September 17, 12:39
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“Most people know us from my two spring roll trucks in Rotterdam, but Mama Hong is much more than that,” says Thuan Nguyen, the driving force behind the concept bringing authentic Vietnamese cuisine to Lansingerland. Mama Hong’s success is closely linked to the history of Thuan (Twan) and his family, which is why he tells us how it all began.
After the Vietnam War, many Vietnamese fled. They went to sea in homemade wooden boats, as some of our relatives and my parents did with me in 1979. I was one year old, and my brother and sister had not yet been born. We spent twelve days at sea. The chance of survival was very slim, many people died at sea or fell prey to pirates, after which terrible things happened to them. My parents were able to get to Holland by detour – the Philippines – in part because my uncle was already living there. My father accidentally heard from someone in the Philippines that his brother had ended up in Holland. Uncle took care of our plane tickets and we came to live in Zoeterwoude.”
“My parents had absolutely nothing and had to get used to the cold Dutch winter. My dad wanted to do everything to build a life so that he could buy a house for his family and start learning Dutch as quickly as possible. Now that I’m an entrepreneur, I sometimes think “How did he actually do all this? He found work in greenhouses carrying heavy boxes full of tomatoes. Later he got a job at a museum but he couldn’t stay there. The director of the museum tried to help him and encouraged my father to start selling spring rolls. It worked.”
“My mother had left everything behind in her native land, but luckily she still had a passion for cooking. I made spring rolls at home and my dad sold them at the market. When I was eight or nine, I was sitting at the kitchen table separating the spring rolls in half. Frozen.As my brother and sister helped.A very delicate and time consuming job.You have to do it at the right temperature to prevent it from sticking together.The subsequent spring roll folding process is also very labor intensive.My dad and mom were busy with other preparations for hours before that I sometimes think about it when I start my production day at five in the morning. That’s nothing compared to the hours my parents put in. Nowadays, we prepare this important basis for spring roll, pancake batter, for all of us.”
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Thawan continues, “I understand that the spring roll cart was a hit in Holland. The street food culture was already here, just look at the French fries stalls and herring stalls. At a certain point, my father replaced the market with a permanent place in Gouda. With the help of a regular and satisfied customer, An opportunity to gain a foothold in Rotterdam arose with two mobile car dealership trucks: one in Lijnbaan Square, where the gate to the old Coolsingel Hospital is and one at the top of the Koopgoot, where our cars are parked seven days a week and where we take care of sales from 11am to 6am. evening .. “
“My sister and I were allowed to study and in my final year of international business in Tilburg I wondered what I really wanted to do. It became a business close to home. At that time, my father wanted to improve the bread roll production process, especially the stature of the crepe. We prepared those pancakes. Ourselves and we’ve been doing it the same way for about thirty years.I accepted the challenge but I didn’t have enough knowledge in this field and didn’t think it was too difficult.I went looking for it in Asia and asked for help from a food technologist from Wageningen.It became an endless period of tests and trials.”
“We couldn’t make the right pancakes and get the spring rolls crunchy enough. Crispy, that’s really a key word in spring rolls. I looked around and thought: If someone else can do it, I should be able to do it too, right? I’ve It started very innocently but I didn’t expect it to take ten years of searching. I felt so guilty about my father. After all, they once went to sea to survive and looked death in their eyes. Their motto was ‘Never give up.’ That, resilience, Absolutely ingrained in me. I didn’t want to waste my chances and frustrate my parents. So I kept looking. My motivation kept me going.”
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“In desperation, I thought we should do something else. Together we decided to start selling Vietnamese bread rolls because Vietnamese cuisine is so much more than spring roll. Is the Netherlands ready for that? We didn’t know it. Holland is the only country in the world where rolls are sold “Vietnamese spring roll as a street snack. It doesn’t even happen in Vietnam, where spring roll is part of a dish. People had to learn to eat it, so there was endless testing and tasting.”
“It wasn’t until my mother Mama Hong, our main taster, gave her approval to start selling the new range. It turned out to be a success and when I finally gave up my obsession with mastering crepes, something amazing happened: Suddenly we got the right recipe for that too and sales got a boost.”
“By the way, we don’t just bake sandwiches ourselves, we make the dough needed for it. The tradition of sandwiches started a long time ago in Vietnam when it was still a French colony and the French didn’t want to eat rice. They were on their way to baking a baguette. This custom persisted and the Vietnamese adopted it. “.
“Then came the aura.” sigh seconds. “We were allowed to continue selling in motorhomes, but there were no people in town. Rotterdam had become a ghost town. But even then we didn’t give up. We went to make soup, the traditional Vietnamese meal, PHO, in our big kitchen in Berkel en Rodenrijs. It really was a success. In America and Australia, I was there and saw it with my own eyes.”
“Later we expanded with salad meals and other authentic Vietnamese fusion meals. We also still sell sandwiches. Everything is on order and pick up or delivery. Since relaxed halo rules, people have happily returned to town. We now combine sales from vehicles with collection and delivery. Can be found On all dishes on our website.
“Our family business was first named Dong Tay, but when I started telling our story from my mother’s point of view in 2016, the name Mama Hong quickly became a reality. She is our mothers, just like a herd of elephants where the woman is also the leader of the pack. In practice, this means that not a single snack or dish leaves the house for mom to taste and approve of. My mom captured the feel of traditional Vietnamese cooking from her mom.”
The slogan “Young people learn to grow” also applies to the next generation of Nguyen. The boys of Thawan are already very excited about baking sandwiches. “The smell of freshly baked bread rolls greets you every morning in our production kitchen, where the vegetables are also freshly chopped. We also make the sauces ourselves,” Thawan says proudly.
“We use fresh produce and serve a variety of vegetarian dishes.” Thuan notes that the younger generation is becoming increasingly interested in Mama Hong’s cooking. They travel to far away places and already know the authentic dishes, I would like to make Vietnamese food more popular in Lansingerland. It’s healthy and packed with plenty of fresh veggies and herbs.
In Lansingerland it is only open on Friday and Saturday for meals, sandwiches and snacks. Open 7 days a week in Rotterdam.
Industrial Road 102
2,651 BD Berkle & Rodenrijs