Associate Director of Sales
Le Méridien Houston Downtown
My parents escaped Vietnam by fishing boat in 1978. They left everything behind – careers, family, friends, and every personal belonging – for the chance to be free and to start anew. Onboard with them floating through the Pacific Ocean was my oldest brother, who was a newborn and only ten days old. They eventually ran out of fuel and were rescued by coast guards off the coast of the Philippines. My brother was given the middle name, Liberato, which means “to be freed” in Tagalog. This story is not uncommon among Vietnamese immigrants. There were an estimated 800,000 “boat people.” For those that survived, their stories and heritage are all they were able to bring with them to the U.S., and all they were able to pass down to their children. While we don’t have photo albums, heirloom jewelry or wedding dresses, we’ve inherited the traditions, songs and recipes – all the ways we connect with and continue to celebrate our culture.
My favorite way to experience any culture is by dining. Houston is the most culturally diverse city in the country, and home to the second-largest Vietnamese American enclave in the states. To celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage month, I encourage you try an Asian cuisine and support your local Asian-owned restaurants. Vietnamese dining is family-style, communal and features thousands of dishes for various regions, so I couldn’t just pick one recipe to share with you. Instead, I present to you my Top 8 Essential Vietnamese dishes (because the number 8 is lucky!) to try the next time you visit a Vietnamese restaurant:
Massage Therapist – St. Somewhere Spa
Margaritaville Resort Orlando
For me, it means getting to bring awareness of my history and the diversity of all the cultures that embody the Asian American community. My family is from Cambodia and I am a first generation American immigrant. I was born in Massachusetts and moved to Florida when I was 4 years-old. I grew up with the stories of what my grandparents and parents went through back in Cambodia during the Vietnam War and then with the Genocide of the late 70’s (the Cambodian Genocide was an explosion of mass violence that saw between 1.5 and 3 million people killed at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, a communist political group). Their experiences and resilience have made me who I am today. I look up to them and I want to make them as proud as they make me. I carry forward the stories to my daughter to make sure that our story continues through our generations.
We have so much fun celebrating Cambodian New Year’s shortly before the start of Asian American Heritage Month (April 14 – 16). As a Buddhist Family, we start off by going to Temple. We pray to our ancestors and the universe, in hopes that we will get the same blessings in return. We then prepare our celebration with lots of food, candles, and music! Favorite foods include pork and rice, chicken red curry, beef stewed in palm sugar, and my favorite, Somlor Machu Youn (Sweet and Sour Soup).
Seasonings (add as much of each as you want):