Where are you Pho-rom?

Dong Huong, Rue Louis Bonnet, XI arr.

If anything, this project has turned me into a racial profiler. I've become overly aware of all the Asian people in Paris, first filtering the Asian tourists out from the French Asians, and then the the Chinese people from the other East and Southeast Asians, and lastly determining their potential regions of origin in China, such as Wenzhou, Chaozhou and Guangzhou, based on the languages spoken.

Therefore, when I sought out a bowl of pho in Belleville at Dong Huong, our server was an immediate enigma. After taking my order in French, my friend asked him in Mandarin, "Is the soybean milk made fresh or is it from a can?" and he quickly responded back in Mandarin. However, as he bustled around the small room waiting on the many customers, his speech easily slipped from French into Cantonese, Wenzhounese, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Hokkien.

Examing his large eyes, cropped hair, slightly flared nostrils, and flat cheekbones... he was just too ambiguous. I couldn't figure out if he was actually Chinese, and if so, which region in China. However, my previous (failed) attempts to talk to shopkeepers in Belleville taught me that people are not very open to cursory questions by customers concerning their personal histories. Their smiles disappeared, and they immediately shut off. One man explained that he often gets asked questions by journalists and government officials, so his policy was to never answer any questions from anyone. 

Finally though, when it came time to pay, I handed over my credit card and signed the receipt without thinking. But as I looked back down at the receipt, I realized it said 144,30 euros instead of 14,43 euros.


Luckily, he caught his error as well and became very apologetic, rushing away to remedy the situation. An older woman (probably the manager) came out from the back and was much more conversational as she typed in different numbers into the credit card swiper. Talking to my friend in Mandarin, she explained that she was from Vietnam and our server was from Cambodia, but they were both Chinese. She was Teochew (from Chaozhou), and he was Hokkien (from Fujian).

Mystery solved.