Writer Bich Minh Nguyen on North Carolina

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— Porter Shreve

Nguyen recalls eating and mulling over her memoir at Greensboro's Saigon Cuisine Restaurant.

I wrote part of my book when I was teaching at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. There's not too much there; however, I used to go to this Vietnamese place, Saigon Cuisine Restaurant, all the time.

It was on this hellacious row of broken-down malls and pawnshops, with lots of old buildings for lease (although you knew that they'd never be leased). There, in the middle, was this great, sort of romantic restaurant.

I think one of the reasons why I was interested in that place is that inside the restaurant the lighting is very warm and inviting, but outside is that awful commercial strip, so there's this bizarre contrast. And I felt this big contrast in my book between the inner life and the life inside my Vietnamese house and then the dominant life outside the house.

I guess in a way I like restaurants that are improbable. It's an ugly-looking building, but then the food is fantastic. At Saigon, I always liked to order the caramelized shrimp with lemongrass in the clay pot because it reminded me of something that my grandmother made.

Nguyen'smemoir, Stealing Buddha's Dinner, was published by Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., in February 2007. Saigon Cuisine Restaurant, 4205 High Point Rd., 336-294-9286; shrimp in a clay pot, $11.

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