Mango and Peppercorns by Tung Nguyen, Katherine Manning, and Lyn Nguyen is a memoir about a famous Miami restaurant and how it came to be, how it introduced the region to Vietnamese food, and how it survived despite the odds thanks to the unlikely friendship of two strong and very hard working women. I am so glad to have read it.
I am an unconditional fan of Vietnamese food – my comfort dish is in fact the pho which I used to eat once a week as a baby and later as a teen in a hole in the wall little place who didn’t have much else on their menu. All my childhood as we lived away from any good vietnamese restaurant I craved those silken rice noodles, comforting beef broth and piles of fragrant herbs. Reading that book was like sinking in the warmth of that soup. It was a fascinating tale and I loved the recipes at the end of almost every chapter.
Tung’s story as a refugee from the countryside Vietnam is heart wrenching. Her life seems so full of hardship and efforts, luckily rewarded, but at such a high cost. I really am thankful to have heard a story that must have been so hard to tell. I do hope she can rest now and feel at peace despite being uprooted the way she was, cut away from her family, unappreciated by them despite being the most important thing for her and having to reconcile her unusual path with traditional views of success.
The book offers many insights into Vietnamese culture, the hardness, social pressure and hardship they face. A lot I recognise from other Asian cultures which always demand so much from each, and are so thankless towards women. I am so glad that those two were able to build what they did, but the book really put into light how much harder it is for women, how if they are married they often are expected to fall into a supportive role rather than shine…
A riveting tale of success from a talented woman and the person who believed in her, and the daughter she fought for. I recommend it to people who love to read about women role models, and anyone who enjoys Vietnamese food.