World leaders find Vietnam street dining ambience irresistible

By Di Vy   February 27, 2019 | 12:37 am PT
Obama, Trudeau, Turnbull and Prince William are among celebrities drawn to streetside eateries and cafes in Vietnam. 
When Vietnamese food boosts world leaders culinary experience (unedited) 

Photo by mgift


One afternoon in November 2017, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Vy Café on Le Thanh Ton Street in HCMC’s District 1 and had a coffee and a chat with Nguyen Cong Hiep, a former employee of the Canadian consulate. Trudeau wore a white shirt with sleeves casually rolled up. 

At the café, he ordered a moka robusta that cost VND30,000 ($1.29) a cup. He sat on a small folding chair on the sidewalk with a plastic stool for a table like any regular Saigon coffee drinker. Trudeau’s visit made the shop hugely popular. 

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Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

In November 2016, Britain’s Prince William was spotted in a café very similar to Vy on a sidewalk in Hanoi’s Pho Bac Street during his first trip to Vietnam.

He was with pop star Hong Nhung (pink outfit), popular musician Thanh Bui and actor Xuan Bac, who were ambassadors for a wildlife protection campaign in Vietnam.

After their coffee date, Prince William walked to the famous Ngoc Son Temple, Hanoi’s most visited temple on a small island on the Sword Lake in the heart of the capital city.

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Photo by VnExpress/Dac Thanh

Banh mi

When Vietnam hosted the APEC summit in Da Nang in November 2017, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull bought a $0.43 banh mi from a street vendor.

Banh mi is a baguette stuffed with anything from grilled pork, chicken, cold cuts, and cucumber slices, to cilantro, pickled carrots, liver pâté, and a swipe of mayonnaise and chili sauce.

He and chef Luke Nguyen, an Australian of Vietnamese origin, bought the sandwich while taking a stroll. They ate the banh mi sitting on a sidewalk stool. 

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Photo by VnExpress/Dac Thanh

Before leaving the shop, Turnbull shook hands with other banh mi eaters and locals and posed for several photos with them. 

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Photo courtesy of Anthony Bourdai’s Facebook Page.

Bun cha

In May 2016, despite his tight schedule, U.S. President Obama took time off for a relaxed dinner with the late chef Anthony Bourdain. They ordered a combo of a bun cha portion, a seafood fried roll and a Hanoi beer in a restaurant on Le Van Huu Street in Hai Ba Trung District.

A bun cha is a big bowl of savory, sweet and sour fish sauce with meatballs and thick pork slices served with a plate of white vermicelli.

Photo by Reuters

Photo by Reuters

Before leaving the restaurant, Obama shared a moment with the shop owners and fellow eaters and flashed a thumbs-up.

Obama and Bourdain’s visit put the restaurant on the tourist map and drew massive interest in the dish they had. The owners even named the combo after Obama. 

Photo by VnExpress/Huong Chi

Photo by VnExpress/Huong Chi

The restaurant has been around for more than 20 years. The bun cha here is famous for its distinct soft and thick nature and aroma. Bun cha is typically served with seafood spring rolls, crab spring rolls and grilled skewers.

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Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor


Bill Clinton’s historic visit to Vietnam in 2000 was spiced up with pho, Vietnam’s best known noodle dish. The occasion marked the former US President and his wife’s first visit to Vietnam, 25 years after the Vietnam War. The Clinton family visited the Pho Co restaurant near the Temple of Literature in Ba Dinh District. 

When the couple visited Saigon, they went to a pho shop near Ben Thanh Market in District 1. According to the restaurant owner, Clinton was genial and relaxed and took pictures with the staff. 

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