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25/02/2021 - 10:06

Startup bánh lọc

Daringly starting up with his paternal grandma's traditional bánh lọc (a small, clear, chewy tapioca dumpling with the filling of shrimp and pork belly; when eaten, it is dipped in a sweet chili fish sauce), Nguyen Duy Vi's "Bu's food" brand is valued at VND 6 billion. Bánh lọc is not only a business product but also offers the 8X young man from Hue in Saigon many business lessons...

Nguyen Duy Vi (right) and his associate discussing the slogans for the “online shop” product

“The most perfect pattern” not followed

Every year on the 2nd of Tet (Lunar New Year), the family of Bu (Nguyen Duy Vi's house nickname) gathers at his paternal house to eat unique bánh lọc made by his grandma to treat the children and grandchildren. Although not a delicacy, this Tet dish serves as a reminder of upholding the family tradition.

The paternal family is of royal descent; the grandma-made bánh lọc is quite strange: besides shrimp and pork, its filling has dried bamboo shoots.

Growing up, leaving the hometown with family for Ho Chi Minh City, Vi brought the memories of the unique Hue dishes made by his grandma. On the day when his grandma passed away, Vi wandered to the eateries but could not find the flavor of “grandma-made bánh lọc”.

“Apart from shrimp and pork, I miss the flavor of crispy, sweet bamboo shoots. The excellent treatment of acidity of bamboo shoots shows how delicate the grandma’s cookery is,” recalled Mr. Vi.

Luckily, as a bride, Vi's mother took pains to learn and therefore quickly grasped the essence of Hue cuisine from the paternal grandma. In 2013, working as a marketing manager in tourism sector, he decided to "start up" - start a business with his family's unique bánh lọc.

It took Vi 6 months to develop from the original "recipe", to adjust the ratio of mixed flour, filling, steaming temperature ... for developing a larger-scale product. "Bu's bánh lọc" makes diners curious about the filling of shrimp, pork, chopped dried bamboo shoots, wood ear mushrooms. Bánh lọc costs VND 7 thousand each. Diners can eat bánh lọc with Hue-style spring rolls made by Bu.

Bu's bánh lọc with shrimp, pork, wood ear mushrooms and dried bamboo shoots

Ms. Tho Terasa, a customer who left feedback on the sales website "Bu's bánh lọc ", said, "Having been to the US for more than a decade, eating bánh lọc here, I can feel the flavor of homeland and enjoy the new taste of wood ear mushrooms, chopped dried bamboo shoots. This bold breakthrough, however, is suitable for diners’ taste. I ordered to bring to the US as a gift to my homeys.

In addition to "online" sale via Facebook, Now, GoViet ... Nguyen Duy Vi builds a workshop-cum-a distribution point at his own house in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. At the peak, one day he sells 3,000 units through the systems of online shops; customers who want to enjoy may have to wait a few days. The business survey shows that nearly 30% of customers return to this dish.

Bu's bánh lọc is not “petite”, “slender” like that in Hue Ancient Capital, but it is remembered for its “big” filling with two parts of flour and eight filled with shrimp, pork, mushrooms, and bamboo shoots.

Seeing that I was anxious about not following the original recipe of a dish that entered Hue people’s mind, Mr. Vi explained, “In the first three years, I received a lot of feedback, even outspoken about the filling. Then the diners asked to use sweet fish sauce instead of ruốc (shrimp paste) fish sauce... The problem is that if the traditional dishes are always the same, where is the prominence and competitiveness? My family's recipe of bánh lọc is handed down from generation to generation, retaining the characteristic of Hue, and I persevere with my direction.”

"I don't sell my brand"

The A1 ingredients are the meat selected from a well-known distribution channel in the supermarket; the imported ground shrimp alive, plus labor and investment… so, the profit per bánh lọc is modest. However, Nguyen Duy Vi can still achieve what his friends admire - that is, to raise the dish to a higher class and accustom diners to this.

While our conversation was alive with ideas, Mrs. Nguyen Thi Thu Ha, Vi's mother sometimes came back and forth to inquire; she also talked with customers who came to enjoy and take home. The chef of "Bu's Food" said reading the feedback from the sales system his son hands motivates his mom to enter the kitchen.

Talking about the startup bánh lọc, Mr. Vi’s eyes shine with pride in his mother. “When turning bánh lọc into a business line, my mom devotes her childhood passions to the dish. Unexpectedly, her health improves a lot. Bánh lọc might help her exercise regularly and increase the vitamin of "joy, zeal" every day.

Bu's bánh lọc brand is valued at VND 6 billion through the call for investment and cooperation. A hypothesis is suggested: If investors want to repurchase the brand at over VND 6 billion, Vi said, “I don’t sell my brand because it is the spiritual value of my family and gives me many other things more than money.  Bánh lọc keeps my mother happier.  Bánh lọc brings me more new relations and other business opportunities,” confided 8X boss.

To meet the overseas hand-carried orders by customers, Vi and his mother freeze bánh lọc for long-term preservation. Until now, Bu's bánh lọc has been brought by diners to 15 countries and territories. In order to export through official channels, many strict regulations on product quality must be satisfied, so there is a need to develop a long-term strategy for bánh lọc to officially enter the world market.

Operating in marketing, Nguyen Duy Vi creates very unique and witty slogans for his bánh lọc. Customers also took photos, redecorated Hue famous dish and sent him as a thank you.

After the COVID-19 pandemic, the owner of Bu’s Food is making the plan to restructure business for his brand with a type of bánh lọc with filling of fruits and vegetables  in line with the trend of green eating, clean living, and to open a takeaway bánh lọc shop like any other drinks ...

In the business story, Vi confided that his dream will not stop there; bánh lọc is just the start of his thirst for promoting and spreading Vietnamese cuisine together with Hue dishes. Why can the Chinese Dim Sum go so far, why is such a rich treasure of Hue cuisine so little known? He continues to develop himself a new strategy to adapt to the situation.

With the advantage of a marketer, the owner of Bu’s Food will surely bring as many surprises as he did with bánh lọc dish made by his paternal grandma.

Story and photos: T.Ninh 

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