Ma’s Canh Chua Recipe: April – December 1975



text of performance

Ma’s Canh Chua* Recipe: April – December 1975

*Canh chua, translated as sour soup, is from the Mekong Delta. It has derivations in many Southeast Asian countries.



¾ cup of ‘I barely know this man’

½ teaspoon of ‘I barely know his father’

6 cups of ‘I guess we’re all running away together now’

2 tamarind pods – picked from the tallest tree in the middle of a storm

1 pineapple – quartered and sliced (good luck)

2 tomatoes – quartered and sliced (good luck)

Beansprouts – as many as you can get your hands on

1 catfish – avoid the blood swimming downstream, if possible

Protein alternatives:

    • 1 handful of escargots (i.e. edible snails)
    • 1 non-venomous snake (go for the head with a blunt object)

8 cups water – again, avoid the blood

Dash of whichever herbs and spices you can scrounge or barter for:

  • Thai basil
  • red chili pepper
  • garlic
  • sugar (get some from a fruit?)

1 deck of cards



  1. Two weeks before April 17, have a dream. All around you is fire except for a 40-foot statue of Quan Am off in the distance.
  2. Flee Phnom Penh. When your boyfriend tells you to run away with his family, refuse. That relationship isn’t going to last anyway.
  3. Be on the run for two weeks. Then, while running through the fields, see your boyfriend and his father chasing after you. No one else in their family is with them.
  4. For safety reasons, collect ingredients late at night/early in the morning and with a lookout.
    • For the tamarind and pineapple, have someone at the base of the tree, ready to catch the fruit as you kick it off.
  5. Add water to a pot and bring to a boil.
    • While water boils, play cards to pass the time.
  6. Add catfish/escargots/snake to pot.
  7. Add sugar.
  8. Smash tamarind to a fine pulp (feel free to use same blunt object used to kill snake).
    • As your boyfriend sits there, realize you’ll probably have his children.
    • Look over to your boyfriend’s dad, realize he’ll be your father-in-law.
    • Say nothing.
  9. Add tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat.
  10. Toss in bean sprouts, garlic, and Thai
  11. Quietly enjoy this meal.
  12. 8 months later, get to the border of Vietnam.
    • Wait until the sun rises on January 1st.
    • Have your future father-in-law use what little Vietnamese he knows to get you in.
    • Hope you can get the ingredients needed to make proper Canh Chua.
  13. Have a dream you’re walking down a narrow concrete stairway, leading to the outside. At the base is a two-headed snake gazing at you.
    • Realize you’re pregnant with your first daughter.
Note: This text of the poem has previously been published in the 2019 Summer Issue of The Coachella Review.

Kevin Park, Channbunmorl Sou, & Mylo Lam

—1st Place Winner of the Brush & Lyre Prize—

Kevin Park is an aspiring screenwriter and director. He has written numerous screenplays, one of which was a semifinalist in the 2020 Screencraft Animation competition. He is a graduate of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. Channbunmorl Sou is a chef and storyteller. He is currently starting a video production company to help communities of color share their stories through art, food, and music. Mylo Lam is a writer born in Vietnam, raised in Los Angeles, and based out of Washington DC. He and his family are refugees of Cambodia. Mylo's work has been published or is forthcoming in Barrelhouse, The Coachella Review, and AAWW's The Margins. He was a 2019 Sesame Writers' Room fellow.