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Vietnam veggie shop offers free meals inspired by Italy’s ‘suspended coffees’

Monday, October 12, 2015, 16:47 GMT+7
Vietnam veggie shop offers free meals inspired by Italy’s ‘suspended coffees’

The owner of a vegetarian food shop in southern Vietnam along with his overseas Vietnamese friend have recently adopted a charity model which hinges on the Italian tradition of prepaid coffees.

The Huong Sen 2 vegetarian food shop, located on Cach Mang Thang Tam Street in Thu Dau Mot City, the heart of Binh Duong Province, is normally packed with diners, particularly Buddhists.

The city is approximately 30 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City.

The shop offers delectable dishes, including “hu tieu” (rice noodles with meat and broth), for VND16,000 (US$0.7) apiece.

However, over the past month, the shop has offered so-called “suspended rice and hu tieu” on a daily basis.

Clusters of numbered tags are seen near the shelves where food is displayed.

A notice reads that if such tags remain on their hooks, poor people, including peddlers, can order a “suspended portion” which they do not have to pay for.

As such whenever a helping is given away, a tag is removed from its hook.

Pham Van Luan, 31, the shop owner, said that a Vietnamese-American friend whom he got to know online, introduced him to the long-existing Italian model of “sospeso” (suspended coffee), in which a customer pays in advance for a person who cannot afford a cup of coffee.

When better-off customers enter a cafe and order a cup of coffee, they do not pay for just one, but for two cups, allowing someone less fortunate to have a cup of coffee for free, according to

The barista keeps a log and serves poor customers with free cups of coffee. In this charity model, donors and recipients never meet each other. The donor does not show off and the recipient does not have to express their gratitude.

Apart from philanthropic customers’ contributions, Luan’s overseas friend donates VND10,000 ($0.4) for each “suspended portion,” while Luan pays the remaining VND6,000.

Luan is careful to ensure that all paid and prepaid portions are served with equal respect.


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