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Vietnamese chicken glass noodle soup, and a family story

April 30, 1975 marked the end of the prolonged Vietnam War. Here's how one father remembered finding his way to the United States – and a new life – fueled by a sweet family reunion and miến gà, a chicken glass noodle soup.

By The Ravenous Couple / May 2, 2013

Chicken glass noodle soup is a classic Vietnamese dish seasoned with onion, charred ginger, bamboo, and mushrooms.

The Ravenous Couple

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This is a special guest post told by my dad, Tung. He’s been hanging out with us for the past month helping around the garden and loves to tell stories and repeats them almost endlessly. We asked if he had any stories and food memories to share with readers of TheRavenousCouple.com. This is what he told us. – Hong Pham

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Ravenous Couple

A couple that cooks together stays together, says Hong and Kim Pham. They love to cook and believe good food not only brings people together, but also strengthens bonds and forges wonderful memories. Hong and Kim specialize in Asian, specifically Vietnamese cuisine, and love to share not only our food but also their culture.

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Every April, I can’t help but reminisce about the indelible memories I call “Black April,”  April 30, 1975. It signified the end of the prolonged Vietnam war ending years of sacrifice and bloodshed of both Vietnamese and Americans. When the war ended, my life, and the life my family knew, changed forever. Because I was a high school teacher and a former soldier in the South Vietnamese Army, I was placed in re-education camps at Tay Ninh, Phu Quoc, and Long Khanh and survived 3 years of forced hard labor. Many of my friends did not survive but I was more fortunate and three years was relatively short compared with those who were imprisoned 10 or 20 years. I did everything possible to survive, even resorting to eating anything I could forage or catch such as grasshoppers, lizards, and even snake.

Meanwhile, my wife, along with our oldest daughter, Tam, and son, Hong, had to fend for themselves, waiting for me to come home. Finally in October 1978, I was released but I realized that Vietnam was no longer the Vietnam I knew and that my children would not have a future there. I decided to escape Vietnam with my family at all cost.  Even though I knew escaping could lead to our family’s death or separation, I was willing to “tìm caí sống trong caí chết,” to find freedom at all cost, dead or alive.

Hundreds of thousands of families faced a similar decision. Despite the risks of being lost at sea, drowning, or pirate attacks, the cost of freedom was high. Our family could only afford to send three people, despite having six in our family (my third daughter was born after I was released and at the time of our planned escape my wife was 5 months pregnant).  My wife and I were willing to split up family with the hopes of reuniting together again in the future.  How long we would be apart or by what means we would be united, we didn’t know, but we were willing to take that risk.

Dressed as peasants and with only the shoes and cloths on our back, I took Tam and Hong on a day's journey west to Rach Giá, a fishing village on the western coast of Vietnam. We stayed in a hut by the river for two days and on the third night, March 16, 1980, under the cover of darkness, we huddled in a small canoe and they pulled a fishing net over our bodies to hide us. The canoe took us one mile to our rendezvous point, but it seemed like an eternity as we feared for our lives if were caught.  

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