Every weeknight in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, a heartwarming scene unfolds at a noodle shop that generously serves free bowls to the underprivileged.
The shop, situated at 16A Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street in the district, operates from 8:00 pm to 9:30 pm every weekday.
When Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper’s reporters visited the noodle shop in early November, the busiest person in the entire establishment was undoubtedly Cao Thi Hoa, a 62-year-old resident of the same district.
Hoa said that she used to earn a living from a food stall, but now she volunteers to cook for the poor -- an act of kindness she carries out night after night simply because it brings her joy.
Her heart warms at the sight of gig workers, sanitation workers, lottery vendors, and more, all crowding into the tiny shop to enjoy a bowl of noodles that she cooked.
Some were so ravenous that they asked for a second serving.
Hoa is not the only one who feels this way, as dozens of volunteers in the shop take turns preparing ingredients, washing dishes, and clearing tables.
It is exhausting work, but their spirits remain undaunted, fueled by the simple joy derived from helping others.
One of Hoa’s customers on that night was Le Nho Yen, a 65-year-old lottery vendor from central Quang Nam Province.
“A bowl of noodles like this normally costs from VND35,000 [US$1.44] to VND40,000 [$1.64],” said Yen.
|Le Nho Yen enjoys a bowl of noodles at a charity noodle shop on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, November 2023. Photo: Thuy Duong / Tuoi Tre|
In his worn-out attire, Yen shared that before discovering the noodle shop, he could only afford to reward his long day peddling lottery tickets with a single bundle of sticky rice costing VND10,000 ($0.41).
This meager meal left his throat dry.
“I am so grateful for the people doing this,” the man said, his eyes misty.
“There are still many good people in real life.”
Also in the shop that night was Hai, a 28-year-old deliveryman for Shopee, an e-commerce platform.
“The shop brings about a feeling of warmth and positive thoughts for laborers like me,” Hai said.
“I will recommend this place to others in need.”
He added that he was in a tight spot that night; otherwise, he would have preferred to leave this opportunity for the less fortunate.
The individual who initiated the free noodle shop said that the inspiration to take action struck after he had repeatedly witnessed weary, downtrodden people eating modest meals in bus stops at night.
“Those facing challenging times and anyone seeking a bit of warmth are welcome inside our noodle shop,” said the shop owner, who chose to stay anonymous.
Ho Tien Huy, deputy chairman of the People’s Committee of Da Kao Ward in District 1, praised the shop as an act of charity aimed at assisting those in need.
“Therefore, the ward will give its full support,” Huy stated.