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Hanoi's Hot-Tempered 'Bún Chửi' Vendor Featured on Anthony Bourdain's CNN Show

Anthony Bourdain is probably the favored culinary Midas among Vietnamese vendors, as it seems that every bowl of bún he touches turns to gold.

Last month, the American chef and TV host won the hearts of Vietnamese citizens nationwide after his casual hangout with President Obama during the American leader’s first-ever Vietnam trip. The presidential visit single-handedly earned Bun Cha Huong Lien a place on every jet-setter’s must-visit list and revived Bia Hanoi’s entire brand image.

Bourdain’s bún chả meal with POTUS was in fact part of an episode of the former's travel show, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, which recently aired to mixed reactions in Vietnam. According to CNN, apart from Huong Lien, the documentary also features a range of other Hanoian delicacies such as bún ốc, bánh canh, bia hơi and most contentiously, a bún chửi stall referred to as “cussing noodles” on the show.

The cussing noodles eatery is located on Hanoi’s Ngo Si Lien, where the owner serves spicy pig knuckle bún every day. Bourdain seemed fascinated by the main chef, a middle-aged lady with a cantankerous demeanor and admitted that the stall was more famous for her straightforward and, at times, outright rude exchanges with customers.

The clip received a whole spectrum of responses from local netizens. Some were proud to see their usual lunch spot being introduced to a wider audience, but most took issue with the chef’s choice to eat there, reports Tuoi Tre. Commenters are of the opinion that the spot is not representative of Hanoi’s food scene and the harsh words of the owner are too mean-spirited, thus tainting Vietnam's image in the eyes of prospective tourists.

This assessment of the vendor is not baseless, as there have been many personal anecdotes from past customers about the Ngo Si Lien bún stall. Even in the Parts Unknown episode, a customer is shown requesting mọc, or meatballs, for her portion of bún, only to be scolded by the owner: “My stall doesn’t serve mọc. If you want some just go to the market, or even better, make them yourself at home. I don’t make it here. Go away.”

In an interview with The Thao & Van Hoa, CafeBiz reports, the woman shared that she has been in the business since 1984. She has a daughter and a son, while her husband passed away due to weak health. The tough-as-nails chef, however, is not oblivious to the criticism of her demeanor.

“I am hot-tempered. When the stall is too crowded, if any customers make too many demands, I do scold them and hurl insults at them,” she told the news source. “I’m not sure when people started calling the stall ‘cussing noodles’, but in retrospect, I know that sometimes I went overboard with my treatment of my staff and customers.”

“However, ever since the media started reporting [about the stall], our foot traffic has doubled,” she added.

She also mentioned that recently many friends have advised her to tone down the casual insults after seeing media features portraying her in a bad light. “Some [customers] are nice but some complain. But I think, now that I’m getting old I should pay more attention on how to treat customers, friends and staff,” the chef told the news source. “Most importantly, now that I have two grandkids, one from each child, I should be a role model to them.”

Have a peek at Hanoi's infamous bún chửi eatery on Bourdain's show, courtesy of Tuoi Tre, below:

[Photo via Tuoi Tre]

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[Video] President Obama and Anthony Bourdain Bond Over Bún Chả in Hanoi

[Video] How Obama’s Bún Chả Dinner Came to Be

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