Pho-natic | 229 E. Colfax Ave | Denver, CO 80203 | (303)832-3154
Oi Thi Nguyen was born on May 15th 1956 in Ninh Hoà. Ninh Hoà is a small country village just fifty miles south of Nha Trang. Oi saw war through her own eyes. During the Vietnam War, the country was in chaos. There was neither time nor the need for education. Vietnamese people were just trying to stay alive. Every family was working just to put food on the table. Oi started working as soon as she can walk. From the rice fields to fishing boats—Oi did it all. Oi’s grandfather Nhanh Nguyen had an idea to sell noodle soup for money. They had enough money for one plastic table, four random chairs, six bowls, six pairs of chopsticks, six spoons, and a pot. Location was any where the army won’t see you. The reason for this is that it is illegal to sell food on the streets. Being poor in Vietnam gives you less options especially if the government owns everything. Selling pho was a great idea! People loved pho but, couldn’t find the time to cook it. It takes 3 to 6 hours before the broth is ready. This idea did not make money; however, it gave Oi’s family enough money not to go hungry. Oi went back to selling fish and meat. Instead of selling at local markets, she sold to American military bases. It was against the law and punishable by death but Oi didn’t care. She brought fresh produce daily for about two years. In 1973, the U.S. army left Vietnam thinking a peace agreement was in place. With no outside help, the south knew it was not long before the north takes over. In 1975, the war ended with the fall of Saigon. In 1984, Oi left Vietnam on a fishing boat with only what she can carry. The boat was carrying hundreds of people when it should only carry sixty. The seventh day at sea the boat flipped. Spending hours in the water crying for help a U.S. coast guard boat saved them. Pulling one by one out of the water and then taking the refugees to a Philippines camp. Oi lived there for ten months until a letter stated that Oi Thi Nguyen was awarded to come to the United States for aiding Americans during the war. The American soldiers remembered Oi’s name and wrote people in high places to make sure she has a safe passage. In 1986, Oi finally made it to America. Starting with no money in her hands and not knowing English, Oi started from the very bottom. Now twenty four years later, Oi finally gets to do what she loves best. Cooking!