Ann T. Dinh
For many Asian Americans, there is a struggle of belonging. “Go back to your home country” has been spat at, yet the United States is the only country they know and have. Food is a common link to their parent’s homeland, a cultural anchor that families can bond over. However, as their parent’s generation becomes older, will that bond hold true?
“Am I even Korean anymore if there’s no one left in my life to call and ask which brand of seaweed we used to buy?”
– Michelle Zauner, lead vocalist and songwriter of the alternative pop band Japanese Breakfast
How might we establish a method of connecting to food heritage that can be passed down through the generations?
Đậm Đà is a nesting set that provides a unit of measurement and serving. This set is particular to a family chicken pho recipe. However, the intended design can easily be adapted to different chicken pho recipes and other pho types, such as beef. Đậm Đà breaks with imperial and metric standards, defining “a little bit of this.”
Đậm Đà is coded between broth preparation, bowl preparation, and serving by the color. The product is a reaction to the informal nature of cooking found in immigrant communities and how information could be documented in some way.
As the piece ages, the crackle glaze is marked by wear and provides a subtle indication of the amount. In addition, each piece has a graphic representation of what ingredient coordinates. The underside also has Vietnamese and English labeling.
“If food doesn’t have context and story, it just doesn’t taste that good.”
– Andrea Nguyen, Vietnamese-born, American food writer
What makes it smart / innovative?:
For thousands of years, people have created ceramics, and now, thanks to 3D printing technology, it is experiencing a renaissance. Đậm Đà straddles between old and new.
It preserves history but is not static, allowing for adaptation and modification. Đậm Đà is a semi-handcrafted ceramic set that has multiple forms of communication embedded in its design. It indicates both the ingredients needed and the approximate measurements, along with being a means of serving a dish.
Its overall framework can adapt to different variations of a recipe, to different dishes, in different cultures. Handcrafted but utilizing modern technology, this duality is a reflection of its users, who have to navigate a duality of identity in their everyday lives.
Why is it relevant for the final user?:
Đậm Đà is for children of immigrants, whose primary connection to their heritage is to the food they shared with their family.
Many attempted to write down these family recipes, but strict measurements are not a thing for many home cooks, and sometimes, instructions get lost in translation. Đậm Đà allows for approximations that the user can follow, which they can modify to their tastes.
Though it will never be like grandma’s, this ceramic set is something special that can be passed down to the next generation, a new keepsake for those who came to a new country with very little.
Link to the project: