discover it for themselves. But I also get that venturing into new territory can be intimidating. I've long believed that the best way to learn about another cuisine, and by extension another culture, is through someone you trust introducing it to you firsthand. Learning about food through a friend makes unfamiliar dishes familiar, and teaches you about another culture without the prolonged history lectures.

The other aspect of blogging that keeps me engaged is the sense of community that gets formed -- learning from each other, making friends, and uniting over common goals. I don't often talk of current events, but it seems impossible to ignore the devastation in Japan following last month's earthquake and tsunami. Not that natural disasters and their toll should be ignored, just that my ability to do much about them seems miniscule. People do what they can with what they have, and I've always left it at that. A lot of bloggers have been reaching out to do what they can to help -- distributing socks, making quilts for survivors, or selling photography manuals for charity.

Recently, I pitched to my advertiser, Foodbuzz, the idea of exploring northern, central, and southern Vietnamese regional cuisine in Little Saigon for its monthly 24, 24, 24 series. It was accepted. Yay! And while I've done this a few times before, applying the stipend toward the cost of supplies or treating my friends to a nice meal, I'd rather use the stipend this time for something more.

So this coming Saturday, April 30, just in time for the anniversary of the Fall of Saigon, come explore Little Saigon with me.

For a $50 donation, or more if you wish, which will also include several meals, you'll have me as a culinary and historical tour guide to Little Saigon.

Little Saigon, Orange County - California 15

If you've been too intimidated to venture into the area by yourself, you'll have me to answer any questions you may have. If you've read my post about the history of Little Saigon and by extension, a history of Vietnamese Americans, a lot of this information will sound familiar. Apologies in advance, but my family and friends know I repeat my stories all the time. Just think! You can hear me drone on and on yet again!

Err, yeah, but in between, I will introduce you to Vietnamese food. Or if you already know what Vietnamese food is like, perhaps I will introduce you to unfamiliar northern, central, or southern regional dishes. Or if you already know plenty about Vietnamese regional cuisine, then just come eat!

Pho Thang Long Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon) 12
Cha Ca Thang Long (Vietnamese Turmeric Dill Fish) at Pho Thang Long - Westminster (Little Saigon).

So here's how it will work.

1) Email me at wanderingchopsticks (at) gmail (dot) com first to let me know you've read through this post, and that you're free on Saturday, April 30 from around 2 p.m until whenever. Let me know your level of familiarity with Vietnamese cuisine, whether you have any dietary restrictions, and whether there are any dishes that you've been meaning to try. Also, let me know how familiar you are with Little Saigon and/or Vietnamese American history if you wish.

2) After I tell you whether there's space available (I have no idea how many people will be interested in this), make a minimum $50 donation to either the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, or Mercy Corps. Not a non-profit, so not tax deductible for you, but I will also accept if you donate to Jason Kelly's Socks for Japan project. Reading posts about what Jason is witnessing firsthand at the shelters has literally made me cry. You can split up the donation amounts amongst the charities if you wish, as long as the total amount is at least $50. I know there are a lot of charities out there, these are just the particular ones that I trust and wish to support for my efforts. After you make your donation, forward the confirmation email to me to secure your spot.

3) By Friday, I will email you an itinerary for Saturday. Just show up to the designated meeting spot. Be prepared to eat and hopefully you'll have fun.

Ngu Binh Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon) 9
Mi Quang (Vietnamese Turmeric Noodles with Pork and Shrimp) at Ngu Binh Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon).

I don't believe in rigid itineraries. It all depends on how many people sign up and their eating habits and how crowded Little Saigon will be that day. We can carpool as we drive around Little Saigon, or you can drive yourself so you can leave when you want.

I will be using the stipend from my advertiser to pay for your meals, snacks and other incidentals are on your own. So look forward to eating at least three meals covering all the three regions of Vietnam from noodles to dumplings to rice paper rolls to crispy crepes to anything else that strikes our fancy. In between, I hope I'll have time to show you the Asian Garden Mall (seen in the first two photos above), the stone murals depicting Vietnamese history, and the Vietnamese American War Memorial.

Brodard Restaurant - Garden Grove (Little Saigon) 1
Chao Tom Cuon (Vietnamese Shrimp Paste Rice Paper Rolls) at Brodard Restaurant - Garden Grove (Little Saigon).

Does that sound appealing to you? Three meals for a $50 donation. Sure, you'll have to put up with me, but that's a small price to pay for doing something good and getting fed for it. Please let me know by 5 p.m., Thursday, April 28 if you're interested.

I will email you an itinerary by Friday, April 29.

Meet up at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 30 at the designated spot. You're free to leave whenever or stay until everyone passes out from food comas.

I look forward to meeting you, and sharing my food and culture with you!

May 10, 2011 Update: In case you missed it, the outing was documented in my Exploring Vietnamese Regional Cuisine, North, Central, and South, in Little Saigon post.

1 year ago today, How to Prepare and Use Tamarind in Recipes.
2 years ago today, Chocolate Ginger Cookies so easy that even a 2-year-old can make them.
3 years ago today, Iceberg Lettuce, Radish, and Carrot Salad.
4 years ago today, old-fashioned mochi (Japanese rice cakes) pounded by hand at Fugetsu-Do Sweet Shop, the oldest business in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo and possibly the inventor of the Chinese fortune cookie.


  1. If I was not fostering a pup who can not be left alone I would be there or on the list for sure. Hope you do this again and document this excursion. Good cause. Good luck.

  2. My one chance to finally meet you over food, I'm moving in to my new apartment. -_- It's going to bug me this Saturday because I know you'll be not too far away from me and I'll be lugging furniture into my new home. :(

    Btw, I love that you chose to give a tour for a good cause.

  3. I'm salivating at those pictures. Wish I could be there!

  4. I am so sad that I will be out of town this Saturday because I would have LOVED to come to this tour and meet you in person as I've been reading your blog for a while now. I am just hoping you do this again in the future. You are so nice for organizing this charity event.

  5. Wish I live in southern Cal. Thank you for organizing this event. I donated to Red Cross even though I can't join your tour.

  6. I can't make it unfortunately, but think it's so great you're doing this! People are in for a treat on your tour.

  7. Why helping JAPAN ? They deserved . ...

  8. I have to work, otherwise I'd love to come. I hope you'll be able to do this again, please!

  9. H,
    The post is now up! You can do a virtual tour reading through it.

    I'm sure there'll be other chances. You know Little Saigon already anyway!

    What? You wouldn't fly out here just for this? :P

    Wish you could have made it! It was fun and ooooh soooo full.

    Aww, that was mighty generous of you!

    Haha. I like how you assumed that people would already enjoy before it happened.

    Dawei Cheng,
    I debated whether to leave your comment up, and decided to do so so that I can address it. Unfortunately, this isn't the first time I've heard such things and I think that type of sentiment is incredibly reprehensible. Regardless of what countries and governments have done in the past, no people deserve to have their loved ones and their possessions washed away like that. Whether or not you decide to donate is up to you, but to think that anyone deserves to have such traumatic events happen to them is incomprehensible.

    Lipgloss Chicas,
    How 'bout I just trade you cooking tips for makeup tips? I'm serious! :)


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