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This vegan buffet in Saigon lets customers decide what they think their meal is worth

Thursday, June 09, 2022, 13:49 GMT+7
This vegan buffet in Saigon lets customers decide what they think their meal is worth
A diner puts money into a box at Man Tu Vegan at 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City during peak hours. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

A vegan buffet in Ho Chi Minh City is letting customers name their price.

Man Tu Vegan, located at 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai in District 1, has served its vegan buffet for the past five years.

The buffet typically features more than 30 dishes.

Do Thi Ngoc Phuong, 39, spends much of her own money running the venue.

Phuong centers her life around the 'pay it forward' attitude she adopted after a stranger gave her a free box of food when she had been penniless and starving for three days at a bus station.

“I’ve run this place since 2017,” Phuong shared.

“I had to borrow money to open the restaurant and I’ve even sold land to keep the business going.

“In 2019, I launched my fifth restaurant, but COVID-19 forced me to close all but one.” 

Man Tu Vegan has 20 staff members and serves more than 1,000 diners each day. 

That number can balloon to 3,000 on weekends and holidays.

Service hours at Man Tu Vegan are from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

Staffers prepare vegan food at Man Tu Vegan at 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News
Staffers prepare vegan food at Man Tu Vegan at 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

A staff member makes vegan ‘banh xeo’ (Vietnamese sizzling crepes) at Man Tu Vegan at 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

A staff member makes vegan ‘banh xeo’ (Vietnamese sizzling crepes) at Man Tu Vegan at 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

“We operate on the model that those who have more money pay for those who have less money,” Phuong said.

“Everyone can contribute as much as they can, it doesn’t matter how much they pay.

“I’ve been through difficulties so I have faith that everything has its consequences, I choose to plant my seed of love here.

“Everyone has troubles after being hit by the pandemic, I’m trying my best to keep this going.

“I believe that if I do my best, there will be people who will join me to help bring meals to everyone.”

Diners choose food at the buffet line at Man Tu Vegan at 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Diners choose food at the buffet line at Man Tu Vegan at 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Nguyen Thi Ha An, a student from the University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Ho Chi Minh City, learned about Phuong’s restaurant on social media.

“The place is big and the food is great. A wide range of dishes are served here,” she said.

“I think it’s meaningful for people to pay what they wish.

"When I come here, I pay a price that is affordable to me.

“Those who have more money pay more so that those who have less money but still wish to have a good meal can pay less.”

A staff member prepares vegan food at Man Tu Vegan at 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

A staff member prepares vegan food at Man Tu Vegan at 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Diners choose food at the buffet line at Man Tu Vegan at 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Diners choose food at the buffet line at Man Tu Vegan at 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Diners choose food at the buffet line at Man Tu Vegan at 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Diners choose food at the buffet line at Man Tu Vegan at 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Diners at Man Tu Vegan at 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City during peak hours. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Diners at Man Tu Vegan at 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City during peak hours. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Vegan food is seen at at Man Tu Vegan at 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Vegan food is seen at Man Tu Vegan at 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Vegan ‘banh xeo’ (Vietnamese sizzling crepes) is served at Man Tu Vegan at 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Vegan ‘banh xeo’ (Vietnamese sizzling crepes) are served at Man Tu Vegan at 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Vegan ‘banh khot’ (Vietnamese mini pancakes) are served at Man Tu Vegan at 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Vegan ‘banh khot’ (Vietnamese mini pancakes) are served at Man Tu Vegan at 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Vegan food is seen at at Man Tu Vegan at 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Vegan food is seen at Man Tu Vegan at 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

A sign asks diners to clean up and sort their eating utensils after finishing their meals at Man Tu Vegan at 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City during peak hours. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

A sign asks diners to sort their eating utensils after finishing their meals at Man Tu Vegan at 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City during peak hours. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Diners enjoy food at Man Tu Vegan at 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Diners enjoy food at Man Tu Vegan at 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

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