Nguyen Ly

Biography

The story of Em begins with the story of our Chef, Ly Nguyen. Chef Ly grew up on the outskirts of an idyllic small town in Khanh Hoa, Vietnam, about 50 miles north of the Nha Trang. Raised on a farm where jungle, mountains, rivers, and the ocean met, young Ly adored her family’s fruit... READ MORE

The story of Em begins with the story of our Chef, Ly Nguyen. Chef Ly grew up on the outskirts of an idyllic small town in Khanh Hoa, Vietnam, about 50 miles north of the Nha Trang. Raised on a farm where jungle, mountains, rivers, and the ocean met, young Ly adored her family’s fruit trees and delighted in dining on the bounty of the sea. Her family still jokes that you can leave a suitcase full of money with Ly and you won’t find a dollar missing, but if you leave her unattended by a fruit tree it’s going to be picked clean.

From as early as she could remember, Ly’s mother Khanh would bring Ly and her sisters to the local wet market to sell the literal fruits of their labor. One of the best cooks in town, Khanh also ran a bustling catering business specializing in weddings, birthdays, and other special events. Ly, being the third of four children, spent her days picking fruit, watching her younger sister, and helping her mother cook. The family was poor, but everyday was full of smiles and food was plentiful. This all changed during Ly’s early teenage years, when the local government seized their farmland to build a dam, leaving the family without a livelihood. Her older brother soon left for Saigon, and Ly made up her mind to join him in the big city as soon as she could to help provide for the family. Everyday Ly would trespass onto the lands near her old family farm, picking the finest pineapples, already knowing which tree bore the best fruit. She’d make her own savory and spicy sauce, and set up shop right at the entrance to the wet market, vending her fresh cut pineapple snacks until one day she saved enough to move to Saigon.

Ly moved in with her brother in Saigon as soon as she turned sixteen, taking on odd jobs and slaving away for nearly a decade before the siblings saved enough to open up a restaurant serving classic dishes from their hometown. Ly even had funds left over to open up a beauty salon with her friends, where one fateful day a Chinese-Vietnamese boy from Brooklyn by the name of Patrick walked in and got her phone number. The two have been inseparable ever since, and the couple moved to Brooklyn permanently in 2016. In 2017, Ly opened Em Vietnamese Kitchen, a humble 20 seat restaurant in South Brooklyn to critical acclaim, serving up comfort food inspired by the ten years Chef Ly spent in Saigon. The couple has been planning a sequel since 2018, and have been researching and perfecting the menu for their planned flagship Em Vietnamese Bistro for over three years, traveling to Vietnam for months at a time. Chef Ly’s plans for the menu include comfort food drawing from the flavors of her childhood and dinner tapas inspired by nights on the town in bustling Saigon.

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Taste of Asia hosted by Jet Tila

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Fri, Oct 14

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Late Night Parties

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