Nguyen Tran – BUTTON MASH / STARRY KITCHEN

Nguyen Tran – BUTTON MASH / STARRY KITCHEN
Photos courtesy of Starry Kitchen

 

Please share an off-menu family recipe (or description) or a personal intergenerational food story

One of my favorite memories, and also a pivotal time/story to the inception of Starry Kitchen as an illegal and underground restaurant out of our apartment. I briefly mention this memory in my book too. I was probably about 4-5 years old, and I remember going to lunch at a house somewhere in Richardson, TX. When the doors opened though, it was clear that this wasn’t a normal gathering of friends, but with the cacophony of people taking orders, others eating, kids running around in between rows and rows of tables in someone’s backyard… my parents had just taken me to an illegal and underground restaurant. And this was before the age of social media, or even AOL, BBSes and wanting to be known.
I have a feeling these people just got good at making some stuff that they thought others might enjoy. It wasn’t about being cool, subversive or in-the-know. I’m pretty sure they didn’t know where to begin on how to start a restaurant. So the most obvious thing, growing up in a country where shop houses (aka homes that was also their store front for their shop!) were prevalent: start out of your home. You do what you know.
I can’t remember what food we ate outside of being 97% sure it was Vietnamese (I think), but that unique memory at a very young age has always stuck with me. Little did I know that the impression that house/restaurant visit left me would be the foundation of how we tried to make a living in the economic crash, and be replicated too!
What can I say, I could only do what I knew! 🙂
What does participation at LUCKYRICE signify to you?
I don’t think it can even be debatable that Asian culture has a huge influence on American reand worldwide pop-culture, and Luckyrice is my avenue to relish in that. I grew up very unsure about who I was, rejecting my culture until I was 18, and just being confused about it all. Now, I want to cherish every moment to share who I am, what my culture is about and more of what I’ve learned about myself…
And oh yeah, Asian food is DELICIOUS…
And another “oh yeah,” I love karaoke’ing with the LUCKYRICE gang as well… that’s HEAVILY relevant!
What do you think of the Asian food moment right now?
The repressed part of me says, “It’s ABOUT time!”
The potentially more mature side of me says, “awesome for me… and oh yeah my friends too!”
It’s fun at the very least. I love seeing so many takes and inspirations of foods I’ve heard about, touched upon in passing, or have never heard of and seeing so many people from so many different backgrounds partake, while inclusive, is just great to learn, discuss and debate about with so many different people. What’s the best scallion pancake? Where’s the best ramen? Where’s the best xiao long bao? Where’s the best banh mi? … I love how I can have these conversations as an adult as opposed to awkwardly having to explain my culture, flavor profiles and food to a somewhat bullish audience asking to understand the “exoticism” of it all with no intention to really try it vs genuine hunger and curiosity to actually try it.
Don’t miss Chef Nguyen or Button Mash / Starry Kitchen at our L.A. #LUCKYRICE18 “Breaking Bao Intergenerational Feast” on July 26th.