Reimagining Cambodian Cooking,
Even During a Pandemic

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At the time I am interviewing Nite Yun, chef and owner of Nyum Bai, a
Cambodian restaurant in Oakland’s Fruitvale district, she is sitting in
her empty restaurant. It is week two of shelter-in-place during the
coronavirus pandemic. While restaurants are essential businesses and
can stay open—so long as the food is for pickup or delivery—
restaurants across the country are either shuttering or have seen a
significant drop in orders. It is bittersweet that Nyum Bai recently
celebrated its two-year anniversary.

She is trying to imagine what her restaurant will be like now. She has
laid off all but a few of her employees, the most vulnerable ones. She is
also grateful for the community support that has come her way,
including people continuing to order takeout, and people ordering
merchandise such as hats and t-shirts, from all over the country, as
well as people purchasing gift cards.

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