Cupbop brought Korean BBQ to Utah. Now it’s inspired Asian-Mexican fusion food in Vietnam.


Ho Chi Mihn City, Vietnam • Jangrak Choi watched the documentary time and again at house in Korea, impressed and energized by what he noticed.

And it advised the story of Salt Lake City’s Cupbop, initially launched as a food truck after three Korean males who met whereas serving an LDS Church mission in Korea all moved to Utah. Their increasing fast-casual eating places serve Korean barbecue in a bowl.

“That documentary made me want to run a business,” Choi stated. “Not in the U.S.A. — I didn’t know where — but that program made me really inspired.”

He was particularly drawn to Cupbop’s strategy. And in the present day, he and his companions run Nonla Guys restaurant in Ho Chi Mihn City — with a menu designed to mirror Cupbop, that includes cheap, quick-serve Asian flavors in a Mexican fusion, provided as a more healthy various to quick food.

If a visitor mentions being from Salt Lake City, the house owners are fast to credit score the position fashions who, by bringing Korean fare to Utah, motivated them to take it to Vietnam.

Choi had traveled to Vietnam together with his brother, Sungrak Choi, and considered one of his brother’s pals in the summer time of 2016, the yr the Korean Broadcasting System documentary aired. Sungrak Choi had been launched to Vietnamese food and tradition by a Vietnamese school roommate. The pal, Dongrin Kim, had gone to Vietnam as a volunteer and beloved the nation.

The males realized beginning a enterprise can be simpler in Vietnam than in Korea, Choi stated, and ultimately settled on providing Mexican food, an unusual delicacies in Vietnam. To create the menu, Choi watched lots of cooking movies and ate at Mexican eating places.

To make their dishes somewhat extra acquainted, they determined to incorporate Asian flavors into quesadillas, tacos and burritos.

The conventional Vietnamese pork dish bun cha is the house specialty of Nonla Guys, named for the normal cone-shaped straw hat referred to as a nonla. Customers can order bun cha tacos, quesadillas, burritos or rice bowls.

“There are many Vietnamese that have said, ‘This is not bun cha,’” Choi stated. “But we want to introduce Vietnamese food to many foreigners.”

Other meat fillings for the Mexican entrees on the Nonla Guys menu embrace Korean spicy barbecue pork, Korean beef bulgogi and Japanese type garaake hen. There are additionally tofu choices.

The rice bowls are most comparable to what’s served at Cupbop. These dishes embrace one of many meat or tofu fillings, greens and sauce. Like Cupbop clients, diners at Nonla Guys can customise the spice degree of their bowl.

Just over half of the restaurant’s clients are from North America, Europe and Australia, Choi stated. The relaxation are locals or come from different Asian nations.

Isuel Bae and her mom ate at Nonla Guys on a current journey to Vietnam. Because she can also be from Korea, Bae stated the thought of males from Korea proudly owning a Mexican restaurant in Ho Chi Mihn City intrigued her.

“I like eating new flavors, so I like fusion food,” Bae stated. She stated she would advocate the rice bowl she tried to anybody who likes Korean flavors or spicy food.

Nonla Guys is wanting to increase, and the house owners need to flip their enterprise right into a franchise. Choi stated he feels grateful for his success and that he plans to proceed studying from Cupbop because it grows. “They are good and we want to follow them,” he stated.

Cupbop’s house owners had tried Korean-Mexican fusion — and their very own model of bulgogi burritos — with an early food truck referred to as Kotako, stated Cupbop co-owner Junghun Song. They turned it right into a Cupbop truck when the Korean-barbecue-in-a-bowl sister enterprise took off.

Cupbop now has greater than a dozen storefronts in Utah, with different places in Colorado, Idaho and even Indonesia. But the story of Nonla Guys gave Song a brand new feeling of success.

“That means we are doing well,” Song stated. “If we are not doing well, they are not going to follow us. So that means a lot of things to me.”

Nonla isn’t the primary enterprise to be influenced by Cupbop. Song stated copycats with the restaurant’s identify and comparable menus have popped up all through Asia and North America.

But he stated he doesn’t thoughts. As a small enterprise proprietor, he needs others to achieve success, too. “If Korean food is getting popular in the United States,” he stated, “it’s got to be good for everyone.”





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