Johnson Duong is known around Redbank Plains simply as ‘Dad’.
“They all call me dad and like to ask me how to make fried rice or spring rolls,” Johnson said.
“I am from Vietnam but I have been away for a very long time.
“Most of what I cook, I learned here in Australia in the back of kitchens in Melbourne.”
Johnson and his family moved to Ipswich a year ago, but since he left Vietnam as a refugee, he has spent most of his life in Australia in Melbourne and Sydney.
Always a hard worker, Johnson was a truck driver during the day, but he would help out his friend in his restaurant at night.
“They did not teach me,” he said.
“The chef was very secretive. I had to work it out on my own.
“Ninety per cent was by taste and the rest I would work out by going through the rubbish to see what ingredients they had used.”
That is perhaps why Johnson is so open when he is asked how to make something.
“I have been to my grandkids school a couple of times to the community hub. I have done some cooking demonstrations. I enjoy showing others how to make things, and share my culture” he said.
“I just love cooking for my family. The kids take my chicken lollipops to school, it was my creation.”
When Johnson was 23, he was a soldier in South Vietnam. He loved being in the army and even joined the reserves here in Australia. Duong said the good discipline and eating healthy were what he liked most about it.
“After North Vietnam took over I had to leave, so my brother and I ended up in a refugee camp in Malaysia,” he remembers.
It was good at first.
“They teach you what you want to learn and there were good conditions, but in the second year food started to become hard to come by,” he said.
“At the start they would give you a whole chicken for four people. Then it became eight people then in the second year it was sixteen people for every one chicken.
“Luckily I got out and was sent to Australia in 1984. I met my wife in the refugee camp and she was also able to come to Sydney.”
Shortly after Johnson’s wife, Cindy, came to Australia, they had their three children. They now also have four grandchildren.
Johnson worked for Repco making air conditioners but after eight years he had an accident and decided to move to Melbourne where he became a delivery truck driver.
Last year the Duong family decided to move to Ipswich after a visit to Johnson’s brother who also lives here.
“I have not been sick once since we moved here, in Melbourne I was always sick,” Johnson said.
“My daughter and her family and my son came to live with me also.
“It’s better for the children, more quiet and relaxed. It was very hectic in Melbourne.
“We have a much bigger yard here too.”
Mini Vietnamese Pancakes
Batter (must be pre-made the day before)
1kg of rice flour
560ml of coconut milk
3 teaspoons of salt
3 teaspoons of turmeric powder
1 teaspoon of sugar
100g of corn flour
Mix together and cover, pop it in the fridge overnight
500g small shrimp (non-peeled)
1 bunch of green spring onions (thinly sliced and separate the green from the white)
Assorted greens (lettuce, Vietnamese coriander)
Banh Khot / Aebleskiver frying pan
Nuoc Mam Dipping Sauce
1 cup of white caster sugar
Half a cup of lemon juice
3 or 4 cloves of garlic (depending on your taste)
4 or 5 chilli (depending on your taste)
200ml of water
Half a cup of fish sauce (squid brand)
Heat the pan, add a small amount of oil to each well.
Add batter to each well. Place a prawn on top of each one then cover with a lid for a couple of minutes. Once they are browned on the bottom, they are ready.
Serve with greens and dip into the dipping sauce.
This is a dish Johnson likes to make on special occasions as it makes a lot, so is great for entertaining or just feeding his large family.
Vietnam is an Asian country boarded by the South China Sea to the east, Cambodia in the west, Laos to the northwest, and China to the north.
It has an estimated population of 96 million.
There have been a lot of foreign and domestic conflict over the last couple of thousand years.
The Chinese occupied Vietnam for a thousand years.
The most recent were the Americans who joined South Vietnam in the fight against feared communist expansion.
It was the first time television cameras were able to beam the harsh reality of war into living rooms around the world as it happened and harrowing press images were splashed across front pages. The public tolerance of the war plummeted.
Ultimately the county was unified with the fall of Saigon in 1975.
Today, Vietnam has one of southeast Asia’s fastest growing economies and a thriving tourism market. Hanoi is the capital city..
The countries striking landscape is a big drawcard. It has both mountains and forests, beaches and lowlands. It has a high level of biodiversity and is home to approximately 16 per cent of the world’s species. It has two World Natural Heritage sites.
It is the world’s second largest exporter of rice and coffee.