Tung Nguyen

Cindy Seip

As a child in Vietnam, Tung Nguyen learned to cook at her grandmother’s knee, and later took her skills from the country to the city of Saigon, where she made and sold street food. In 1975, after narrowly escaping the fall of Saigon, a pregnant Nguyen ended up in the Miami home of Katherine Manning, a grad student and waitress taking in displaced Vietnamese refugees. Their meeting evolved into a decadeslong partnership, one that eventually turned strangers into family and a tiny, no-frills eatery into one of the most lauded restaurants in the country, Hy Vong. Tung’s fierce practicality often clashed with Manning’s free-spirited nature, but over time they found harmony in their contrasts – a harmony embodied in the restaurant’s signature mango and peppercorns sauce. Their powerful tale of resilience, friendship, family, and food is told in Mango and Peppercorns: A Memoir of Food, an Unlikely Family, and the American Dream (Chronicle Books). Lidia Bastianich, celebrity chef and public television host, called the book “a touching and inspirational culinary journey into a fascinating culture and a cuisine that I adore. This incredible story about the dream of a refugee that fled Communist rule in Vietnam hit home for me. Her passion for food made her American dream come true.”