President Obama, Bun Cha & Huong Lien

President Obama, Bun Cha & Huong Lien

Writer Seong Hee Lee, ’19


On a hot Friday afternoon in Hanoi, Vietnam, I went to a Bun Cha (traditional Hanoi rice noddle soup) restaurant, Huong Lien with my dad. There are thousands of Bun Cha restaurants in Hanoi. But my dad and I specially chose Huong Lien, the very restaurant that President Barack Obama and star chef Anthony Bourdain dined in on May 24th.

When my dad and I arrived at Huong Lien, it was buzzing with people coming in and out through a single narrow entrance. We squeezed through and found ourselves greeted by the rich scent of noodle soup and grilled pork. The inside of the restaurant was so crowded that there were no seats left at all. We had to go up to the 2nd floor. As we walked up the narrow flight of stairs a young waiter holding a large tray filled with noodles passed by while he hollered orders in Vietnamese. Another waitress with a tray full of something like fried dumplings came down the stairway. Everyone seemed to be in such a hurry no one noticed that my dad and I still didn’t have any seats.


“Two people please,” said my dad to a sweating waitress. She looked up at us and gave us a sorry-smile. “Sorry, wait a moment,” she said as she spoke something in Vietnamese to the waiter passing by. A few moments later, he summoned us in the room on the right. As I sat down I noticed about five pictures of President Obama hanging up on the walls. President Obama with Huong Lien’s owner, President Obama coming out of the restaurant and on to my side was the menu that read “Obama Combo.” Obama Combo was the only menu that the store sold. Obama Combo consisted of Bun Cha which is grilled pork, fried seafood rolls and Hanoi Beer.


We ordered and after a few minutes the food came out. As I took countless pictures. The food was not exactly what I would call a president’s meal. It was pretty greasy and tasted nothing like the fresh pho noodles that I had eaten in Vietnam during my trip. It tasted like Korean Bul-Go-Gi but much more greasy because of the fried seafood rolls.


I wondered why president Obama decided to visit this particular local restaurant when he could have visited a fancy hotel buffet. Food and Politics is my opinion in why he visited Huong Lien, a small local restaurant in the heart of Hanoi. Vietnam has Anti- American Sentiment left over because of the Vietnam War. Maybe the president’s visit to Huong Lien was to soothe the relations between Vietnam and America. Whatever the intentions were, it is an inevitable fact that after the president’s visit, the restaurant is buzzing with people non-stop.


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