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My Mother’s Ban Xeo This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

The bright summer sun shines through the dark violet curtains of my bedroom, signaling the start of a new day. The chatter of familiar voices begins to seep into my room. I am suddenly alert, imagining my mother gracefully stirring a batter of delicious yellow flour. My appetite grows with each step down the stairs, and the warmth of the kitchen greets me. No other day can compare to one where I am embraced by the smiles and hugs of family and friends. My mother has created a new meaning of home, bringing everyone together with her famous Vietnamese dish, ban xeo.

After greeting and welcoming my elders, I rush to my mother's side and I stare into the thin, yellow batter. A soft smile spreads on my mother's face as she adds more flour, chopped green onions, black pepper, a little beer (a substitute for baking soda), and a dash of cooking oil. I glance at the stove and watch the seafood ­stuffing come to life before my eyes, waiting to meet with the liquid mix. My patience slips away, and I reach out a daring finger to touch the beautiful golden mixture. However, before my tongue can taste success, my mother sends me to set the table, snapping me back to reality.

Nevertheless, my eyes find their way back to the stove. This time, I see the hot pan heating up the tiny yellow mung beans. Their sweetness fills the air, drawing everyone to the kitchen. The pans sizzle when my mother finally pours the batter into the them. In that second, the shrimp, squid, and white bean sprouts are sprinkled right on top. The anticipation overwhelms the room, as the smell halts the conversion and eyes widen with excitement.

My eyes are locked on that pan. I am cautious not to blink because my favorite part is quickly approaching. The fold. Despite its simple name, the fold is hard to master. My mother has to observe carefully to determine the appropriate moment to fold the pancake over, sealing the savory seafood inside. My grandmother passed the technique down to her. She diligently worked with my mother to ensure that the fold was perfect.

The moment is here! I jump to my mother's side, plate in hand, ready for the pancake of sunshine. I politely deliver the first plate to my grandmother, then grab another as my mother makes the next fold. I continue serving everyone and helping my mother stack extra plates of ban xeo for the next round.

I take a seat next to my mother as we watch everyone help themselves to fish sauce and lettuce. In Vietnamese tradition, it is polite to wait until elders have started eating before taking one's first bite. Overwhelmed with excitement, this slips my mind, but my mother gestures for me to wait. I patiently show my respect and watch my mother take her first bite. Now it is my turn. I grab a piece of the golden brown ban xeo with my chopsticks and bring it to my mouth. It is warm and soft – a delicate balance of sweet mung beans and savory shrimp.

It is perfection to the tongue, reminding me of my connection to Vietnam. Although Vietnam is on the other side of the world, my mother has a knack for making me feel right at home. Her ban xeo is home to me. But without the friends, family, laughs, and memories that accompany every serving of ban xeo, it would be just another dish. The ingredients bring forth many childhood memories of Vietnam, but they are simply ordinary ingredients if not prepared with love and shared with loved ones. Food may bring families together for a moment, but the memories made with a meal can last a lifetime.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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