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June 26, 2022, 8:38 pm

Salad vendor earns a million dong each night

(22:45:31 PM 26/10/2012)
( - At 4pm every day, the old man with white hair, short figure, wearing glasses, drives his bike along the Hanoi Old Quarter. In his hands is a big scissors that make crackling.

Mr. Hao sells salad until 1-2am.

Hearing the sound from the scissors, people flock to the street to patiently wait for him to make salad plates for them. Just like that, Mr. Luu Van Hao (Lo Su Street, Hanoi) sells salad until 1-2am. He has followed this job for 30 years.

Being familiar with the sound from his scissors and the taste of his salad, "fans" call Mr. Hao "Mr. Salad" or "Professor Salad."

Hearing that name, the old man only softly smiles and nodded happily. Waiting until his customers finish their salad plates, Mr. Hao deliberately takes his bike, with a glass box containing salad, to continue his trip.

At 7 am, in a rented house in the small alley on Lo Su Street, Hao and his wife began preparing for the evening “trip.” Previously, Ms. Dung, Mr. Hao’s wife, got up at 4am to go to the market to purchase materials. In the courtyard, Dung was busy frying beef, picked and cleaned herbs while Hao scraped over 10 kg of green papaya. The preparation finished at noon. Mr. Hao went to the bed for a long nap before leaving home at 4pm.

Hao said he retired early in 1972, from the Central Tuberculosis Hospital. He stayed home for a few years. Being unemployed, Mr. Hao did not know what to do to support his wife and two children.

His family had a candy shop on Hang Duong Street but then, his father sold the shop to share money to his children. Hao and his wife bought a little house in an alley, but the house was revoked by the state to build a temple to celebrate Hanoi’s 1000th anniversary. His family had to move.

Before selling candy, Hao’s father was a salad seller. Hao’s father was born in Binh Luc, Ha Nam province, which is known for traditional occupations such as embroidery, making confectionary and salad. The man left his home to Hanoi to sell salad.

Mr. Hao said that at that time, salad was a very popular nosh for everyone, from the rich to the poor people. Salad sellers could only earn enough for their meals and they did not hide their secrets in making good salad. They often stood in front of schools to sell salad to students.

Mr. Hao prepares salads for customers. A salad plate is
priced at VND30,000 ($1.5).

Hao said the current salad is very different from it in the past. "At that time, salad was processed from cow or buffalo skin or cow cheek meat because beef in particular and food in general was very rare. If salad maker could purchase a cow head, they processed salad from meat taken from the cow head. The materials for salad were very cheap," Hao recalled.

Hao spent half of a month to learn how to make salad. At first he and his wife just hoped to earn enough money to buy raw materials for the following day. As a new salad seller, he did not have many customers. Sometimes he had to throw away unsalable papaya and herbs.

From a government official, Hao became a vendor. "At first I was very shy. I did not dare to go through Hang Duong Street, where we had lived before for fearing of meeting someone I knew. I did not dare to call for people to buy my salad so I took with me a big scissors. Several years later I was confident with this job," Hao said.

In his early days doing this job, his hands were always covered by cuts, which were caused when he scraped papaya. Whenever he did this task, he prepared bandages in advance. Then he bandaged his hands before scraping papaya. Later, he himself invented protective gears for 10 fingers. He put on rubber and aluminum covers for his toes.

To make papaya brittle, Hao refrigerates papaya at a certain temperature. After scraping, he washes papaya and squeezes it dry. Beef is boiled before it is mixed with spices fried. Cow sinew is also fried twice before using papaya. According to "Prof. Salad", the salad of the old day was mixed with many herbs and papaya was only scraped and mixed with herbs and spices.

"The most important thing when making salad is hygiene. This dish has both cooked meat and fresh vegetables prone so I have to prepare it very careful," he said.

Selling salad for 30 years, Mr. Hao currently has a big number of long-standing customers and stable income. However, to earn profit of over VND1 million ($50) a day, Hao and his wife have to spend 15 hours a day to prepare the salad. Each salad plate is priced VND30,000 ($1.5). Currently, Hao sells 10 kg of papaya and 20 kg of beef a day.

For three decades selling salad on the street, he has never been disparaged by any customer and was only bilked twice.

A little boy who did not pay for his salad plate returned after many years, with his girlfriend, and paid for the previous salad plate. Many groups of customers ate dozens of salad plates once.

Hao’s fingers with 'armor.'

"I still remember the image of an old French Vietnamese, who solemnly gave money to me with both hands, after finishing his salad plate. He told me that after a very long time he enjoyed a delicious cuisine with the right old taste like this,” Hao said.

He bought ten salad plates to take it to France for his relatives. Later this customer sent a letter to Mr. Hao to tell him that that his friend cried when he tasted the salad because the dish had the flavor that reminded him of Hanoi. They were far from Hanoi for many years so when they ate a traditional cuisine, they missed their home.

Now, their children have grown up and have well-off lives, but Hao and his wife still sell salad. They still get up early and work until midnight. They do not want to rent a shop or hire workers because they want to do it themselves.

Hao’s youngest son wishes to continue his father’s job and plans to open a salad shop. “Prof. Salad" said: "I'm confident being a salad vendor."
Translated by Minh Hang ( VietNamNet Bridge)

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