Sunday, November 19 2017

VietNamNews

On the menu: Cheap meals, warm heart

Update: December, 18/2016 - 11:02
Soul food: Despite how cheap it is, a meal at Huynh Đệ Restaurant is nutritious, offering a variety of dishes such as pork, fish, vegetables and even fruits for dessert. VNS Photo Tùng Long
Viet Nam News

Located on Trần Hưng Đạo Street in Mỹ Tho City, in the southern province of Tiền Giang, over the past two years Huynh Đệ restaurant has become a popular eatery for the hundreds of poor people who come to eat affordable meals, share in conversation and enjoy a sympathetic ear.

by Minh Trị-Tùng Long

Every day 48-year-old Võ Thị Thu Liên, a lottery ticket seller from Mỹ Tho City’s Ward 4, stops at Huynh Đệ restaurant for lunch. It costs her just VNĐ2,000 (9 US cents).

Despite how cheap it is, the meal is nutritious, offering a variety of dishes such as pork, fish, vegetables and even fruits for dessert.

“Thanks to such meals, my life has become less difficult. Instead of the dozens of đồng I used to pay for my meal, now it is only VNĐ2,000. I don’t have to worry about each meal anymore, and I feel happy eating here,” says Liên.

Located on Trần Hưng Đạo Street in Mỹ Tho City, in the southern province of Tiền Giang, over the past two years Huynh Đệ restaurant has become a popular eatery for the hundreds of poor people who come to eat affordable meals, share in conversation and enjoy a sympathetic ear.

Surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly, the manager of the restaurant is not a businessman but a local priest. After years of seeing poor orphans, labourers and lottery ticket sellers struggle to afford a decent meal, and sometimes starve, priest Nguyễn Tấn Sang came up with the idea of a restaurant that offers meals that every one of them can afford.

“I opened the restaurant not only to serve cheap meals but also to offer a space where people can find warmth and kindness and form close relationships so that we can create a society based on love and sharing,” Sang says.

The money got from the meals is not sufficient to run the restaurant, so Sang earns a living by singing at charitable events and selling his own CDs, in addition to contributions from benefactors.

Open from 10.30am to 7pm on Monday to Friday, the restaurant offers around 200 sets of meals a day. On the first and the fifteenth of the lunar month, vegetarian food is also included on its menu.

Regular customers at Huynh Đệ restaurant are not only lottery tickets sellers and labourers but also poor students for whom a VNĐ2,000 meal is a blessing.

“I thought such cheap restaurants exist only in big cities like HCM City, but what a surprise that there is one in Mỹ Tho too. The restaurant not only fills my stomach with delicious meals, it also fills me with warmth and affection that I can feel among the people here,” says student Nguyễn Thành An.

Community: On average, Huynh Đệ restaurant offers around 200 sets of meals to the poor, most of whom are lottery ticket sellers, poor students, and elderly. VNS Photo Tùng Long

From the heart

Running a restaurant, however, is no easy job. Sang has spent many sleepless nights mulling over how to manage the restaurant, which has become a source of support for hundreds of poor people.

To ensure that the restaurant truly fulfils its purpose, Sang looks at each potential customer’s situation and identifies those who most need to eat there. He then provides a form to register and fill up their meal requirements each week so that the restaurant knows what to prepare beforehand.

The priest makes sure that the price of the meal does not affect its quality by going to the market and picking up the freshest of ingredients himself.

A visitor’s first impression of the place is the extraordinary order and neatness of its customers, who patiently queue up and wait to be served and voluntarily clear and clean up after eating.

The restaurant is staffed with voluntary workers, all members of the "Singing for the Poor" programme initiated by Sang and local people. The volunteers, all from different walks of life, take turns cooking, serving and cleaning the dishes.

Source of sustenance: Cheap meals at Huynh Đệ Restaurant have significantly reduced poor people’s daily hardship. VNS Photo Tùng Long

One of its volunteers is 60-year-old Phương Thảo, who commutes from District 6 in HCM City to Huynh Đệ restaurant every week to help with the cooking and service.

“As soon as I finish my housework, I come to the restaurant to help. It is a place where I see humanity. Seeing the elderly or young children enjoy the meals I cook brings me great happiness,” she says. “I hope the restaurant receives more support from society and always has enough money to run.”

To Sang, each good deed must come from the heart, and that is a message that is placed at the centre of the restaurant: Love–Devote–Serve. It is also the message Sang hopes to communicate to each of the customers.

Sang explains why he does not offer meals free.

“It is one way for everyone to understand the meaning of sharing in life. When people put money into the money box, they have contributed to the management of the restaurant,” he says. “Moreover, many poor people will feel uncomfortable if the meals are free.”

It is a small amount of money, but it is enough to make people understand the purpose of establishing the restaurant, he says. VNS

 

 

Send Us Your Comments:

See also: