I’m Xuan (pronounced Sawn).
I was born in Vietnam from Chinese Vietnamese parents and I am proud to be one of the original Vietnamese boat people now living here in the UK.
In the late 1970s, the aftermath of the Vietnam war and the growing oppression of the ethnic Chinese living in Vietnam forced my family to flee their home. We left Vietnam on a small overcrowded and ramshackle boat that wasn’t fit for the open water and sailed the perilous South China Sea to Hong Kong. At age 2 my first and only memory of Hong Kong is a hazy image of the orange skies.
After 6 months we left the tropical heat of Hong Kong and immigrated to the cold, or you could say dreich (Scots for dreary) climate of the Scottish winter. We lived in the quiet outskirts of Glasgow for four years before moving and settling in London, which was a hubbub of culture and activity. By the age of 14 I had lived in four vastly different countries and each of these places have influenced the person that I am and the food I love to cook and eat.
My own cooking adventure started at an early age – washing the rice grains for steamed rice and undertaking the long and meticulous task of cleaning and snapping the tails off bean sprouts for my parents spring rolls. This you can say was my training for the future food lover in me – or feeder. As a child of refugees, love was often shown through food rather than words. From these duties and by always keeping my belly full, my parents quietly passed on their own rich food heritage and family history to me through the years.
In my 20’s I became a sushi chef at a vibrant restaurant in Central London, and spent 4 years learning the meticulous art of preparing, filleting and slicing fish for sushi, maki, nigiris and sashimi. I have since run a number of supper clubs in London and Dundee, including a charity Chinese hotpot that raised over £2,000 for the charity – Sarcoma UK. This year, I’ve taken the next leap in my food adventure and launched my online cookalong classes, which have been great fun and allow me to reach new like minded food enthusiasts far and wide.
Casual Rice is all about sharing my love for food and my own culinary heritage through authentic but informal Vietnamese and Chinese meals I devoured when growing up, with Japanese influences from my sushi training days.
The name Casual Rice comes from The Mandarin Way, a book by the inspirational Cecilia Sun Yun Chiang. A pioneering woman who in the 1960’s opened one of the first authentic Chinese restaurant in North America. In her book she writes “when we sat down to meals as a family, we adopted a much simpler mode of eating … such meals were known as “pien- fan”, “casual rice” or what might be termed home cooking”.
As the saying goes, food is a universal language that brings people together. I am hoping through this website and cookalong classes I am able to share personal recipes from my own home, that you can make and share in your homes with your loved ones.
Thanks for visiting.