There used to be a Vietnamese restaurant near my house. The food was always delicious and according to friends of ours who previously served at diplomatic posts in Vietnam, the food was very authentic. Unfortunately, the restaurant was never crowded as Paraguayans never really took to the Vietnamese style of cooking and the restaurant went out of business about two years ago.
Craving Vietnamese food, and having welcomed new members to our embassy community who recently moved from (and very much miss) Vietnam, I asked my Paraguayan coworkers to help me track down the woman who used to run the restaurant since she now cooks for private parties in people’s homes. After learning her name (Nga) and her phone number, I texted back-and-forth a bit with her trying to decide on a menu for a Vietnamese lunch in my home. Due to language barriers and the poor quality of the menu pictures she messaged me, texting wasn’t very productive so Patrick’s driver stopped by her office and picked up a copy of her old restaurant menu which my friends and I perused and then made selections. After agreeing to pay for the groceries and her fee of about $100, we confirmed the date and invited a few friends over for lunch. Patrick’s driver went with her to do all the grocery shopping. Some of the groceries came back to my house and some of them she took to her house to do a bit of the prep. At her house she made the broth for the pho Vietnamese soup which she said takes eight hours to reduce down.
And the day of the lunch, Nga showed up at the house 8am to start cooking. Over the next six hours, she prepared several traditional Vietnamese dishes with cabbage, carrots, beans, cucumber, mushrooms, nuts, chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, rice, and rice noodles.
Curious Kev watched her cook and Maria helped her with various cooking tasks.
I was especially excited about the spring rolls. She made crispy fried rolls with ground pork and chilled rolls with shrimp, lettuce, sprouts, and veggies.
Nga also made a banh xeo, a rice flour pancake that looks like an omelette and is filled with sprouts, pork, shrimp, and veggies.
For the kids, there were chicken nuggets and fries and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
We had a fun afternoon and we look forward to hiring Nga to cook for us again soon!