Monday, March 29, 2010

random thoughts on being vietnamese american

yknow a lot of popular makeup + hair + beauty gurus on youtube are VN girls lol.


while it's been known jokingly that VN people tend to run nail salons, jewelry shops and clothing stores, it really makes me feel good to know that VN people are getting a little more recognition and praise in the industry, especially in america.

not to compare or complain or anything, but... damn it, chinese people always steal the spotlight away from other asians like, all the freaking time! sometimes it's ok because they get blamed a lot for animal cruelty or child sweatshops or pollution and the like... but times when good stuff happens and credit is dished out, people are like, "oh, yeah. he/she was this really beautiful and talented person. i think he/she was chinese or something." arg! i know that they totally outnumber all the other asians, and if someone were to guess an asian-looking person's ethnicity, statistically speaking, the best guess is chinese, but still... it's frustrating.

in grade school it was all the same.

coming to japan was worse. because the locals either thought i was japanese or that i was the child of a chinese father and white mother lol. but whenever i did anything wrong i was always 100% chinese LOL.

getting bicycle back from the seized bicycle lot: "ID card please... Ah, so you're Chinese, huh?"
stopped by police for not having bicycle light on at night: /after a brief Q&A session, "So, you Chinese then, huh?"
stopped again by police [because allen did a dangerous maneuver on his bicycle (partly my fault lol)]: /flashlights in our faces "So... Chinese?"

Now i don't think there's anything shameful about being labeled as a Chinese person. The only issue is: that isn't who I am.

it runs deep because it's been like this forever.


anyway it's good to know that in america, 'Vietnam' conjures more ideas than war images. and i'm confident that at least if you live in california you can associate 'pho' with the correct ethnic group.

which reminds me about something else that pisses me off in japan!
春巻き(harumaki) translated as 'spring rolls' + 生春巻き(nama harumaki) translated as 'fresh spring rolls'

so for the sake of translation, let's do this little dance:
dried shiitake mushrooms vs. fresh shiitake mushrooms: they're the same thing. the only difference is one is dry and the other is, well, fresh.
baby bamboo shoots vs. fresh baby bamboo shoots: they're the same thing. the only difference is one is bought in a can or bag already peeled and cut, and the other just got dug up and still has its outer layers of bamboo fiber on it.
100% orange juice vs. 100% fresh squeezed orange juice: they're the same thing (arguably). the only difference is one was maybe concocted from a concentrate and bottled/put in a jug to sell at the supermarket, and the other is physically yielded from the orange fruit directly into your glass (again, arguably because you can buy 'freshed squeezed oj at the market too, but you get the image right?).

now let's look at what japanese call 'spring rolls' vs. their 'fresh spring rolls'

a japanese 'harumaki' is an egg roll. imagine a chinese egg roll a.k.a. an imperial roll or filipino lumpia. a meaty or cabbagey or seafoody or vegetabley (whatever your family and/or ethnic perference is) mix is rolled into a egg-based thin dough wrapper and deep-fried to hot golden perfection.

a japanese 'nama harumaki' is a spring roll. it has a thin rice paper wrapping and is filled with rice vermicelli noodles and cold salad-ish materials again depending on your regional preference. sometimes in japanese restaurants they have the audacity to label it "betonamu* nama harumaki" yes, once again katakana pronunciation warps an otherwise 2-syllable word into a 4-syllable one >=o
*BeToNaMu = Vietnam.
one time at Tokyu Hands they were having a sale on world mugs - mugs that had the national flag of various countries on it, but the Vietnam one was typed out as, "Vet Nam." They didnt even try i swear.

IN SHORT, the japanese 'spring roll' and 'fresh spring roll' are two completely different dishes in almost~ every way shape and form. (arguments: sure they're both rolls, but they're rolled differently! AND one is more round than the other!)

dont get tricked.

anyway, you could imagine my confusion when i first came here. i had a teacher come up to me and was like, "oh so you're vietnamese, huh? i sure love fresh spring rolls!"
me: "oh, well... spring rolls are only eaten fresh so... that's cool?..."
her: "no i mean fresh spring rolls are so much healthier to eat than the deep-fried spring rolls, arent they?"
me: "@_@ you guys DEEP-FRY spring rolls?!"
her: "but vietnamese people know about chinese cuisine too right? havent you eaten deep-fried spring rolls before?"
me: /more confused "oh. you mean... egg rolls?"
her: "oh, is that what they're called in america?"
me: "well a lot of other asians have something very similar to that deep-fried kind, like chinese egg rolls, vietnamese egg rolls, filipino lumpia and stuff..."
her: "へえええ~~~ so what are the differences?"
me: "uh, what you put on the inside lol. and the sauce."
her: "that's it?"
me: " 'that's it?' " dude, the filling and the sauce is what defines any roll food."

to this day i remember from my childhood a friend of my mom's had gone and tried making her own vn egg rolls/ spring rolls and came by to let us taste/ judge some. and ohhhhhh boyyyyy was it a shocking experience. now at the time i was only around 10-13 years old maybe? but i've always been a super good kid about outwardly appearing to be a super good kid. so when the lady showed up with her creation the only thing i can describe it as is like... it was a super long and heavy 'no comment' moment lol.

first of all the lady used the fresh spring roll wrappers, except she deep fried those suckers lol. [this actually works. i know this for a fact because once when i was a kid we ran out of the egg roll paper so i was like, 'hey let's see if spring roll paper will work!' and yes, it did.] next, her filling was like ground beef, bean sprouts, onions, garlic, maybe tomatoes? some other unholy mix of stuff, and i'm sure there was some kind of unremarkable sauce present. now if she had come bearing her "original creation of vn food stuffs" we would have been like 'sweet. bring it on' mentally prepared for something original and artful. cept she was like, 'guys, i made vietnamese spring rolls, have a bite!'

ah, the memories.

by the way, the taste was rather ok-ish!

anyway, back to the chinese thing. boyfriend is a TW variant of chinese, so that makes everything A-OK lol. over and out. dispute over. haha.

forgive the weird organization. lots of memories were flying around lol.

1 comment:

Bakudannar said...

Well, Japanese live in a black or white world. Anything in between either doesn't exist or is perceived as batshit crazy.

People in the US also are pretty ignorant to Vietnamese people too. At least once a week people come into the restaurant looking for Thai food.

I have to spend 10 minutes explaining to them before they realize their error, without sounding like a dick and/or making them feel stupid. I could just go, "You idiot, this is a muthaf-in' Vietnamese restaurant, get your pad thai down the street." But that would be bad.

I also get customers (Chinese) who ask for ho fun(sp?) noodles. I point out to them that we serve Vietnamese pho noodles that are called "banh pho."

Once a customer told me he was disappointed because we didn't have "Tom Kha Gai." I was like, "I'm sorry, but what.(WTF language is that?)" Then he was like, "Are you Vietnamese?" I said, "I'm Chef Steven's son, so yeah, I guess I am." Him: "You know, Tom Kha Gai." Me: "I believe that's Thai." Him: "Are you sure?" Me: "The name of the dish isn't even in Vietnamese." Him: "Hmmm." I wanted to drive that chopstick through his eye socket lol, but it's ok. Some people are just ignorant.