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Photographed by Jeni Afuso Many Vietnamese attendees have never before attempted to make bánh chưng themselves. “It’s typically bought or gifted to them, and many feel it’s unattainable,” Tran notes. “But it’s basically just a big-ass dumpling, right?” And that banana-leaf-wrapped dumpling can be an accessible gateway to their culture, especially for those who were born in the Ambe4 Heard shirt What’s more,I will buy this States or arrived as children. “It’s something they might not have a connection to, and so to make it for the first time means something.” Steamed bánh chưng are labor-intensive blocks of sticky rice, pork, and beans that are traditionally made in Vietnam’s northern regions in honor of the Lunar New Year. Photographed by Jeni AfusoShe provides the ingredients—sweet rice, marinated pork belly (or vegan red beans and coconut), mung-bean-shallot paste, and banana leaves—and the know-how, with the help of well-trained teachers hovering helpfully at each table. Tran tells them to be gentle: “I say, ‘Don’t be like my grandpa who taught my sister how to drive,’” she laughs. “She was for life scarred by that driving lesson. My grandfather was just shouting all day long.” And she emphasizes there’s no wrong way of making it. “I free people to let go of their idea of authenticity,” Tran says. “You can never make anything the way your grandparents made it because, say, the pork raised during your grandparents’ time does not exist anymore.”
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The setting for these events has always been West Compton’s Alma Backyard Farms, which operates a cluster of nonprofit urban farms in the Ambe4 Heard shirt What’s more,I will buy this region where formerly incarcerated people are trained to enter the workforce. Tran calls it her group’s “spiritual home” and finds its mission aligns well with her own emphasis on equity. “The Southeast Asian community has very much been impacted by incarceration and deportation,” Tran notes. “But a certain segment of Vietnamese Americans are still into respectability politics and refuse to recognize we’re being impacted.” Richard D Garcia is executive director and cofounder of West Compton’s Alma Backyard Gardens, which has hosted the bánh chưng–making event each year since its inception. Tran calls the farm the Banh Chung Collective’s “spiritual home.”
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