Folks, I have something really special for you – I’m thrilled to introduce a brand new feature to vegeTARAian. Welcome to Inspirational Interview – Fab 5. It’s a chance for me to share the story of a clever creative who inspires me, and I hope they’ll do the same for you.
To kick things off I have a wonderful interview with Thang Ngo from noodlies, a popular and long-running Sydney food, travel and lifestyle blog.
Thang is intelligent, articulate and fascinating. The love and appreciation he shares of his home country Vietnam is contagious. Not only is he a lovely chap, Thang is also a passionate advocate for the wonderful and diverse multiculturalism of Sydney’s western suburbs. And if that wasn’t enough, Thang also has an impressive online presence across multiple channels as noodlies regularly features videos and podcasts. I hope you’ll enjoy Thang’s story as much as I do.
Your blog is fab! Who or what inspired you to create noodlies?
Thank you, Tara. I live in Cabramatta which is part of the Fairfield City Council, where I was an elected local government councillor for nine years. Here, seven out of 10 people speak a language other than English at home – one of the most diverse in Australia.
Here and other areas of the West are exciting, unique, diverse food – humble ma-and-pa eateries that don’t get the limelight they deserve. I wanted to pay tribute to these hard working migrants who often work 12 hour days, seven days a week.
So I started my food blog towards the end of 2009 – almost five years ago. The first review was Trung Nguyen a little, late night eatery in Canley Heights – before the suburb became more well known for great south Asian food. Back then the food critics didn’t venture beyond Ashfield and food blogs were more obsessed with trendy CBD and inner city cafes or high end fine diners.
Because of the unique nature of my blog, it became popular and readers started asking for more – in particular how to eat some of these dishes. So the noodlies Youtube channel started. My most popular video with over 80,000 views is about how to eat spicy Vietnamese Bun Bo Hue.
What blogging milestone are you most proud of and why?
Four immediately come to mind:
- My writing progression. I look at the first post with a mixture of nostalgia and embarrassment. It seems so amateur now. But it also encourages me to see I’ve progress and that’s profoundly encouraging. My personal motto is “Be first. Be original. Be nice” – I hate to be doing the exact same thing years later. Rather than get stale, I’d rather stop. So thank goodness, I’ve moved on from the beginning.
- Food writing: food blogging has led to commissions for traditional media. I will always be grateful to Alix Davis from Feast Magazine who had faith in me. Alix commissioned my first ever magazine story on Island Dreams in Lakemba, Australia’s only Christmas Island restaurant. That was almost exactly three years ago. Since then I’ve had the chance to write features for them on Cabramatta, Hurstville, Banh Mi, K-pop, Holy Basil and Green Peppercorn Laos/Thai restaurants. And my portfolio now includes being published in Good Food in The Sydney Morning Herald, Good Weekend in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, Tiger Tales inflight magazine, The Guardian online, ABC’s The Drum.
- Showcasing diverse food: my two pet projects searching for the best pork rolls/banh mi thit and pho have helped to put humble street food on the mainstream Australian map including getting pork rolls on national TV via the Today Show and a Good Food cover story on the best pho in Sydney.
- My code of conduct: adapted from pioneer food bloggers overseas, noodlies code of ethics is the most comprehensive in Australia – it’s about transparency and tells readers what noodlies is about, what I will and won’t do. It also shuts down criticism by mainstream media about blogger ethics.
What is your favourite food memory?
Introducing my partner, Walter to pho at Pho Minh during one of our first dates almost 24 years ago. He loved it so much he had two bowls; food, love, Cabramatta – that memory included all of my favourite things.
Who are the creative souls that inspire you?
- Walter Mason, we’ll be together for a quarter of a century next year and he still inspires, and amazes me each day. His first book Destination Saigon is still one of the most popular travelogues on my country – it’s amazing that someone is so inspired by my country and people that he learnt the language and wrote a book about them. That’s inspiring. And he can still make me laugh uncontrollably.
- Roald Dahl: I love his vivid, entraling writing. Sometimes I need to catch my breath when it hits me what amazing creativity drives it all. I highly recommend Tales of the Unexpected. Sure, it’s a collection of short stories, but the depth in each one inspires and reminds me that stories which capture the imagination don’t have to be epic in length or grand in it’s setting.
- David Sedaris: amazing eye for the minute things in life and such an amazingly creative artist.
Toot your horn! What’s coming up next for noodlies?
- I’m opening up noodlies to contributors. It’s for writers who want an audience for their writing but do not have time to regularly publish content on their own blogs. I’m so incredibly inspired by them. Evie Chataway for example has just embarked on a series on how to host your own 7 course Game of Thrones dinner party which includes recipes, printable buntings and menus. Amazing! Or Keren Lavelle who is an amazing writer, I’m glad to say she’s picked up a regular part time writing gig as a result of writing for noodlies.
- Top Australian food blogs: I’m glad to say this project, which started in July last year with just 30 Sydney based food blogs will, by the end of this month, grow to over 1,000 food blogs and cover every state and territory. It will be the most comprehensive list ever compiled. And it was only made possible with the collaboration of interstate food blogging colleagues.
A big thanks to Thang for his fabulous answers! Want to find out more? Head on over and check out noodlies on the interwebs.
I hope you enjoyed the first instalment of this regular new feature. Keep an eye out for the next inspiring interview.