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Kim Castillo

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Kim's father, Thong Tran, was born in Bien Hoa, Vietnam. He fought in the American war in Vietnam and came to the United States in 1985. Kim is married to a man from Nicaragua and has two children. She tries to preserve and maintain her Vietnamese culture through the Vietnamese cuisine she cooks for her family.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Please contact Immigration History Research Center staff for permissions not covered by this Creative Commons license.

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My Father’s Fish Sauce: Maintaining Culture through Cuisine
Kim Castillo Transcription

My name is Kim Castillo and my immigrant story begins 28 years ago through my father.
My relatives come from Biên Hòa, Vietnam. My father came into the United States a few years after serving in the Vietnam War in 1985. Since my father was only 15 years old when he fought in the Vietnam War, he had to wait a few years to come to the United States. He helped the U.S. soldiers fight the communists, so he was promised a permanent residency in the United States. In order to complete the task of coming to the United States, my father was asked to build a ship that he would come to the U.S. in, along with other young Vietnamese soldiers. By the time they were finished, my father was old enough to come to the U.S. alone.
Since my father was only able to bring a few pictures, he maintained his Vietnamese heritage the only way he knew how, and that was through Vietnamese cuisine. He taught us this culture through cooking traditional Vietnamese dishes. This is how I am able to maintain my Vietnamese identity. My father and I are able to make our bond much stronger through him teaching me how to cook.
We have a traditional dish called fish sauce that my father would try teaching me many times when I was younger, and every time he would bring me into the kitchen to teach me how to make this dish, I would pretend I was busy or find something else that I thought was much more important to do. And so, after repeatedly teaching me, you know, after I moved out and got married, I, you know, love eating Vietnamese cuisine still. So I had called me father one day and asked him to give me the recipe for the fish sauce because I didn’t know how to make it. And he was so upset because growing up he had taught me repeatedly to make this fish sauce and I still didn’t know how so, it’s just a little funny story that we share together, and finally I have conquered the fish sauce, so that’s one of my greatest accomplishments. And you know, the
food, the Vietnamese food is something that has become part of who we are as a family and as a Vietnamese culture living here in the United States. So now I am able to share this cultural tradition through food with my family. My husband and my children. I like to think that my children will grow up cooking both my food and their father’s food which- their father is from Nicaragua. And they will be able to share it with their family and their children. And it’s a beautiful thing to be able to share these cultural traits with other family members because with food I am able to hold on to part of my Vietnamese culture when I’m not with my father, and my husband and I are able to share our cultures together. So we’ll split maybe the week up and a couple days we’ll have Vietnamese food and the other half of the week we’ll have Nicaraguan food. So that’s a great thing that we’re able to share both of our cultures with each other and with our children and through this we can we maintain our values and teach them on to our children for our children to teach them on to their families, just like our fathers and our mothers did for us.