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By Minh San
“Going back home after an exhausting tour, my greatest happiness is to cook favourite dishes. This seemingly feminine hobby has encouraged me to overcome numerous challenges of the stage.” – Comedian Truong Giang.
Under the shade of old trees on Tran Quoc Thao Street in Ho Chi Minh City is a nostalgic restaurant called Mười Khó Quán. Originally from Quang Ngai, a coastal province in Central Vietnam, Truong Giang’s style is frugal and simple-hearted. When he opened the restaurant, he decided that it would be rustic, with bamboo furniture and unpainted walls that would bring customers closer to nature. All the kitchen utensils, dishes, bowls and clay cookers come from Binh Duong pottery village. This ambience is one of familiar nostalgia.
All the men in Giang’s family are good cooks, and his father is the best. In difficult times, they made use of any available ingredients to make traditional dishes. “These included water dropwort, feather back fish soup with star fruit, sour bamboo served with herbs,” explained restaurant manager Mr. Truong, Truong Giang’s brother. He notes that one dish customers adore is steamed mackerel rolled with water morning glory and served with fish sauce and fresh chili.
Two typical breakfasts from the Central Vietnam are Quang noodles and Hue beef noodle soup. Made by the Quang Ngai people, they have very distinct tastes. By preparing the ingredients carefully, and following a secret recipe, these dishes become more colourful, fragrant and tasty. Clients find them special and different from the original recipes created in Bay Hien weaving village. Another highlight in the restaurant is the eye-catching green area inside where herbs are grown, including perilla leaf, elsholtzia, coriander, cinnamon, lemongrass, and citronella. These fresh elements enhance the flavour of food at Mười Khó Quán.
If one day you and your family visit Mười Khó Quán, you may find boss Truong Giang teaching his employees how to serve clients or you may see him waiting tables, or even helming the kitchen as chef.
It is surprising to find that behind the spotlight of such a complicated and famous comedian there is such a simple dream.