This story was published in 2008. My mother has now retired from the nail shop industry and is now cooking full time to her hearts desire.

My last rant about Mom’s nuoc man noodle party seemed to fuel her real flame. I thought all was said and done after the fish sauce initiation episode at the nail shop, but now this woman is really afire. I’ve seen her bring some crazy meals into the shop, but today had to top it all off.

Mom reminded me that she was coming a little late because she was bringing her bún noodles again. OK, fine. We’re not gonna debate over this again. Although I wasn’t able to stop her last cooking rampage from making garlicky fish sauce, I did remind the staff to not talk customers until they’ve had a breath mint or two.

Our intense, but loving, mother-daughter food disagreements remind me that although we disagree, we’re often way too much alike.

So today, right at lunchtime, in  my cooking obsessed mother with her gigantic stock pot of …Bun Bo Hue! For those of you Viet food junkies who know your noodle soups, a  really good Bun Bo Hue is all about the spices.

This spicy noodle soup is a blend of rich, lemongrass infused spicy broth and round bun rice noodles. In this specialty soup of the Hue region of Viet-Nam, achieving the right balance of chili spice and shrimp paste pungency reins supreme. Mom’s version has always been the winner amongst her friends when it comes to flavor and the spice.

Yes, it’s a great bowl to eat,  but at the nail shop?!?!

Here we go again with her cooking escapades amidst pedicures and manicures. Before I could even finish a credit card transaction at the counter, she’s trying to heat up a portable butane stove.

“No! What are you doing? Are you flippin’ crazy? Are you seriously thinking about assembling this noodle soup in the middle of a salon?”, I asked firmly.

My mother of all mothers replies, “No. I assemble in back salon”.

So there goes the mother hen to the back along with her prodigies all salivating over the fragrant stock pot. Before my very eyes, she was assembling her famous noodle soup from her huge spread of noodles, limes, greens and chilies.

Yes, the whole staff was having a good time as always.

Yes, customers were asking the same curious questions again.

And yes, I do what I have always done as her part-time manager, to be a mediator between both parties. I call out orders for someone to work on a manicure here and a pedicure there. The whole staff transforms into massaging maniacs from the spicy broth. Today, the customers get their extra massage, without the extra tab. Good Price! Good Price!

In between all the noodle slurping chaos, I schmooze and chat with customers to help distract them from the campfire in the back of the salon. I tried to not be a party pooper this time, but I sure as heck made sure the fire department didn’t come in to hose down all the fire breathing manicurist dragons.

Just another day at the nail shop.


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