The Bún Riêu Chronicles – Part 3

Carter got home around 3pm and sat down on the couch. He felt as if he was in a food coma because he stuffed his face with so much food. He sat in a state of torpor for almost ten minutes reminiscing about today’s lunch. He had such a blast today exchanging old stories and memories from high school with Ted. Carter ended up ordering another bowl of bún riêu as well as other dishes he was curious about trying.

Despite his somnolence, Carter had so many thoughts racing through his head. He couldn’t stop thinking about all the wonderful food he ate and all the wonderful flavors he tasted for the first time in his life today. Unable to suppress his excitement, he grabbed the laptop from the small table in front of the couch, opened a web browser and did a search on Vietnam. He spent the rest of the day reading about the southeast Asian country, which he learned is written as Việt Nam in the Vietnamese language. He also spent several hours watching various videos of people traveling across Vietnam.

Over the course of the next few weeks, instead of spending time on creating videos for his YouTube channel after work, Carter spent most of his free time watching any videos he could find about Vietnam. He especially enjoyed watching travel videos because it gave him an opportunity to see different parts of the country as well as get an introduction to the local cuisine for each region. He even watched videos that were narrated in Vietnamese and somehow started picking up words here and there. During his lunch breaks at work, he would read travel blogs and articles about Vietnam. This new routine continued for some time. Work was stale, uninteresting and boring, but learning about a different culture felt more rewarding. Carter didn’t quite understand this motivation, but he knew he wanted to continue to absorb as much information as he could possibly find about Vietnam. 

One day, Carter found a website that contained recipes for making Vietnamese dishes. He read through the recipes and wondered to himself if he could make all the dishes from the website. He didn’t have the greatest culinary skills in the world, but thought it would be a fun challenge. Then a thought crossed his mind. He needed better content for his YouTube channel. Why not kill two birds with one stone and record videos of himself making Vietnamese food? He could satiate his interest in Vietnamese food and create interesting content for his channel at the same time. 

The first dish Carter decided to try to make was bánh xèo, which can be described best as a Vietnamese crêpe- or pancake-type food that typically has shrimp, pork, mung beans, onions and bean sprouts in it. The recipe seemed simple and basic, which was the reason why he thought it was the best choice for his first attempt at cooking something other than spaghetti or hamburgers.

Carter bought all the ingredients he needed from a Vietnamese grocery store that he found from an Internet search. The store was a little out of the way, but he didn’t mind the drive because he was excited about making this video for his YouTube channel. After returning from his trek to the Vietnamese grocery store, he spent the next three hours preparing the ingredients, then recorded himself making the bánh xèo. He spoke directly to the camera as if were a long lost friend. The tone and timbre of his voice was friendly, warm and inviting. For someone who usually stammered during conversations, he spoke with eloquence and confidence as he explained what he was doing. He ended the recording with one final thought, “If you have a chance to eat bánh xèo, take that chance. You won’t regret it. This is Carter Nash. I hope you enjoyed the video. Please leave a comment and don’t forget to hit the like and subscribe buttons. Bye for now and see you in the next one.” 

Carter stayed up into the late hours of the night editing the video. He kept making small changes because he wanted the video to be perfect. Finally satisfied, he uploaded the final cut of the video to YouTube, then called it a night. 

The next day, Carter got home from work around 5pm. He was burned out from staying up late editing his video that he slept right up to his alarm. During his lunch break earlier in the day, he checked the stats on his YouTube account using the app on his phone. The video already got 1,000 views, which was significantly more than any of his previous YouTube videos. Additionally, he had 200 new subscribers to his channel. The comments were generally positive. Many people encouraged him to make more cooking videos because they liked his presentation skills. He was even surprised that there were even some comments from people in Vietnam. “How did they find my video?” he thought to himself. 

For the first time in a while, after all the past failures, Carter felt a sense of accomplishment in his life and felt that his hard work finally paid off. He forgot about his troubles at work or dealing with that asinine manager. Still on his high, he felt rejuvenated and was already thinking about his next video. Over the next several weeks, he made more cooking videos. He made dishes such as bún bò Huế, a spicy beef noodle soup, cao lầu, a rice noodle dish, and bánh cuốn, a thin, wide sheet of steamed fermented rice batter filled with a mixture of cooked seasoned ground pork, minced wood ear mushroom, and minced shallots. As he added more and more videos to his channel, the views and subscribers continued to increase. 

Then came the day he would be making bún riêu. He decided to include a special announcement in this video because it was the bún riêu that was the catalyst that set off everything into motion. He told his viewers that he was going to take a hiatus from making cooking videos because he was going to take the next two months off from work so he could travel to Vietnam and make a series of travel videos. Carter explained that he would continue to make cooking videos, but he wanted to diversify his channel and make other types of videos. If the travel videos were successful, he would quit his job so that he could focus on growing his YouTube channel more. Even if the videos weren’t successful, he would have a great experience doing something he thought he never would do in a million years. The risk was worth it.

Suddenly, Carter snapped out of his reverie when he heard the sirens from an emergency vehicle race past his window. He glanced at the clock on his nightstand again. It was 5am. He had just spent the past thirty minutes reflecting on all the events that occurred the past several months. Still in a frenzy, Carter decided to get out of bed, get dressed and eat breakfast. Ted, who agreed to keep an eye on Carter’s apartment and check his mail while he was in Vietnam, was going to pick Carter up in a couple of hours to drive him to the airport. Carter finished washing the dishes, then sat down on his couch. He had packed his clothes, recording equipment and laptop the previous night so there was nothing else to do except wait for Ted. Next stop, Vietnam.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 4

3 thoughts on “The Bún Riêu Chronicles – Part 3

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