Viet Nam News
By Thu Trang
Hương Liên Bún Chả Restaurant on Hà Nội’s Lê Văn Hưu Street became famous in a single night, after US President Barack Obama ate dinner there.
The US leader ate bún chả (rice noodles with grilled pork and meatballs), one of Hà Nội’s must-try delicacies, on his second night in the Vietnamese capital on Monday.
Bún chả is a Hà Nội speciality, beloved by many foreign tourists. And now it is even more famous and attractive, thanks to the President’s prestige.
Despite the rain in the capital, a number of visitors flocked to the restaurant yesterday morning to taste the dish praised by President Obama. Or they came to contemplate his seat on the previous day.
Đào Văn Đạt, husband of the restaurant owner Nguyễn Thị Hằng Nga, said the restaurant is usually crowded from 11am to 1pm. But yesterday he and other employees were surprised when all the seats in the restaurant were full from 7am on.
“Many old people came and asked me to bring them servings similar to President Obama’s on Monday evening,” Đạt said.
At 10am, Đạt and his employees apologised to their customers that the restaurant had run out of meat. Customers could have eaten their meals at other restaurants. But many insisted on waiting for their meals here.
Each complete serving costs VNĐ80,000 (US$3.5). This is quite expensive for a meal for Hanoians, not including the cost of travelling to the restaurant. And they had to wait at least 30 minutes for their food. But many customers waited patiently to try the food that President Obama - one of the most famous and powerful presidents in the world - enjoyed. And everyone wanted a photograph documenting their visit to the restaurant where the President ate.
Some customers even joyfully call the restaurant “Obama Bún Restaurant” now, instead of Hương Liên Restaurant.
Bún chả is not the only Hà Nội delicacy made more famous by a US President.
Earlier in 2000, then US President Bill Clinton visited Việt Nam and ate phở - a famous Vietnamese dish with noodles and beef or chicken - in a restaurant near the Bến Thành Market in HCM City. The phở restaurant where he ate has been famous ever since then. It is now called “Phở 2000”, to commemorate the year the President visited Việt Nam.
Phở is listed as a world famous dish by CNN. The beloved Vietnamese dish is globally famous, too. Foreign visitors try not to miss phở restaurants listed in tourist guidebooks when visiting Việt Nam.
Now, thanks to President Obama, foreign visitors have one more must-try dish – bún chả.
And we can hope that the culinary specialties of Việt Nam will fly higher and further.
Speaking about Singapore, visitors think of tidiness and civilisation. Speaking about Japan, visitors think of carefulness and respect. Speaking about Italy, visitors think of romanticism. And speaking about Việt Nam, visitors now think of delicious and famous dishes.
In a recent conference about developing Việt Nam’s tourism brand, Lê Quốc Vinh, general director of the LeBros Media Group, said Việt Nam’s tourism promotional activities have only advertised landscapes, while ignoring the core and the highest element of a brand – emotion.
Vinh and other experts at the conference agreed that to promote the country’s tourism, the country should focuse on gastronomy. International visitors highly appreciate the culture, cuisine, friendly people, and daily life experiences of Việt Nam.
Vinh said Philip Kotler, the world famous marketing expert, said Việt Nam is the kitchen of the world.
“So cuisine is one of the unique features we can use to promote national tourism,” he said.
At the conference, Tôn Nữ Thị Ninh, the former Ambassador of Việt Nam to the European Union - and the former deputy chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee under Việt Nam’s National Assembly - said many leading travel magazines globally also praise Việt Nam’s food, calling it a "superpower".
"It is very bad if we do not promote Vietnamese cuisine," Ninh said.
Given the meal choices of the two US Presidents, I think it’s the right time to develop our country’s culinary culture, and tourism in general.