In the early 1970s, emigrants from South Vietnam put down roots in New Orleans East. Hurricane Katrina, in August 2005, hit their Ninth Ward neighborhood especially hard; on the day I visited in April 2006, the community was dealing with one of the its periodic power outages. "Too much wind, the power goes out, maybe five, six hours at a time," one merchant told me. "It's like living in a Third World country." One supermarket employed a generator to light bare bulbs strung from the ceiling; other shops made do with daylight through doors and windows.
Today, the community is back on its feet. Further signs of its strength are the many Vietnamese restaurants that have opened nearer the center of New Orleans, sometimes as family operations with a multigenerational staff. My countergal at Pho Cam Ly was born and bred in New Orleans; when I ordered a Chinese sausage and fried egg banh mi ($4.50), her query "How do you want your egg?" was conveyed in a gentle Southern accent. We settled on "over easy"; she provided plenty of napkins to deal with the drips.
Pho Cam Ly
3814 Magazine St. (General Taylor-Peniston Sts.), New Orleans