Bologna smoked in bamboo tubes, locally known as ‘cha bo,’ is arguably Da Nang’s most famous gastronomic specialty.

In the neighboring province of Quang Nam, Hien’s hometown, the local delicacy is ‘be thui Cau Mong,’ or Cau Mong roasted veal.

Both of these dishes are among Hien’s favorites, and the accountant-turned-entrepreneur hopes to put a unique twist on each of them to captivate palates throughout Vietnam.

Finding purpose

Hien’s entrepreneurial dreams began while he was working as the chief accountant at a well-known company in Laos.

Wanting to make a change, he used his savings to invest over VND2 billion (US$81,800), hire ten employees, and open a restaurant.

Unfortunately, his business didn’t last long, and he was forced to move to Da Nang with almost no money left.

Over the next several years, Hien tried his hand at various businesses, including an e-commerce venture specializing in traditional medicine and a lumber company.

Although the former failed, the latter took off, and he was making around VND80 million ($3,300) in monthly profits.

Despite his modest success, Hien felt that his work lacked meaning and began looking for ways to both earn money and make a difference in his community.

By chance, about five years ago, he visited his hometown in Thang Binh District, Quang Nam Province, where he met shrimp farmers struggling to survive amidst fluctuating harvests and unstable market prices.

Looking to help these farmers, Hien started working with a beef bologna producer in Da Nang, hoping to pass on his skills to the shrimp farmers so they could make shrimp bologna.

Truong Thanh Hien (R) and his business partners introduce bologna bamboo tubes at a startup event. Photo: T.H. / Tuoi Tre

Truong Thanh Hien (R) and his business partners introduce bologna bamboo tubes at a startup event. Photo: T.H. / Tuoi Tre

During his shrimp bologna recipe experiments, Hien faced several challenges.

First, he found that ground shrimp did not have the necessary consistency to hold together.

He also discovered that it took two kilograms of fresh shrimp to obtain one kilogram of shrimp meat, leading to rapidly increasing costs.

After overcoming these challenges, he attempted mass production using machinery, but it was unsuccessful.

Just as he was about to give up, he realized that he was missing a binder ingredient to hold the shrimp together.

As a result, he added sausage powder to the shrimp mixture and found success.

Staying true to Vietnamese values

After meeting the criteria for taste and quality, Hien focused on making his product environmentally friendly.

“In Vietnam, we have bamboo trees with unique characteristics, which gave me the idea of storing bologna in bamboo tubes. I hoped it would leave a lasting impression on our customers,” Hien said with a smile.

Once he had decided how to store the bologna in bamboo tubes, he developed his final packaging concept – a bamboo tube sealed with foil at the top, bound with coconut fiber ropes, and placed in baskets of woven grass.

Truong Thanh Hien’s bologna bamboo tubes. Photo: T.H. / Tuoi Tre

Truong Thanh Hien’s bologna bamboo tubes. Photo: T.H. / Tuoi Tre

Hien currently employs 10 workers at his bologna production facility and generates an annual revenue of nearly VND3 billion ($122,700).

His product has obtained quality assurance certifications and is in the process of being promoted to new markets.

Recently, an import-export company offered the opportunity to bring Hien’s bologna to the U.S.

However, to get his product approved for the American market, it must consist solely of pure shrimp without any other meat, bringing Hien back to the initial challenge he faced when starting his venture.

So, Hien goes back to the drawing board.

He remains determined and is doubling his efforts to find the optimal method.

“I believe that those who choose to create products featuring authentic ingredients from [Vietnam] ultimately aim to craft goods that embody unmistakable Vietnamese values,” he said.