Culture Culture

10/05/2022 - 08:49

Bun Bo Hue not only in Saijo

In addition to the story of 9,000 sets of Bun Bo Hue - Hue Beef Noodle, put on the menu for students in Saijo (Japan), there are Vietnamese people who have quietly brought this dish to the land of Phu Tang from meals for invited guests to special dishes in the restaurant system.

Sharing the joy

These days, the story of Bun Bo Hue being included in the lunch menus of students from 35 elementary and middle schools in Saijo City, Ehime province, Japan has made a lot of Hue people happy.

According to NHK Broadcasting (Japan), this is the decision of the Mayor of Saijo City - Toshihisa Tamai, that aims to attract the attention of students to Hue - the city that has built a friendly relationship with Saijo for the past 4 years.

Bun bo Hue for lunch in Japan. Photo: A.Thu

After the Japanese media reported the news, a lot of information was quoted and spread. Typing the keyword "Bun Bo Hue in Saijo" on the Google search bar gave 55,000 results within 0.72 seconds. Bun Bo Hue is not only a favorite dish associated with the land of the Perfume River, Mount Ngu Binh, it is now a familiar dish of many Vietnamese people also. Try looking up the phrase "Bun Bo Hue" on Google; within 0.61 seconds, there were 6,000,000 results found, including recipes, place-to-try list, historical information, and other search results.

Receiving the news of Bun Bo Hue coming to Saijo, Hue people and Vietnamese people living in the land of cherry blossoms shared the same joy. This time in Japan is the golden week holiday (late April - early May), people are having fun travelling, and the atmosphere is busier than usual.

Ms. Thien Trang, who lives in Tokyo, Japan, proudly shared: "Bun Bo Hue is a familiar dish of Vietnamese people, so, when more people know about Bun Bo Hue, I feel happy too. Having lived in Japan for 4 years, now my friends in Japan are curious about this dish a lot, so I have the opportunity to share my knowledge and even make an appointment to cook this dish for guests on holidays."

Meanwhile, Ms. Anh Thu, a Hue native in Japan, was very excited to share information about Bun Bo Hue broadcasted through NHK Broadcasting. She said that when her daughter, Bao Bao, went to school, teachers and friends asked about the special dish in Hue. Many classmates boasted that they had eaten Bun Bo Hue cooked by Bao Bao's mother when coming over to celebrate her birthday.

The story brings Ms. Thu back to the time of more than 10 years ago; Ms. Thu shared: "In 2011, when I arrived in Japan, I met and invited Japanese friends to my house for a meal; I cooked some Vietnamese dishes including Bun Bo Hue. What surprised me was that the Japanese friends were all interested and enjoyed eating it. Since then, my family has tried to cook this dish regularly to introduce and promote the quintessence of hometown cuisine."

“My hometown” Bun Bo

Chef cooking Bun Bo Hue in the land of cherry blossoms. Photo: T. Nam

Not only was Bun Bo Hue introduced through friendly cultural activities, but some people have also quietly promoted Hue's famous dishes in many ways, including the restaurant system "My hometown" of Mr. Le Phuoc Tuan Nam, a Hue person, who established a career in Japan.

Most Japanese people knew the first Vietnamese dish to be Pho; besides, there were spring rolls and Banh xeo… When he came to live and work in Matsunaga district, Fukuyama city, Mr. Nam opened a system of Vietnamese restaurants entitled "My hometown," in which Bun Bo Hue is included on the main menu.

Introducing a new dish, with layers of smells and tastes like Bun Bo Hue to Japanese diners, is an arduous journey. As the founder of the "My hometown" restaurant chain recalled, it was both sincerity and patience that "moved the guest's heart."

The first was to invite guests for free trials. Next, have the image of Bun Bo Hue appeared on the TV program; and, even grew fresh lemongrass in the restaurant so that customers could easily imagine the aroma and sweetness of the dish. The main restaurant, which started operating in 2018, only sold Bun Bo Hue on Saturdays and Sundays. When the Vietnamese head chef was invited to work in the restaurant, "My hometown" officially opened in March 2020.

Wanting to bring the original taste of the homeland and harmonize the taste of dishes for customers in a new land, the company, the restaurant department, and especially the kitchen department have collected ideas and accumulated experience to conduct the best recipe for Bun Bo Hue that would be common to all restaurants in the system. Even the process such as shrimp paste extract filtration, using fish sauce, mincing lemongrass ... all were carefully considered so that everyone can eat and enjoy the delicious meal. 

Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurant introduced Bun Bo Hue as a dish to strengthen the immune system, recovering health with flavors - medicinal herbs of lemongrass, red onion, pepper, and a little ginger in the recipe of the broth. 

Serving Bun Bo Hue at "My hometown" restaurant. Photo: T.Nam

Nguyen Thanh Duy, a chef at the restaurant "My hometown" said: "We also introduce in-season cilantro, coriander, and herbs to our customers. The staff's understanding in serving diners is also demonstrated so that guests would love the food and not be surprised by the taste of vegetables. We had to distinguish between Southeast Asian customers who would be served unlimited vegetables, while for Japanese or other Asian customers, we had to serve them more carefully."

According to the manager of the restaurant "My hometown" No. 2 in Motomachi district, Fukuyama City - Mr. Mai Van Van, Bun Bo Hue is a favorite dish not only for Japanese customers but also for Chinese and Korean customers. “The set of Bun Bo Hue and braised pork - white rice is the most ordered lunch set. Vietnamese customers came to support and commented that Bun Bo Hue here is very delicious.”

"In the past, the restaurant usually closed on Mondays, but now the Japanese office and the nearby committee has been coming for lunch frequently, so "My Hometown" restaurant is open for a whole week without a day off," Mr. Van boasted. 

Mr. Le Phuoc Tuan Nam, General Director of BKN Company, owner of the restaurant system "My Hometown" could not hide his joy when looking back on the journey of bringing hometown food to the foreign country.

He said: "After all these years of working in the restaurant industry, I feel that Bun Bo Hue is very popular. Every time a customer asks about the history of this dish, I say it's the traditional dish where I was born; the culinary quintessence of the motherland has raised me. After lots of efforts, my wife and I have now picked sweet fruits from sowing the seeds of Hue cuisine in the land of Japan."

In a recent seminar on culinary, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Viet Nam to Japan Vu Hong Nam recounted the story of 2018 when he carried 500 bowls of Pho over 1,000 km to Hokkaido to introduce them to local people. A year later, Hokkaido has more Vietnamese restaurants and now has a Vietnamese restaurant system.

The quintessence of Japanese cuisine is excellent; making Vietnamese dishes well-received is not easy. The story of the Ambassador and the journey to turn Bun Bo Hue into a favorite dish of "My Hometown" suggested a way to promote the cuisine in a foreign country, which was the story not only about a dish but also about the story of cultural diplomacy.

By Tue Ninh