I have to admit that before delving into this location, I felt a little intimidated—Yên Lạc, like the previous locations of Netherhill, Saskatchewan and Kimberly, Western Australia, is a largely rural area within the province of Vĩnh Phúc in the Red River Delta of north Vietnam. Navigating online to find authentic recipes might be difficult with the language barrier, especially for what seems like such a remote location.
I’ve had Vietnamese cuisine before, but I have no idea if it was northern Vietnamese or southern. My introductions have been somewhat limited, anyway—an accidental order of a tongue bánh mì sandwich at a Super 88, bánh xèo (Vietnamese crêpes), and phở gà (chicken pho), cá kho tộ (catfish braised in a clay pot), nem cuốn (spring rolls) and sinh tố bơ (avocado shakes) at my favorite Vietnamese places in Boston’s Chinatown. It was actually the complexity of the Vietnamese alphabet I saw on the menus that initially inspired me to study Vietnamese several years ago. Unfortunately, I barely remember any of it, but even just reading names of dishes is bringing back just the slightest recollection of the melodies that comprise spoken Vietnamese.
After some searches, I discovered quite a few recipes from northern Vietnam, many, in fact, in English. Many of them come third-generation Vietnamese immigrants. Although many of them had ingredients that seemed a little intimidating (such as tripe), I was excited to begin.