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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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Table of Contents

  1. How do I prepare Bn-B H?
  2. How do I obtain a list of names and addresses of my USAID group?
  3. Where can I find my friend who used to go to University X...?
  4. Why haven't we had a reunion lately?
  5. Who are still in Vietnam?
  6. What is Leadership Scholarship?
  7. When is the best time to visit Vietnam? And where to go - what to see?
  8. Will this Web site provide scholarships?

How do I prepare Bn B H?

Ingredients:

Beef shanks, sold in pairs, a small piece attached to a large one,
2 pig front legs, cut into pieces (gio heo) (not essential),
A piece of pork blood, boiled separately in water (It blackens the soup if cooked with the meat - I often omit this because my children are squeamish about blood),
Sa tuoi (lemon grass) 2 bundles (washed, smash each stalk, tied in 4-bundles),
Hanh huong (shallots) the small purple kind is more fragrant, sliced thinly for frying,
Yellow onions two large ones (one peeled with roots left on to stew with the soup, the other sliced thinly for garnishing),
Rau răm sliced thinly,
Scallions sliced thinly,
Chinese parsley, chopped,
Fresh Thai chilis, sliced,
Fresh limes, cut into pieces,
Black pepper, freshly ground if possible,
Rice noodles (Bn Qu' lm hay Giang ty loai ln), cooked in a lot of boiling water, and drained,
One large tablespoon of chili powder (t m).

Preparation Details:
Cut the beef in large pieces (the small muscle in two, the large in four),wash well.
Wash/clean the pig's feet.
Bring a stock pot (12 quarts or larger) of water to boil, add salt.
Put beef and gi heo in boiling water. Wait for the water to boil again and the scum to surface, then dump everything out, re-wash all the meat to remove the scum. Wash the stock pot, refill with cold water, put the meat and gi heo back in and cook over high heat until boiling. Turn down the heat, add in the whole peeled onion and the lemon grass bundles. Add salt and fish sauce to taste and let simmer for 90 minutes. Check on the gi heo often because it gets done in about 60 minutes, and needs to be taken out, while the beef takes longer. The soup should be clear, may get a light green tint from the lemon grass, remove any scum. When you remove the gi heo, start taking out the beef chunks and slicing them and put the sliced beef back into the soup. Soup is ready when sliced beef is tender to taste.

Using fresh oil, fry the sliced shallots over low heat until golden, drain excess oil from the pan and add one large table spoon of t m and toss with the fried shallots (pan should still be hot). Add the content of the pan to the soup, using a ladle add hot soup to the pan to de-glaze and pour back into the soup pot. This procedure creates the red flagrant oil sheen at the surface of the soup, with bits of floating fried shallots, typical of Bun Bo Hue. Some cooks add more dried red pepper flakes to this procedure to make the soup more spicy, but I prefer to make the soup mild and let people add fresh sliced Thai chili pepper at the end as a garnish. Some people add MSG to the soup, or a little sugar in lieu of MSG. I usually do not find this necessary for home cooking, because the meat to soup proportion is quite high so the soup is rich enough, plus the fish sauce also adds to the richness. Other cooks may add pork bones to strengthen the broth. I found this makes the broth not beefy enough, but rather porky, which detracts from the authenticity of the broth, which must taste robustly beefy, with strong lemony taste and fragrant with the fried shallots. I believe the five essential ingredients to Bn b H are beef shanks, lemon grass, fried shallots, chili powder and rau răm.

To Serve:
In a large bowl, mix the sliced onion, sliced rau răm, chopped Chinese parsley and sliced scallion to create garnish. Put cooked rice noodles in medium bowl, arrange sliced beef, pig feet piece, square of boiled pork blood, add garnish, pour boiling soup stock into bowl and serve. Lime and sliced chili pepper and ground black pepper added to taste.

This is my mother's authentic recipe. Enjoy!
by Ni.m-Nhi

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How do I obtain a list of names and addresses of my USAID group?

[Addresses and names of our friends are generally not available except on a limited basis. Furthermore, only USAID students and friends can have access to this list. For our friends, please access this list from here.]

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Where can I find my friend who used to go to...?

[We have lost touch with a few USAID students. We do not have addresses for all USAID students and friends. If we find them and with their permission we will make the addresses available to you.]

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Why haven't we had a reunion lately?

[This is a very good question and it deserves a practical answer. We are relying on local volunteer organizers. Please watch the "Recent News" for announcements. We also would like feedback from all our friends regarding time, location and other logistics. Please let us hear your ideas on this.]

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Who is in Vietnam?

[On a recent visit to Vietnam, we met a few of our friends. These friends are co-owner of a company that supplies medical equipment to the hospitals and doctors in Saigon and the Delta provinces. Recently, they just formed a branch to sell Toyotas and are doing very well. In contrast, we also heard (but did not meet) a couple of others who still struggle to meet their needs just because of unfortunate circumstances. We could not find their addresses. A project will be underway to see if we can provide some relief to these friends.]

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What is Leadership Scholarship?

[The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) provided scholarships to top ranking Vietnamese students to come to the US for Undergraduate and Graduate studies. The programs began in the sixties, and in1967. There was a total of three or four groups; the last one arrived in 1970. The first group arrived and met in the US for the first time in San Dimas; the second group met at Pacific Palisades; the third group met at Asilomar and the fourth group met at Claremont College, California. After a few days of orientation, the students were divided into smaller groups and assigned to different Cal State Colleges and Universities. Later groups had more freedom to choose schools to attend. Before these formal programs, there were other smaller groups of Vietnamese students who had come under various auspices of the US government for shorter stays]. Editor's note: Locations may be inaccurate. Please write to us if you have better information.

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When is the best time of the year to visit Vietnam? And where?

[Any time is a good time to visit relatives in Vietnam. Besides, Vietnam has many attractive places for tourists. The best time for a visit is during the Lunar new year and a couple of ensuing months when the weather is nice and not too warm. It also depends on your destination in Vietnam. In Hanoi, the weather is already pleasant around Christmas time. However in Central Vietnam, it appears that the rain stays until later, sometimes. In Saigon, it is usually warm and humid from around June to September-October, with rain showers almost every afternoon in October-November time frame, but clear and cool around Christmas and New Year. The weather during Tet is perfect for visiting the entire country from North to South. 
During the summer, the weather is very nice in the coastal cities such as Vung Tau, Cam Ranh, Nha Trang, Tuy Hoa, Qui Nhon, Danang, etc. You will certainly enjoy a fresh swim in the water and get good sun tan on the sandy beaches at those cities.
Da-Lat, the highland city is suitable for tourists year round. It was said that the Cam-Ly waterfall in Da-Lat was once a well-known place for lovers who came to dream, fell in love and stayed forever. Their romance left many poetic marks in the Vietnamese music, poetry and literature. 
The most interesting place in the South to visit is Can-Tho, nick-named Tay-Do or the West Capital, with lots of beautiful girls to watch and meet. Your visit can be very pleasant during the rice harvesting season when you can smell the ripened rice grains freshly cut by the farmers; you can also enjoy the taste of sweet corns sold along the highways. And the abundance of all kinds of fruits would tempt you to forget about dinner. 
Also, don't forget Hue, the city of dreams and poetry, with the Perfume River where poets produced their masterpieces while sailing lonely and aimlessly in little boats. In Hue, legend had it that watching school girls in the Ao-dai dress with long silky hair would make you lose your way. Bon voyage!]

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Will this Web site provide scholarships?

[Not now, may be at a later time. We do not have a budget to support this activity. We do know, however, all of our friends have channels where they provide charity services to Vietnam in one form or another. Some even personally visit Vietnam to carry out their own work. We applaud all of them. 
It is our hope that some day this web site would be able to participate in scholarship announcement or administration as a result of endowments established by individuals or groups who want to donate a significant sum of money for scholarships to qualified Vietnamese Students on behalf of their names or estates.]. 

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Revised: January 30, 2010 .