Obama's $6 meal with Anthony Bourdain stuns Vietnam street shop owner

Published: May 24, 2016
Obama and Anthony Bourdain meet up in Hanoi for some beer and bun cha. PHOTO: Instagram/AnthonyBourdain

Obama and Anthony Bourdain meet up in Hanoi for some beer and bun cha. PHOTO: Instagram/AnthonyBourdain

HANOI: She has ladled out countless bowls of her pork noodle soup, but the owner of a Hanoi streetside restaurant says she was stunned when Barack Obama strolled in, pulled up a plastic stool and slurped down Vietnam’s famed “bun cha” delicacy.

The US president slipped away from his hectic Vietnam visit on Monday night to sample the dish with Anthony Bourdain, a chef and food critic who fronts a travel show about hidden culinary gems around the world.

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While 54-year-old restaurant owner Nguyen Thi Lien knew a foreign television crew was on the way, she had no idea they would be bringing a very special guest.

“His presence in our restaurant was a great surprise for my whole family, who could never have imagined it, even in our dreams,” she told AFP on Tuesday.

US Secret Service and local police closed down the streets surrounding Bun Cha Huong Lien eatery on Monday evening.

A large crowd gathered outside the restaurant, letting out a cheer as Obama exited.

Surrounded by a coterie of bodyguards, he stopped to greet excited locals, many capturing the moment on their phones, before being whisked away in his limousine.

“Obama was nice, smiling, cheerful and popular with everyone,” the shop’s owner told AFP, adding that she regretted not posing for a picture with the president.

Bourdain posted a picture of the dinner on his Instagram feed with the caption “The President’s chopstick skills are on point”.

It showed the two sitting on tiny plastic stools that are a common feature of Vietnamese street restaurants, Obama clasping a bottle of Hanoi Beer in his right hand.

Local diners could be seen sitting at stainless steel tables behind the pair tucking in to their own steaming bowls of broth, one wearing an American-style black baseball cap.

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“Total cost of bun cha dinner with the President: $6.00. I picked up the check,” Bourdain, who is renowned for his love of cheap streetside food, later tweeted.

Vietnam is known for its fresh ingredients and healthy cuisine but Obama’s choice of bun cha, which with its fatty pork and sweet broth is at the more gluttonous end of the country’s culinary spectrum, might have raised the eyebrows of his wife Michelle who has long campaigned for healthy eating.


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Reader Comments (5)

  • bogus
    May 24, 2016 - 4:53PM

    Amazing transformation in relationships. They went from being enemies with zero trade to Presidential visits and having more trade with USA than Pakistan. Trade growth is expected to continue at significant rate – especially since bans on military sales are now removed. Recommend

  • Avtar
    May 24, 2016 - 4:55PM

    It was nice of Obama to go and sample street food. Way to go!Recommend

  • Buzzkill
    May 24, 2016 - 10:04PM

    That’s our President, just a nice & humble guy who appreciates simpler things in life.Recommend

  • cuke
    May 25, 2016 - 2:38AM

    Obama travels to a country which was at war with USA that cost the lives of millions of Vietnamese – and he is received with open arms and is comfortable enough to eat an a street side cafe. Compare that with his relationship with Pakistan – his supposed ally. Recommend

  • rich
    May 25, 2016 - 8:22AM

    the indian effect

    once india got close to Vietnam, US followed, bec usa know india chooses wisely, who can and cannot be trusted

    same with iran, bec india is close to iran and refused to abandon it, usa and west followed suit

    infact usa, the west, Vietnam, japan, india, Burma, Thailand, korea, iran afghan, south Africa, even Egypt are natural allies

    think about itRecommend

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