Southeast AsiaVietnam

Salt Bae parody in Vietnam lands beef noodle vendor in hot water

PHOTO: A "Salt Bae" parody lands a Vietnam beef soup vendor in hot water. (via video screencap)

It’s rare that a meme results in being hauled in by the police, but in Vietnam, a poorly – or perhaps pointedly – timed meme has landed a beef noodle soup vendor in hot water. The man posted a video of himself parodying the “Salt Bae” – chef Nusret Gokce, who went massively viral in 2017 for the flamboyant way he sprinkled salt on his cooking.

The 38 year old soup vendor from Danang said that he thought it would be fun and promote his shop to imitate the famous sprinkling move, so he made a video that he posted to Facebook with the title “Green Onion Bae”. It showed him slicing his boiled beef before using Salt Bae’s signature gesture to rain down green onions onto his bowl of soup in a humorous parody.

“The video I made was for fun and for advertising my beef noodle shop. More customers have been coming since I posted it.”

The meme seems innocent enough, not offensive or insulting to anyone on the surface. But it’s the political context of recent controversy in Vietnam that seems to have police wondering if this is merely a cook copying a meme in hopes of viral advertising, or if it was a political statement, taking a jab at Vietnam’s Minister of Public Security To Lam.

See, Salt Bae owns a chain of luxury steakhouses, and the man himself had uploaded a video last week of him proudly serving the Vietnamese Minister a gold leaf encrusted steak that sells for nearly US $2000 (around 60,000 baht) at his London restaurant. The video enraged many critics online and in the public discourse that saw the decadence on display as extremely tone-deaf as the government has been claiming to be cracking down on corruption.

The video caused such a stir that the hashtag #saltbae was globally blocked on Facebook for a while after the footage went viral. And while the soup vendor said the timing was a coincidence and his video was all meant in self-promoting fun, he had also previously criticised the government on Facebook and claimed to be speaking out to improve society.

In Vietnam, anti-government activists who speak out online and on social media are routinely interrogated by the Communist Party. His previous online antic had gotten him called in to the police in April as well, so it’s no surprise that the Salt Bae parody right after the government scandal in Vietnam raised red flags and got him summoned once again to face police questioning, though Danang police have not commented on the case so far.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.