Slow Noodles: A Cambodian Memoir of Love, Loss, and Family Recipes

Algonquin. Feb. 2024. 304p. ed. by Kim Green. ISBN 9781643753492. $29. MEMOIR
Cambodian activist Nguon, assisted by writer and public radio producer Green, shares her family recipes as she reflects on the grief, hunger, and rootlessness she experienced after Pol Pot’s ascension to power. Though Nguon, the daughter of a Cambodian father and a Vietnamese mother, enjoyed a relatively prosperous early childhood, her family’s peace was shattered by racially motivated violence, which intensified and forced them to flee to Saigon in 1975. In the ensuing years, she experienced the crushing deaths of her mother and siblings, the terror of living under North Vietnamese rule, and despair at losing her home and livelihood. She later left Vietnam, spending years in Thai refugee camps, only to be unceremoniously returned to Cambodia. Even then, Nguon survived and eventually opened a center to provide Khmer women with employment, job training, and medical care. Throughout this time, she was sustained by memories of her family’s recipes, which embodied the love, hard work, and resilience of her family and her community. Balancing bitter and sweet, her recipes and their names range from humorous (Silken Rebellion Fish Fry) to touching (Banh Sung of Forgiveness).
VERDICT A stunning memoir, spiced with delectable and occasionally devastating recipes. This is unmissable.
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