Starring Clara Kim, the author's daughter and the audiobook narrator.
About the Book
Take a well-fed nine-year-old with a big family and a fancy education. Fold in 2 revolutions, 2 civil wars, and one wholesale extermination. Subtract a reliable source of food, life savings, and family members, until all are gone. Shave down childhood dreams for approximately two decades, until only subsistence remains.
In Slow Noodles, Chantha Nguon recounts her life as a Cambodian refugee who loses everything and everyone—home, family, and country—all but the remembered tastes and aromas of her mother’s kitchen. She takes us back to the quiet rhythms of 1960s Battambang, her provincial hometown, before the dictator Pol Pot tore her country apart and exterminated more than a million Cambodians, including ethnic Vietnamese like Nguon and her family. Then, as an emigrant in Saigon, the author loses her mother, brothers, and sister and eventually flees to a refugee camp in Thailand. For two decades in exile, she survives by cooking in a brothel, serving drinks in a nightclub, making and selling street food, becoming a suture nurse, and weaving silk.
Nguon’s irrepressible spirit and determination come through in this lyrical and inspirational memoir that includes more than twenty family recipes for dishes like chicken lime soup, green papaya pickles, and pâté de foie, as well as Khmer curries, stir-fries, and handmade bánh canh noodles. Through it all, recreating the dishes from her childhood becomes an act of resistance, of reclaiming her place in the world, of upholding the values the Khmer Rouge sought to destroy, and of honoring the memory of her beloved mother, whose “slow noodles” approach to healing and to cooking prioritized time and care over expediency.
For readers who devoured Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner and The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil, Slow Noodles is a testament to the power of food to keep alive a refugee’s connection to her past and spark hope for a beautiful life.
Listen to a sample of the audiobook!
Narrated by Chantha's daughter, Clara Kim.
About the Authors
Chantha Nguon was born in Cambodia and spent two decades as a refugee, until she was finally able to return to her homeland. She is the co-founder of Mekong Blue and the Stung Treng Women’s Development Center (SWDC), a social enterprise that offers a living wage, education, and social services to women and their families in rural northeastern Cambodia.
A frequent public speaker, she has appeared at universities and on radio and TV news programs, including NPR’s Morning Edition. She cooks often for friends, family, and for private events.
An excerpt from Slow Noodles in Hippocampus was named a Longreads Best Personal Essay in 2021.
Kim Green is an award-winning writer and public radio producer based in Nashville. Her work has appeared in Fast Company, the New York Times, and on NPR’s Weekend Edition, Marketplace, and The New Yorker Radio Hour.
A licensed pilot, she was formerly a flight instructor. Read more of her work at The Greenery blog.