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Obama eats 'bun cha' on first night in Hanoi

Tuesday, May 24, 2016, 07:47 GMT+7
Obama eats 'bun cha' on first night in Hanoi
U.S. President Barack Obama has dinner at a 'bun cha' store in Hanoi with chef Anthony Bourdain on May 23, 2016.

U.S. President Barack Obama ate one of Hanoi’s must-try delicacies for dinner on his first night in the Vietnamese capital on Monday, after revealing in the morning that he also wants to sip the flagship Vietnamese coffee, ca phe sua da.

The U.S. leader and members of his delegation arrived at Huong Lien, a well-established place, to eat bun cha, or rice noodles with grilled pork and meatballs at 8:00 pm on Monday night.

There he was greeted by the eatery owner at the door, and was immediately recognized by other diners shortly after stepping into the establishment on Le Van Huu Street.

President Obama shook hands with the owner and waved at the other diners, some of whom were not going to miss such a rare photo-op.

After the short introductions, Obama and his entourage moved upstairs to a special reserved section for them to try the delicacy. VnExpress said the U.S. leader had two dishes and two bottles of beer.

Obama left the eatery at 9:00 pm, having shaken hands with locals before departure. Onlookers standing along Ngo Thi Nham, Pho Hue and Le Van Huu also greeted him with great applause.

Photo: Tuoi Tre

Lien, the owner of the eatery, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that someone had come to her establishment to “inspect” the premises and made a reservation for dinner including 50 dishes for “an American film crew.”

Lien and her family were not aware that the U.S. head of state would dine at her eatery until Monday night, and were originally expecting the film crew.

Ngoc Anh, Lien’s daughter-in-law, said Obama was very friendly.

“Because the dish was too small, the meatball dropped out of Obama’s dish but he just looked at me smiling and took the food back,” Anh said.

Huong Lien first opened in 1993 and has since been run by several generations of the family. The eatery has been popular with locals for more than two decades.


A photo showing the U.S. president at the bun cha store, posted by American celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, broke the Internet in Vietnam.

On his Facebook, Bourdain said "The President's chopstick skills are on point," adding he "picked up the check" for the $6 dinner.

The chef also described the dinner with the U.S. leader writing "[sitting on] low plastic stool, [enjoying] cheap but delicious noodles, cold Hanoi beer."

Photo: Anthony Bourdain/Instagram

President Obama arrived in Hanoi on Sunday night for a three-day official visit to Vietnam. On his first day, the U.S. leader met with Vietnam’s top officials, including President Tran Dai Quang and Chairwoman of the lawmaking National Assembly Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan in the morning, followed by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong in the afternoon.

Speaking at a conference after the talks with his Vietnamese counterpart, Obama said he would like to try Vietnamese iced milk coffee.

“I look forward to the opportunity to meet with the Vietnamese people… Maybe I will try some ca phe sua da,” he said, using the accurate name of the drink in Vietnamese.

Photo: Reuters

While bun cha is a dish typical of Hanoi and northern cuisine, ca phe sua da is the flagship coffee of southern Vietnam, especially Ho Chi Minh City.

Obama also told reporters in a Q&A session held after the conference that he hopes to be able to return to Vietnam with a more relaxing schedule.

“[Vietnam] is a remarkable and beautiful country,” Obama said.

“I told [President Quang] that unfortunately, when I visit, I usually have meetings all day long. So hopefully when I am no longer president I can come here with my family and I can spend a little more time to travel the country a little bit more and get to know the people and eat the food and have a more relaxing time.”

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