A refugee from Vietnam helped popularize Asian Fusion cuisine in US

Digital Originals

A refugee from Vietnam helped popularize Asian Fusion cuisine in US

Crustacean is one of Beverly Hills’ celebrity hangouts. Famous faces come here for Vietnamese.

Helene An runs the show. But her life could have been very different.

She came to the United States as a refugee.

Helene says it was, “very frightening and very difficult for me. And we struggled a lot but no choice, I have to face that. I have to adapt myself in a different country now.”

And adapting is what she did best, adapting the menu.

Her mother-in-law fled Vietnam in 1975.

She bought an Italian restaurant in San Francisco.

Helene followed soon after. New country. New life. New menu.

Word spread and Asian Fusion was born. More restaurants opened. But Helene keeps her recipes on a need to know basis.

Only family are allowed to know what goes on in the kitchen.

“The secret kitchen, inside, I create something that nobody knows. Only my family. The secret ingredients, my sauce I keep inside.

I want to pass my knowledge on to my children, to my daughters, because I want my daughters to get a chance in case something happened to them and they can survive in case something happened to me and I didn’t have anything left. No pennies.”

And her message to other migrants who arrive in the United States?

“If they’re willing to complete their own goal, I’m sure they can do it.”