I returned to Ottawa this year to visit the Sparks Street PoutineFest. It was a joy of a trip (and you can read more about it here and here). As always, a little conversation goes a long way, and I am delighted to share this edited snippet from the episode of Fingers in Pies that I recorded there.
I was speaking to Hung Ha about their poutine and the festival when he mentioned that his family had been Vietnamese refugees with a dream of a new life and their own pho restaurant. I spoke to both Hung Ha at their food truck and his father Ha Van Trung at their Pho restaurant.
Fingers in Pies will be back weekly in the New Year and I have some exciting guests and plans. So watch this space, and for now, have a listen!
Fingers in Pies Podcast on Ottawa, Poutine and Pho – An Edited Excerpt
So, my parents are part of the Vietnamese boat people where they escaped the Vietnam War in 1982. The boat they were in landed in Hong Kong. They were there in a refugee camp there. We were very fortunate that Canada had a sponsorship program, and sponsored my parents over. They had a place to stay.
There was a gentleman that lived close by to where my parents were staying. He had a truck in the back in the mid 80s. It wasn’t actually a food truck. He had like a food van. And so, you know, my parents got to know the gentleman and he wasn’t using it at that time. So my dad saw an opportunity to make a little bit of money and, you know, to start something to support his wife and me, of course. And so he brought up an idea.
He saw the guy wasn’t using it. He asked if he can run it and they can have of a joint partnership. He said, you know what? I don’t have any use for it right now. You go ahead and just run it yourself and don’t even worry about it. So that’s how it all got started. He was working in the food truck not knowing anything, just trying to adapt to the Canadian culture. Obviously, fries are very popular here. That’s how it got started during that time.
As time went on, he bought a newer truck from a gentleman close to Montreal, and it was called Lou Patates. So that’s where we got the name Lou. And eventually in 1997, my parents saved up enough money to open up what they really wanted, a Vietnamese restaurant. So that is what they did. He needs time to focus more on the restaurant side, so I stepped up to the plate and I started taking over the food truck business and we changed it to Lou’s Fast food. And that was maybe in like early 2000. Once I took over, I tried to expand it.
My parent’s restaurant is Pho 99. It’s a Vietnamese beef noodle soup restaurant. They opened it in 1997 in Ottawa. There might have been maybe only around two or three pho restaurants at the time. For the first few years pho wasn’t known or recognized in Ottawa so my parents were struggling a bit. That’s why my Dad needed to focus more time on there. But after we moved, we got by the first two, three years, then it just went boom. Almost every year after that, there was a new Pho restaurant opening.
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Also from Ottawa