Life Life

02/07/2017 - 15:24

2,000 VND meals

On Sunday, when I was riding on Hai Ba Trung street of Hue city, past the house number 22, I saw many people standing in a line. When they left, they brought along a small plastic container of popular rice meal, often referred to as “com bui” in Vietnamese.

Customers are standing in a line at the 2,000 VND rice stall.

I was curious to have a look. To my surprise, a friend of mine was shifting containers of rice to the service staff. I did not know specifically what was sold; he just collected 2,000 VND for a container. When he saw me, he asked:

- “I sell “com bui”, will you buy it? But you are not eligible for buying my rice!”

- “How haughty! 2,000 VND for a rice box? It must be only plain rice without any meat and vegetables, and no one can swallow it?” I said half-jokingly.

Instead of answering, he opened the lid of a box. Inside, there were rice, some pork ribs in half size of an adult’s hand, a slice of fried tofu, stir-fried vegetables, stir-fried bamboo shoots and a small package of soup.

- “The rice box like this costs 15,000 VND on the market, why do you sell at only 2,000 VND?” I was surprised.

T. (my anonymous friend) said: "We (the group named 2T) have opened this rice stall to help people in difficult circumstances for 4 years. We initially intended to do charity, but we are afraid that many poor people have high self-esteem, and they do not beg for food even when they are hungry, so we charge them the lowest price. Every week, we sell once on Sunday morning. We cook at least 35kg of rice each time, not including other food stuffs such as meat, fish, soup, ... The fund for food, rice, gas, electricity, and  water comes from the sales of rice boxes, and is also donated by me, my friends, and my siblings. When they cannot afford, I will manage it myself.”

- “Do you hire people to cook and clean the stall?” I asked T.

- “No, I am close to a woman who often cooks for weddings. She is also interested in charitable work. She helps us to cook, and shops for groceries. I mobilize manpower, sometimes from family members, sometimes from people in the restaurant or friends to help with the preparation of cooking ingredients. When the cook is busy, I order rice boxes from other stalls (each box costs between 15,000 and 20,000 VND) and sell it at 2,000 VND. With regard to the premises of the stall, other people sell coffee at night. By day, I am allowed to use the place only about an hour, so I do not have to pay the rent.”

This place is near Hue Central Hospital and Hue University of Medicine and Pharmacy Hospital, so many patients and their family members came to buy their meals. In addition, lottery ticket sellers, scrap dealers and students also came.... I counted nearly 200 rice boxes, and only more than 30 minutes after the stall was opened, all of them were sold out. Many people came late and could not buy the rice, which was a pity.

"Next week when you are free, can you come here to sell rice with us?" T. suggested. Then he and his friends said goodbye to me.

“Definitely,” I confirmed and looked at the four energetic, young men who were quickly going back to their daily work.

By Dinh Hoang Xuan Hong