As a Vietnamese street food entrepreneur, it’s surprising to hear that NamDo Quach’s relationship with Vietnamese food wasn’t always so sweet. After coming to Australia with his family in 1979 as refugees, NamDo was more of a pizza guy than a Banh Mi guy. But a little older, wiser, today Vietnamese good is a link to the culture that his family left behind.
NamDo is exerting the values his family brought with them on their perilous journey to Australian shores—resilience, resourcefulness and hard work—into his everyday life, converting his humble roots into Lil Nom Noms, a food truck that sells traditional Vietnamese street food around Melbourne’s streets.
We caught up with NamDo to hear more about the philosophy and inspirations behind Lil Nom Noms.
Nancy Lin: What inspired you to make the leap, get a set of wheels and start Lil Nom Noms food truck?
I guess it was a culmination of a few things. I’ve always been interested in food and have always wanted my own restaurant or cafe. But with so many places popping up and just as many closing down, the numbers didn’t stack up unless I had an endless supply of money. The corporate world didn’t give me the mental reward I was looking for. I wanted something that was unique, something that had a relatively low start-up cost and something that was small enough to run on my own. Although it has its place, people were slowly moving away from the fine dining scene and the wave of ‘street food’ was becoming more and more popular.
Why a food truck? How does having direct contact with your customers change the experience for you?
A food truck is mobile, it is constantly moving and everyday is a different day. We do events, festivals, private catering gigs and of course our street trade. It’s exciting and challenges you both mentally and physically. The people who seek out food trucks are adventurous and are mostly very supportive of this new craze. You meet different people and having that direct contact develops a unique bond that is not too dissimilar to a close friend for whom you are cooking a meal. They appreciate you slaving away in sometimes extreme conditions to cook them a meal.
Tell us a bit about your relationship with Vietnamese food.
Vietnamese food for me has been a love/hate relationship. When I was younger all I wanted was a burger or pizza or fish & chips. I didn’t appreciate the effort my parents went to in order to put a traditional Vietnamese meal on the table for us everyday. As I got older, and I guess a little wiser, I understood what it all meant. It was one of the few things that kept us linked to our culture that we left behind.