Thursday, August 7, 2008

Thuc Nguyen at Bo Ling’s

Posted By on Thu, Aug 7, 2008 at 12:00 PM

By JEN CHEN

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Dim sum at Bo Ling’s near the Plaza usually draws a crowd, and last Sunday was no exception. When my parents and I got there around 11:30, we faced about a 30-minute wait for a table. As we stood around in the foyer, I started scanning the crowd for any cool outfits. Once, years ago, I saw this middle-aged guy in a plain white T-shirt there. Then, I took a closer look at his T-shirt: He had artfully arranged five $100 bills to fan out from the pocket. I was hoping to see something like that again, but sadly, no luck this time.

Then I saw 86-year-old Thuc Nguyen. She was the only person there wearing a traditional Vietnamese dress. It consisted of a silk, ankle-length gray top over black pants. Around her neck was a beautiful jade pendant on a gold chain. She had just gone to church, hence her formal outfit.

Thuc and her dining companions decided to sit out the wait in the bar area, so I followed them and joined their table. She doesn’t speak any English, so her son, Le Nguyen, did most of the talking. He explained that traditional Vietnamese dresses are cut about the same – they’ve got long sleeves, a high collar and slits cut up the sides, and they’re usually worn with pants. Some have buttons angling from the neckline. However, more women now are altering the dress – they use different patterns and materials, and, as he put it, “more daring designs,” like using sheer fabrics. There are a couple of tailors in KC who can sexy-up the dress, but most of the tailors who do this are in California.

With Le was his niece, 27-year-old Mai Dinh, who was wearing regular American clothes. I asked her if she alters her dress.

“No, I wear a more traditional outfit,” she said. She said that she prefers to be more covered up.

“Why are you talking to me?” Thuc said in Vietnamese, implying that I should be interviewing her granddaughter.

Just then, their beeper lit up and skittered across the table, indicating it was time for them to eat.

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