When I was 16, I abandoned school. It didn’t feel fulfilling, and I wanted to do more at that age than listen to lectures. At the time, the culinary world seemed accessible to me because every person I knew made their lives within it. My mother was & still is a great cook, creating elaborate dinners for the family after our long days. I distinctly remember her Pepper-braised Cod (Cá Bớp Kho Tiêu), so tender & juicy, and it still amazes me how she turns a selection of simple ingredients into a dance of flavours on my palate. I felt joy eating her food. I wanted to know more & be part of the scene, but no one took me seriously at 16.
I came to Saigon with nothing but the will to cook. By day, I went to culinary school, gathering basic skills for my own use. By night, I harnessed my knowledge to cook & serve in small local diners. Round the clock, I was near the fire. Time flew by fast; I felt happy being busy.
Over the years, I transitioned out of the diners in search of better opportunities. There was only so much knowledge the locals could offer. My life changed when I met Chef Tong. To him, cooking was an essential contribution to society. He found his joy when people fall for his creations. I became inspired by his perspective because it makes the effort feel rewarding than just obligatory.
Along the way, we both had the fortune of encountering Jade Tran, the founder of Shamballa, who gave us the space to create different dishes. I could explore flavours outside of the typical & traditional while having the results curated by her palate, and it brings me immense pleasure to watch others enjoy the fruits of my effort.
I’m looking to share my love of cooking with you at Shamballa’s new Da Nang location. Join Chef Tong & I as we take you on a tour of Shamballa’s flavours, guiding you through our methods & providing insight on every ingredient we know. We want you to enjoy Shamballa’s flavours made fresh from your own hands.