Minh believes that health is a person’s most precious asset, but one that does not receive due attention. Several cooking mistakes can put one’s health in danger: cooking food at high temperatures for too long, reusing oil or storing food for many hours can increase the risks of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Besides unsafe and unhygienic food, poor-quality pans also adversely affect consumers’ health.
"You can only live a long life when your intestines are clean and you have a healthy diet. According to Japanese American doctor Hiromi Shinya, author of the popular book The Enzyme Factor, strong people are those who have well-functioning gastrointestinal system, and on the contrary, poor heath is often seen in people with weak intestines. A healthy person often dreams of many things: money, fame, successful career. But once you are sick in bed, you only dream of good health,” Minh said.
Several years ago, Minh’s son-in-law in the U.S. told him about using a stainless pot to cook broth at his pho restaurant. After a year, the pot broke. That was the result from daily destruction by salt and acid from the broth. During the process, the eroded metal is consumed by the body.
After brewing coffee and cooking food with metal, clay and ceramics pots, Minh realized the pots’ materials caused the food to taste and smell different, significantly.
For long, clay pots have been favored by professional chefs because clay is not eroded by the acid and alkaline in foods cooked at high temperatures, and it does not release toxic metals. Many Vietnamese classic dishes are best prepared in clay pots. But then, clay products have certain limitations, including poor heat conductivity and tendency to crack.
Minh made it his own mission to create a new porcelain pot with consumers’ health in mind. The pot has to overcome the limits of traditional porcelain products. He named it “macrobiotic pot.”
“We cannot control external impacts such as the weather and the environment, but we can control what we put into our body by minding the ways we prepare our food.”
For 14 years, Minh was looking for a material that does not carry poisoning risks, can sustain high temperatures, and save cooking time and energy.
More than 10 years ago, porcelain had returned as a global trend, with many universities and research units introducing different kinds of pots. But they were all of the kind that was not very good with heat conductivity and temperature shock. Minh traveled to different porcelain workshops. At a major company in China, he was offered the copyright to pottery pots with high heat resistance for $250,000. But they were not porcelain product.
“If they can do it, so can I,” Minh thought. “I have to create THE pot, and I have to come up with a perfect combination of ingredients that can liberate households and make their cooking experience the happiest possible.”
So porcelain artisan Ly Ngoc Minh traveled the world, learned pottery techniques from different countries, read books and learned from the experience of families who’d spent generations making pottery. Everywhere he went, he tried the clay with his own hands to look for the really precious one. “Only when we find the essence of Mother Nature can we make a high-end porcelain product and cook the best food. Natural soil does not contain toxins and does not generate cancerous substances when cooked at high temperatures, and it can retain the taste and nutrition without the need of water.”
After he found the right soil, he started to work on the glaze that does not have side effects or wear off due to high temperatures, and is strong enough to protect the pot from cracking. He spent time looking for ways to increase the heat effects of the pot so that food can be cooked faster with most nutrition retained and the least poisons released.
He then spent years studying how to bake the pot for right amount of time, at the right temperature and pressure.
For 14 years, Minh and his team conducted thousands of tests in the lab as they looked for a material combining clay and glaze that had the desired characteristics of being light, safe and good at heating. The material had to ensure that food when fried or grilled at below 130 degrees Celsius could still be perfectly done, saving energy and reducing health risks, especially that of cancer.
In April 2018, holding a porcelain pot with high thermal transmission that did not need water in the cooking process, Minh spent some time admiring it. Only he knew he’d been sleepless the previous night.
Minh Long macrobiotic pots are produced mainly with kaolin, feldspar, quartz, clay and some precious minerals that Minh selected himself from within and outside Vietnam.
A set has a number pots and pans of different sizes and different purposes: pans, a kettle, and four macrobiotic pots with prices ranging from VND180,000 to around VND2 million apiece.
Minh said macrobiotic porcelain has been researched for different kinds of ovens, from microwaves, grills to electric, gas and induction cookers. All products can sustain temperature shock from zero to 800 degrees Celsius. They can be used for all kinds of food products, meat, fish, brown rice, vegetables and roots. And most importantly, they help retain the nutrition so that the dish has a perfect natural taste.
"I hope the consumers lead a healthy life, starting with eating healthy at home with macrobiotic pots which have transparent origin and verified quality. That’s the meaning of the macrobiotic pot,” said the owner of Southeast Asia’s biggest pottery company.
Minh Long’s first set of macrobiotic pots are of mossy green color.
A conversation with Minh’s youngest son many years ago was the starting point for the product line. Buu, then 7, asked his father if he knew how to realize clean soil. The father was puzzled, he had never thought of that.
- When there are lichens, the soil is clean, dad.
- The book says so, that moss is really scared of pollution, and it only lives in clean and unpolluted places.
Buu spent a lot of time with science books, he loved clean places and he called mossy green the color of purity.
So mossy green became the theme color of the set of porcelain pots in the line of healthy products. That’s how Minh showed his son that he loves him, just like his own mother poured her love on him with each simple meal that she cooked dozens of years ago. His family still continues to make those dishes now, but for Minh, what she made was still the best.
Love is not just spoken. Love is action.
To Minh, making high-end pottery is a game. If one sees that as a business, they will have to bang their heads with loss and profit calculations. But when it’s a game, one can play with all his heart and dreams to reach the highest achievement and not get stuck with the question of how much money he would make. Only when one clears money burden out of the way can he reach the final success.
Standing in front of his pottery workshop of more than 100,000 square meters, Minh said he sees a bright road ahead for Vietnamese pottery. Besides the pots, his team has plans to make many more healthy products. He wants to use health and prosperity to win his company a strong stand in the business. “I don’t want to copy anyone or repeat myself. I believe that a good product will always be on firm ground in the market.”
Outlining his vision and passion, he said: “My biggest dream in life is to make products with outstanding quality that no one else has made. First, it is to provide a better life for everyone. Second, it is to make everyone feel the joy and happiness that I have had.”
Minh’s family left Tan Thanh Village in 1978, when he was just a boy.
Now he takes his children and grandchildren to visit the village every once in a while. His old house is still there, the Tan Khanh Stream has become a small drain, and the whole village has become a richer, more crowded community. Manual pottery kilns exist no longer. They have been banned due to environment concerns.
Minh still treasures his hard childhood in the once tiny village, where he grew up in a simple life which was full of love.
He remembers the old days of being taken care of by his parents, who were the first to teach him a major life lesson: Life starts with health and health starts with how you eat. And all of us, who grow up with love, can receive healthy gifts from nature if we know how to.