Vietnamese noodle vendor jailed for video imitating celebrity chef Salt Bae that ‘mocked’ Government minister

A clip from Bui Tuan Lam’s viral video, which shows him immpersonating restaurateur Nusret Gökçe, known as ‘Salt Bae’ (VivaVideo)
A clip from Bui Tuan Lam’s viral video, which shows him immpersonating restaurateur Nusret Gökçe, known as ‘Salt Bae’ (VivaVideo)

A noodle vendor in Vietnam who parodied celebrity chef ‘Salt Bae’ to allegedly mock a government official’s lavish dining has been jailed.

A top Vietnamese minister was caught on camera eating a gold-encrusted steak at the high-end London restaurant of Turkish chef ‘Salt Bae’, whose real name is Nusret Gökçe, in 2021.

Days later Bui Tuan Lam, a noodle stall owner based in Vietnam, posted his own video imitating the celebrity chef’s salt-sprinkling method as he spread green onions on his noodle soups .

The 39-year-old described himself in a Facebook post uploaded alongside the video as “Green Onion Bae”.

The clip soon went viral, and he was arrested late last year.

On Thursday he was convicted of “making, storing, distributing, or disseminating information, documents, and items against the state”, the Danang police department said after a one-day trial.

He has been sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison, police said, after a court found him guilty of anti-state propaganda.

Lam’s conviction is the latest in what rights groups say is the government’s wide-ranging attempt to silence voices critical of the ruling Vietnamese Communist Party.

As well as running a beef noodle stall in the coastal city of Danang, Lam had publicly advocated for democracy in Vietnam and participated in many anti-China and pro-environment protests.

The Danang police department also cited Lam’s indictment as saying he had posted 19 articles and 25 videos on social media to “distort and smear the state.”

Lam’s lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment, said news agency Reuters.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at international organisation Human Rights Watch, called on the Vietnamese government to stop prosecuting Lam and others for criticising the Vietnamese Communist Party.

“The list of posts and videos listed as ‘evidence’ of Bui Tuan Lam’s ‘crimes’ shows the extreme lengths to which the Vietnamese go to block any sort of online criticism of the government,” Mr Robertson said.

“For the Vietnamese leadership, even songs are a threat to their monopoly of power,” he added.

Mr Gökçe opened his Nusr-Et Steakhouse in Knightbridge in 2021, offering hugely epensive meals including its trademark Golden Giant Tomahawk steak which sells for £1,450.