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How Anthony Bourdain changed fate of 'banh mi' stall in Vietnam's Hoi An

Friday, August 04, 2023, 16:41 GMT+7
How Anthony Bourdain changed fate of 'banh mi' stall in Vietnam's Hoi An
A picture of Anthony Bourdain and Phillipe Lajaunie eating 'banh mi' is seen at the entrance of Banh Mi Phuong shop in Hoi An, central Vietnam. Photo: Truong Trung / Tuoi Tre

More than a decade ago, American celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain visited a little stall selling banh mi at a market in Hoi An, central Vietnam and it was game-changing.

In 2007, Banh Mi Phuong was already a well-known name among local residents in Hoi An Ancient Town and Bourdain was advised to give it a try during his trip to Vietnam. 

He did visit the stall but it took him two years to come back with his team to feature the stall and its banh mi on his show of 'Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.'

Bourdain and restaurateur Phillipe Lajaunie celebrated banh mi at the stall for its mix of flavors from the crispy bread filled with liver pate, cucumber, mayo, egg, and other ingredients.

“That’s a symphony in a sandwich,” Bourdain commented. 

The two-minute showcase on the show turned the spotlight on the little banh mi stall at Hoi An Market, drawing attention from foodies around the world. 

About a year after Bourdain's visit, Banh Mi Phuong became crowded with foreign visitors.

Truong Thi Phuong, the stall owner, seemed to have no idea why.

“I was happy that people came and filmed my stall but I did not think much of it because I had no idea who he was,” Phuong recently recalled. 

“I was confused as many foreigners came and asked to take photos with me.

“The Internet was not popular then, so everyone was very curious about what was happening.”

Phuong later found out the reason after a relative of hers, who was studying abroad, told her that she was featured in the renowned American show.

Truong Thi Phuong, owner of Banh Mi Phuong in Hoi An City, holds a book she was gifted by Anthony Bourdain. Photo: Truong Trung / Tuoi Tre

Truong Thi Phuong, the owner of Banh Mi Phuong in Hoi An, central Vietnam, holds a book she was gifted by Anthony Bourdain. Photo: Truong Trung / Tuoi Tre

Thanks to her TV debut, Banh Mi Phuong later continued to be spotlighted on TV channels and in travel magazines, with its banh mi being mentioned as one of the best street foods in the world.

After more than a decade, Phuong moved her stall from the market to a bigger shop on Phan Chau Trinh Street.

The venue has become a must-visit place for anyone in Hoi An. 

Staff make banh mi at Banh Mi Phuong shop in Hoi An City, Vietnam. Photo: Truong Trung / Tuoi Tre

Staff make 'banh mi' at Banh Mi Phuong shop in Hoi An, central Vietnam. Photo: Truong Trung / Tuoi Tre

Banh Mi Phuong has even been franchised to a partner in South Korea. 

In honor and gratitude, Phuong hung a photo of Bourdain and Lajaunie eating banh mi in front of her former stall at the market at the entrance of her current shop.

The picture also signals the quality of a stall selling the delightful banh mi that won the heart of the legendary Bourdain.

According to Phuong, before Bourdain passed away in France in 2018, he and Lajaunie came back a few times for the banh mi at her place.

They also joined her on a trip to the local market for ingredients.

"I showed them the full process of making the banh mi’s fillings as well as how to make some local dishes so that they could cook when they’re home, but every time we met again, they admitted that they couldn't make it as tasty as I did,” Phuong joyfully recalled.

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Truong Trung - Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

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