(1) Seafood. “Whenever I travel to the coasts, it’s always my goal to see how much fresh seafood I can humanly consume.” (2) Bando Korean Restaurant. “The food is great, and the people who work there are the sweetest.” (3) Dumplings. “I’m currently on a kick of soup dumplings for breakfast.” (4) Savannah, Georgia. “I love a great plate of shrimp and grits.” (5) Fish sauce wings. Get Ngô’s recipe for this savory-sweet dish at IndianapolisMonthly.com.
GROWING UP in Ho Chi Minh City in a family with roots in North Vietnam, Mai Ngô was constantly immersed in the communal foods of holidays and gatherings. Having a father who operated some of the first Japanese restaurants in Vietnam meant she was constantly exposed to world cuisines. When she was 12, her father, in an effort to convince his partner to help him open a Japanese restaurant in the capital city, took young Mai along to a business meal and ordered a table full of traditional dishes. Whatever she liked was evidence that the food would sell to the locals in Vietnam.
But food wasn’t on Ngô’s mind when she enrolled at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business in 2012, later getting a job as a product support specialist at Cummins Inc. in Columbus. It was meeting her foodie soulmate, Maxime Lévêque, a week before the pandemic that got the pair thinking about putting their culinary passions on the internet. Lévêque, a native of a village in northeastern France, shared a similar obsession with the dishes from back home, such as pot-au-feu and chocolate mousse, recipes he and Ngô would eventually post to YouTube and their multimedia website, MM Bon Appétit.
The pair recently paid a visit to Ngô’s home in southeastern Vietnam, a journey organized around food. “It was a strict eating schedule of three meals a day. Sometimes it was more like five,” she says. While the couple dream about authoring a book, they are content for now to share their stories on the site. “For as long as I can remember,” Ngô says, “my parents have always told me that I have the soul of eating and drinking.”