Author Archives: Maximus Allen

Chả Giò (Fried Spring Rolls)

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Me: Tell me about Chả Giò or Vietnamese egg rolls.

AL: So, my parents’ recipe to it… I know it from my dad which I think he knows it from his sister, my aunt. I don’t know where she knows it from… We would make this for the restaurant that we own, and uh so what we would do is pre-peel the egg roll wrapper or the rice paper because it came in, essentially, like a sheet of paper but stuck together because it was cold or frozen. And so we would let it thaw and pre-peel it so that it would be easier to fill it… The filling consisted of shredded taro [root], shredded carrots, cooked pork, and clear rice noodles that were cooked already and seasoned with, like, pepper and salt and what not. And then it was mixed and then placed into the wrapper and then folded in a particular way…

Me: Kind of like a pinching. Keeps everything together.

AL: Almost like a burrito wrap. Almost. And you would seal it off with water, I believe. And uhm that would be your… raw egg roll, or Chả Giò. And then you would fry it for… For like 8 minutes… The sauce that it can be served with is nước mắm, uhm fish sauce… Or a mixed soy sauce for vegetarians… Usually, they’re either served at a restaurant or… At a party setting— of like a huge, huge tray of just—

Me: Huuuuge pile of egg rolls.

AL: A pile. And it would be kinda scary to look at but they were usually good, so…


An interview I had with my roommate in the Cale & Irani Apartments at USC Village. He is of Vietnamese descent. We often talk about certain food items from home and bond over them. Although he is vegetarian, he is most familiar with this pork recipe.


These can be made vegetarian, with shrimp, or with pork. I was familiar with these egg rolls and this recipe from my own mother, so it was good to reminisce with my roommate. The last time I had them was over Christmas break of 2021, and they remain one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes, far better and more authentic than ones you find in Oriental restaurants. I like the way my roommate describes it here, and it’s interesting how this folk recipe has been modernized, especially with me being from the South. My sister and I would use sweet chili sauce as compared to the traditional sauces, and we would even make them in the air fryer. My mom would also gift these in frozen batches to her friends on certain holidays, so this folk recipe and piece of our culture was shared throughout with our predominantly white, small town. This small cultural exchange through food alone can bring more appreciation and foster relationship between different communities.

Kappa in Japanese Folklore

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KY: I’ll tell you about the kappa. It’s this, uhm— it’s basically this monster that lives in the river. The Japanese created this story of the kappa which is this monster… Its head is like a lily pad, and it just like submerges itself under water. So, if you see a lily pad in your river or something, it could be the kappa. They’re also like very hard to see. So they can be like just in like the rocks and stuff… So they’re like very scary monsters. They’re very, very scary… And they can come out at night, and take kids away… They’re really short as well, if I remember correctly… I think that like, in Japan, the reason why— it’s because rivers are dangerous, and they don’t want kids playing at rivers at night without supervision…


This was taken from a conversation with me and one of my suitemates, who is of Japanese descent, in the Cale & Irani Apartments in USC Village. He has heard of these creatures for as long as he can remember, from “before he could even speak.” He was warned of them by his parents and grandfather, who lived near a river, that he used to visit when he also lived in Japan.


We often see these folk beliefs and cautionary tales told to children, by their parents, to keep them away from danger. It makes a commentary on adult supervision since, apparently, parents are the only ones strong enough to fight back against these creatures. Stories like these are designed to scare children, make them weary of the unknown, and to keep them close to their parents. This particular belief can also reflect the societal fear that Japan has with bodies of water since it is notorious for bad weather such as storms, floods, and tsunamis.

“Peeking Heads” Ghost Story

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AL: This was back at my old house where I lived in. A duplex, essentially. And it was night time, and it was probably around midnight to like 1 or 2 which is I guess late for me as a child.

Me: How old were you do you think?

AL: Uhm… I think I was in like fifth or sixth grade. And I was still afraid of the dark, and so I slept with like a night light… And my room was… [across the hall] from my parents room… Connected through a hallway, a very short hallway, and both [our] doors were open. And it was dark. It was late. My parents were asleep. I was asleep. My brother slept in my parents’ room, and so… I just woke up… and I was really tired but I was peeking out at the door, and I thought I saw my brother. I assumed that this person was my brother—who had their head sticking out of the door.

Me: *in disgust* Ahhhhh!…

AL: But It was so dark because they had no light [on]… And so I was kinda like shocked, but… it was understandable in my head… I called out my brother’s name like “Jonathan!” (Silence.) “J- jonathan! W- what? Hello?” And they would just stare back at me. It’s like where—in cartoons—you would see the silhouette of their hand peeking sideways? And I would see like a hand, waving, and I was like “Jonathan! It’s late!”

Me: *laughing* Like “What the hell is this, Jonathan?!”

AL: And I kept at it. And they would not go away…. They stopped waving, and I was like “Okay, okay. Good night!” And so I would roll over and try to fall back asleep… And then I’m assuming like 10 minutes passed… I roll over again, and they’re still there with like another person. And I’m like “Mom! Hello?” *laughs* But all I could hear was my dad snoring. And so I kinda just gave up on them, and then I eventually fell asleep. And then, the next morning, I talked to them, and I was like “What were you doing? looking out the door at me?” …I spoke this to my brother first….

He was like “Huh? What do you mean? I didn’t do anything.”

AL: I was like “No, you did. You had your head out and your hand and everything… Do you not remember? Are you dumb or something?”

And he was like “No, I was sleeping!”

I was like “Mom, do you remember? You were doing the same thing.”

Mom: “Huh? No!”

AL: “What do you- what do you mean?”

Mom: “What did you see?”

I was like “You and Jonathan were like literally… Staring at me and waving… You don’t remember anything?”

Mom: “No.”

I was like “Oh… Who were they then?” (jokingly) Hello? *laughs*

Me: *laughs* So, what was their initial reaction to it? Did they not believe you?

AL: They were kinda, like, laughing at me for thinking these things— rather than like believing, which I would also understand…

Me: So, did it scare you? In retrospect? Or in the moment?

AL: In the moment, it did not freak me out… Just like really tired… It could be just my tiredness and just like hallucinating. Do you know like when its dark and you see like grains [in your eyes]?…

Me: Yeah!

AL: It could just be that… Or actual people. Who knows?


An interview I had with my roommate in the Cale & Irani Apartments at USC Village late night, with the lights out to set the mood. He is of Vietnamese descent. His younger brother, Jonathan, was five to six years old at the time.


I love ghost stories, especially the way in which people perform them. This is a piece of self-proclaimed folklore, and his family still laughs about it till this day. He has disclosed to me that he was deathly afraid of the dark as child, but has since grew out of it. This experience was more confusing to him than anything. Children are often associated with ghosts or spirits because they are more ‘innocent,’ and therefore can see the paranormal easier. However, they are seen as more naive, so this lends itself as to why no one believed him. Perhaps, if he were to say this today, his family would. This brings into questions the credibility of folklore and personal narratives. Is folklore just as valid when it comes from children, themselves?

Con Mèo in Vietnamese Superstitions

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Me: Tell me about the superstition your family has around cats.

AL: Specifically, uhm my mom or other women— Vietnamese women that I’ve encountered… have this superstition of that there is this cat, Con Mèo, which translates to “Cat” in English… Essentially, this cat would kidnap children, so… it means for the children to stay close to their mothers…

Me: …Every single time Con Mèo was kind of brought up, would it be… kinda referred to as like a monster or some type of entity that would kidnap you, specifically?… Did you have a particular image associated with it? Or did you just see a cat?

AL: I just associated the entity as a cat… But somehow evil… And it’s usually referenced by my parents— by mom at like night. Mainly because it’s dark, and to like stay close… I would see this saying more in Vietnam due to how poorly lit the city is, and the suburbs or the countryside, compared to here which is much more safer and has a lot of lights…

Me: …What age do you think this kinda like started, and what age do you think this kinda stopped? Where your mother was like “You’re getting too old for this!” Or is it kinda like a little joke that you bring up every now and then? You know, how does that relate to your personal experience with cats now?

AL: This started when I was young, probably in Kindergarten… Six? Five?

Me: Yeah.

AL: …It’s not that she stopped saying that superstition at a specific age. It’s just— it occurs less. Like she sometimes says it… Like once in like a while, she’ll say it. Just kinda like, just as a fun joke. But I would never say it back because *shrugs* Eh. But my relationship with cats now… I like cats, so it didn’t really affect how I viewed them as monsters.


This was taken from a conversation with my roommate, in our bedroom at the Cale & Irani Apartments in USC Village.


This belief could reign from one of the oldest superstitions that black cats are considered bad luck. This is especially prevalent amongst Asian cultures, and I even saw this fear manifested as a general disliking towards cats by my Vietnamese mother. Cats in this context were used by the informant’s mother with him and his younger brother, to instill fear in them and keep them out of danger, especially at night. It is beliefs like these that lead to almost all children, having a universal fear of the dark—a fear that my roommate already had. However, his positive relationships with cats won out over his fear of the dark. Therefore, Con Mèo didn’t affect him that much.

Black Tourmaline Crystals

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SP: My black tourmaline piece… It actually is my first, like, large and most expensive crystal I bought in my collection— Black tourmaline is known to be, like, a protective stone. And I have like lots of little pieces that I kinda just carry around with me all the time. A lot of people use it with clear quartz cause clear quartz acts as like an amplifier, so it’s like amplified protection. I think of it as like cleaning my energy and my space. I have little pieces sometimes in my pocket, when I’m just going out, and I have one that I like tie to my bag, my everyday bag.


Performed over a FaceTime call. One of my roommates friends, a high school senior. She is in her bedroom in Alameda, California. She obtains crystals from the shop she works at and various crystal stores in the Bay Area and from online shopping.


Crystals have long since been used for cosmetic as well as medicinal practices. I know that one of the first few societies to use crystals as spiritual charms was Ancient Egypt. This practice has carried itself over to the West, and is also used in witchcraft and Paganism. I have often wondered if the younger generation has incorporated them into their beauty routines and self-healing just because they are aesthetically pleasing to look at. The informant houses a massive crystal collection in her home, and she says that this protection charm is one of the most common and is what got her into crystals. The fact that she carries around multiple of them in her everyday life really reflects how people and religions can attribute so much meaning to material objects. It’s quite beautiful.