Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association and The Ravenous Couple presented Brunch & A Conversation on the Power of Food, featuring Dr. Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

Left to right: author Dr. Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, VAALA Managing Director Christine Tran-Phan, actress Quyen Ngo, musician Jason Phan, Michelin star Chef Minh Phan, and VAALA Board Secretary Thao Ha

November 23, 2021 — Orange County, CA — Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA) and The Ravenous Couple presented Brunch & A Conversation on the Power of Food on Sunday, November 21, 2021 at 10AM. The Ravenous Couple has been a supportive community partner of VAALA since sponsoring the nonprofit organization’s Illuminated Recipes: Cravings, Customs, & Comforts Project in 2019. The Illuminated Recipes project combined the power of food and art to diversify the Vietnamese American, and larger American immigrant narrative, through storytelling and oral history, photography, and mixed media. In documenting the refugee experience through family recipes, participants fostered conversations that connected people across generations and cultures in this free program for the public. The power of food and art presented itself once more through this book-signing event featuring author Dr. Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, hosted at The Recess Room in Fountain Valley, California.

left to right: The Ravenous Couple, Michelin star Chef Minh Phan, and volunteer Trang

Award-winning author, Dr. Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai signed copies of her debut, International Bestselling novel, The Mountains Sing. The author’s website describes it as an “enveloping, multigenerational tale of the Trần family, set against the backdrop of the Việt Nam War.” The book is also a runner-up for the 2021 Dayton Literary Peace Prize in Fiction, and the author is touring the United States to celebrate this accolade.

Cha54day was one of many local OC restaurants that catered the book signing/fundraiser to celebrate Dr. Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai’s U.S. book tour

In a conversation with Michelin star Chef Minh Phan, Quế Mai discussed the role of food in Vietnamese history and society, from bringing people together to serving as an expression of love and healing. Musician Jason Phan, who specializes in playing the đàn bầu (a Vietnamese one-stringed zither), performed with The Mountains Sing audiobook narrator and actress Quyen Ngo. The first 75 paid attendees received a gift bag valued at $50 with products from sponsors, listed below. Appetizers and drinks from local Los Angeles and Orange County vendors were served as well.

In-kind donors Tuan Lee from Vervet and Danny Tran from Son Nuoc Mam provided food and drink-related goodies for guests

All proceeds were donated to two charities Quế Mai has worked with in the past: PeaceTrees Vietnam, which works to demine explosive remnants from the Việt Nam War to return land for safe, peaceful use; and, SaigonChildren, which provides disadvantaged children access to education relevant to their needs. A total of $3,630 will support these charities.

This event was made possible with sponsorship from the following vendors:

Food & Beverage


Local Covid-19 protocols were practiced during this in-person event. English and Vietnamese translations were offered as needed.


Founded in 1991, the Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA) is a community-based, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that seeks to connect and enrich communities through Vietnamese arts and culture. Follow @VAALAcommunity on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

PR CONTACT: Kary Tran, Communications Specialist,

Hong and Kim are a couple who share an insatiable appetite for food, in particular, Vietnamese cuisine. They believe good food and cooking bring and keep together loved ones, hence their motto “Cooking Life Together.” Celebrate their life and cooking journey at

Dr. Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai is an award-winning Vietnamese writer. Her debut novel and first book in English, The Mountains Sing, is an International Bestseller and has received several accolades including the Winner of the 2020 Lannan Literary Award Fellowship for “a work of exceptional quality” and its “contribution to peace and reconciliation.” Quế Mai is passionate about empowering others. In her voluntary roles, she is an editor of DVAN’s publishing series, an Author Advocate for Room to Read, a creative writing teacher at the Roshan Learning Center for Refugees, and Founder and Head of Advisory Committee of Chắp Cánh Ước Mơ Volunteer Group. Learn more at