By Dewayne Bingham, Wandering Mocs Columnist—
Blossoming Chattanooga bakery Mama Crunk’s Pies celebrated Tết on Saturday, serving dishes and desserts traditionally shared by families in the Vietnamese celebration of the Lunar New Year.
Since its startup in September, Mama Crunk’s has shared a cozy spot on St. Elmo Avenue with locally owned coffee shop, Plus Coffee.
Families seated at long, shared tables dined upon traditional cuisine prepared in the home of Mama Crunk herself, Christine Nguyen, who bounced around to converse with her guests and answer questions about the dishes.
For Nguyen, the opening of Mama Crunk’s and their Tết celebration were ways for her to embrace her Vietnamese heritage and foster appreciation within a Chattanooga community largely unfamiliar with Vietnamese culture.
Nguyen’s parents moved to the United States from Vietnam in 1975. When she began grade school, however, they stopped speaking Vietnamese at home.
Growing up, she shared, Nguyen’s family never much celebrated their Vietnamese heritage. As an adult, going through culinary school and cooking at different restaurants, her perspective
Nguyen expressed frustration with how many Asian-American-owned restaurants fall short of authenticity in an attempt to “Americanize,” themselves and draw in business.
Bearing all this in mind, including her location in the South, where comfort food is a second language, Nguyen sensed an opportunity to immerse herself in Vietnamese culture and share it with others.
There were many families who walked in and out of Mama Crunk’s during my time there, small and large, and of different racial backgrounds.
Despite superficial differences, though, they shared smiles, conversation about little things like their tattoos to big things, like their children, who’d left behind empty plates to run around, desserts-in-hand, and most noticeably, laughter.
In a very short amount of time, Mama Crunk’s has brought much needed hospitality, spirit, and culture to the St. Elmo and Chattanooga areas.
Their pies are baked to order, and can be picked up in-store or shipped.
Many locally-owned businesses, including Mad Priest Coffee, Velo Coffee Roasters, Cashew, and Weekly Fig, also offer Mama Crunk’s Pies at their locations.
Nguyen’s goal, as Mama Crunk’s continues expanding in the coming months, is to broaden their selection of Vietnamese beer, wine, general goods, and of course, comfort food.