S4:E5 | 5.7.2020

The Journey of the Nem

How did the nem, a Vietnamese Spring Roll, become a prominent feature on Senegalese restaurant menus in New York City?

About this Episode

How did the nem, a Vietnamese Spring Roll, become a prominent feature on Senegalese restaurant menus in New York City? The Journey of the nem is one of war, love, hardship, and chasing a dream. Over the last century, the nem has traveled thousands of miles, from Vietnam, to Senegal, and eventually, to find its new home in New York. The diaspora and the collective knowledge that traveled with it, shared over generations and across international cities, helped propel spring rolls from foreign novelty to everyday snack.

Special thanks General Jean Gomis and Hélène Lame for sharing their memories and insights about Viet-Senegalese migration and experiences.

For more on chef Pierre Thiam and his current endeavors, visit http://www.pierrethiam.com and http://www.yolelefoods.com.

Thank you to Suzane Diouf and Hawa Sy for their sharing their experiences selling and serving nems in NYC’s Le Petit Senegal. You can find Suzane selling her nems at 209 West 116th Street, outside the 99 Cents Plus store. Hawa serves nems at Les Ambassades, which is located at 2200 Frederick Douglass Blvd.

Thanks to Juliette Jabkhiro for her reporting in Dakar, and to Nellie Peyton and Rachel Rummel for their earlier reporting on nems in Senegal.

About the Reporters

Christina Ayele Djossa is a reporter, writer, and producer who tells stories on the hidden histories of our world. Her work has appeared in Reply All, The Clearing, Running from Cops, Surviving Y2K, The Gist, National Geographic, Atlas Obscura, BBC, and more.

Victoria Marin is a New York-based journalist and producer whose work covers cultural issues around foodways, travel, education and politics. Twitter/Instagram: @vixmarin

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