Sera Nguyen, the woman behind Sera's Ramen Enclave, has embarked on a culinary adventure mostly inspired by her mother. After a lengthly conversation in which she shared her story with Eater, Sera sent the only photo she has from her childhood in Vietnam. In it, she and her mother sit in front of the small eatery the mom owned. Along with the photo, she sent her story in her own words.
My mother began a small food shack in Vietnam during the year 1985, after my father came home from the war. Her list of options consisted of homey traditional entrees and noodle dishes. I remember the numerous bustling regulars who memorized her offerings with such familiarity to where my mother never had a physical menu. Those who came in the first time always asked for her recommendations and she would conjure up a warm and delicious meal, like a therapist whom rehabilitated weary travelers with her flavors and kind welcome.
By turn of events, my family arrived at America's doorstep in 1994. We were submerged under the cultural differences, but had to continue our lives nonetheless. My father worked as a chef in a minute pho restaurant, while my mother cared for the young ducklings pouncing about in a tiny little apartment. When the weekend arrived, my parents volunteered as head cooks at the local church kitchen. My family's love for flavors continued to flourish through me. I remember sitting on my mother's lap as a child when she pondered out loud what the world was like and how the dishes of other countries were seasoned and spiced.
I often traveled Asia with the same question in mind as I met the locals and savored the culinary arts, at times picking up a few secrets and leaving behind a few of my mother's tricks. So as we learn, we hope to utilize. Sera's Ramen Enclave is my expressive heart. I chose the subject of noodles, especially ramen because it is the symbol of harmony in flavors all around Asia, from Japan to the island of Phu Quoc in Vietnam. There is a great diversity of garnish and broth seasoning. Each bowl with its own history.