By:Â Ashley Bode
Manhattan is known just as much for fashion design as it is for food. During New York Fashion Week, the city shows off its finest designs and those visiting can see how well the two industries complement one another. It is the opportunity to be reminded of roots and traditions, and how they inspire all aspects of our life.
Case in point: Brittany My Linh Vu; a spit-fire personality and budding fashion designer from Charlotte, North Carolina.Â Brittany's family originally hails from Vung Tau, a beautiful beachside city in southern Vietnam from where many emigrants continue centuries-old traditions. The youngest of four, Brittany grew up watching her mother cook enough for all family and friends who found themselves at the table. Stews, stir fries, noodles, Pho and tea were all hearty enough to feed a crowd.
Brittany left home a few years ago, headed back to her family's home in Vietnam to learn how to sew. She boarded with family friends and spent two months working with a tailor to learn every trick and stitch. Since then she has begun to make her way in the world of fashion, working for both Guess and Beckley by Melissa, carrying traditions with her to Los Angeles, New York and back. In her handbag, along side design ideas and sketches, she also carries with her recipes translated from her mother's words. Few measurements are listed, mostly estimates and lists of ingredients that accompany a mental catalog acquired from watching her mother's steps of preparation. "I can't forget my roots; where I came from. Using the skills my family has taught me, cooking and sewing, reminds me of what's important." For her, cooking is like fashion; intuitive.
"I learned from my mother that I don't always need to look at a recipe or measure exactly.Â Just like I know what colors look best together, I cook based on literal taste and design based on visual taste."Â When Brittany isn't busy in the kitchen or at her sewing machine, she's a cocktail waitress at a hotel in Chelsea. What does she love best about her nighttime job? "There's something fantastic about seeing the worlds of fashion and food coming together," Brittany says. "It's a completely different experience than eating at home. People love to dress up when they go out to eat. Dining out is all about an expression of image and how you want people to perceive you, whether it's what you're eating or what you're wearing, but usually there are some parallels." Brittany describes her design aesthetic as "lingerie inspired," giving the staples of a woman's wardrobe, like blazers, babydoll dresses and kaftans, a feminine twist.Â Though her garments are glamorous and one of a kind, she's just as comfortable with the simplest of things.
Here is Brittany's recipe for Lemongrass Chicken, modified to provide measurements. Feel free to be flexible with flavor and cook to your taste.
Ingredients: 2 1/2- 3 pounds Chicken, wings, breasts or thighs, with skin 1 stalk lemongrass, pounded flat and chopped finely 5 green onions diced finely 1/2 yellow onion, diced 1 can of curry paste 1-2 tablespoon chili paste 1/3 cup oyster sauce 2 1/2- 3 teaspoons sugar Salt and Pepper to taste
- Excluding chicken, mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Place sauce and chicken in a large bowl or zip-loc bag and let marinate for at least 20 minutes.
- Heat a wok or large skillet with a teaspoon of oil over medium heat. Stir-fry chicken for about 20 minutes or until cooked through. Serve with steamed rice. Garnish with green onion, sliced.
Photos: Ashley Bode