Thit Kho

Relationship: Child of im/migrant
Pork belly and boiled eggs in fish sauce
Pork belly and boiled eggs in fish sauce

The sweet yet savory aroma of fish sauce fills my kitchen. Steam from a pan escapes into the air as my mother grabs a thick lump of pork belly waiting gently on the marble counter. As my mother grabs her favorite knife, she  slices the pork into thin cubes. She makes this Vietnamese delicacy frequently, and it's called Thit Kho.

As my mother searches the refrigerator, the fishy aroma reminds her of waking up to the soft wind blows and loud rooster calls of her home - Vietnam. Nostalgia of my grandmother making breakfast out of leftovers for her six children comes flying back. Slice, slice, slice. With each slice, my mother envisions a time when this grimy piece of pork followed her family. My grandfather was a rural farmer. When his country began to fight itself, he enlisted in the Vietnam War. Imprisoned, tortured, and beaten — against all odds he survived. Forehead filled with sweat, she describes the first few moments on American soil to me when her father brought the family to this foreign land with the promise of prosperity, however, they struggled like they did in Vietnam. 

Thit Kho evokes a time before a tragic war took over my mother’s home. With every bite, my family’s connection to their homeland is intertwined with the cultural dish of their heritage. When my bowl of rice topped with caramelized pork belly arrives on my table, I sigh in hesitancy and annoyance at eating Thit Kho every week, but the smile on my mother’s face as she chops away at the pork dissolves those feelings. I savor each spoonful with the appreciation and pride of my Vietnamese heritage.

Place(s): Vietnam

– Alyssa

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant