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American doctors thank Vietnamese restaurants for donating meals

08:48 | 18/04/2020

Medical personnel at Regional Medical Center in San Jose has sent thanks to Helen Nguyen, owner of a Pho restaurant in California, for sending them thousands of free Vietnamese lunch sets for first medical responders in the region. 

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Medics stick a thanking note on the meal set

The Mercury News, an American online newspaper has published an article praising a series of restaurants in the Bay Area (California, USA) that send thousands of free meals to medical workers working in the front line in the battle against COVID-19. They call these meal “meals of gratitude”, which are prepared from organic ingredients that are given to medics to encourage them in this straining time.

Notably, Pho Ha Noi - a dining establishment selling Vietnamese food founded and managed by a Vietnamese American is also mentioned.

In the South Bay, Helen Nguyen, owner of two Pho Ha Noi eateries, has transitioned her Cupertino team to make and deliver hundreds of Vietnamese dishes — including a tofu one for vegans — to Kaiser Santa Clara, El Camino Hospital in Mountain View and O’Connor Hospital, Valley Health Center and Regional, all in San Jose”, the paper says.

The Mercury News also said, “Medical staff at Regional Medical Center (San Jose) enjoyed the Vietnamese stir-fried tamarind shrimp during break time”.

american doctors thank vietnamese restaurants for donating meals
The much-loved stir-fried tamarind shrimp
american doctors thank vietnamese restaurants for donating meals
Hundreds of lunch sets are ready to serve

Medical personnel in early April has emailed and tweeted notes of appreciation on behalf of their staff.

Your support encourages our continued commitment and dedication and provides strength to keep going so we can protect our patients, staff, and community,” wrote Dr. Meenesh A. Bhimani of O’Connor Hospital to the Pho Ha Noi restaurant, The Mercury News quoted the email.

(Video: The Mercury News)

Helen’s mission operates four days a week, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; on Wednesday the restaurant closes for a deep-cleaning.

“We planned on donating 1,000 meals in total,” Nguyen told The Mercury News. “However, our friends and family donated to the cause, and our landlord reduced our rent, which allows us to donate 2,000 meals and maybe even 3,000 in the future.”

“It took me by surprise to see how the medics responded and complementing Vietnamese stir-fried tamarind shrimp”, Helen told Vietnam Times.

Along with stir-fried tamarind shrimp, Helen also prepares other Vietnamese dishes, including portions of steamed salted chicken and rice, rice with grilled rib, roasted chicken, chicken noodles, fresh spring rolls, vegetarian rice, all of which are Vietnam’s delicacy.

“I don’t send them Pho, even though it’s the soul of our restaurant because I’m afraid Pho’s taste won’t be the same by the time it's shipped to medical facilities. Instead, I choose to serve rice as it’s easier to warm up than Pho”, Helen said, adding that the medics love all Vietnamese food. “They said all the dishes are delicious, not just Pho as they had thought earlier. I’m very moved, proud and happy."

american doctors thank vietnamese restaurants for donating meals
The steamed salted chicken and rice prepared by Pho Ha Noi
american doctors thank vietnamese restaurants for donating meals
Rice with grilled rib (Photo: The Mercury News)

Hellen’s restaurant applies American standards of hygiene, elegance, and cleanliness. “Not all the food sent to medical facilities here will be accepted. As some of the medics have visited Pho Ha Noi, they know me and agree to eat my food”, she said.

"Food courts inside the hospitals are all closed now due to the pandemic, thus it’s hard for medics to buy foods and drinks. Therefore, they are very happy with the food we give them, otherwise, they would have to dine out, or cook themselves in advance", Helen told Vietnam Times in a statement.

american doctors thank vietnamese restaurants for donating meals
One medical staff in Good Samaritan Hosptial holding a lunch set prepared by Helen's restaurant

The medical staff's response means a lot to Nguyen, for whom this restaurant-to-hospital crusade is highly personal. It’s not just about thanking the Bay Area’s health care providers for going above and beyond during this coronavirus crisis, she says, but also about paying them back for their response years ago when her infant daughter was diagnosed with cancer, according to The Mercury News.

“I owe American doctors and nurses for saving my daughter’s life when she was 10 months old,” she said, noting that Alicia is now a healthy 14-year-old. “This is a good way to do it.”

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