Vietnam: Dudu restaurant

Planet Berlin: Southeast Asian fusion cuisine

A family tradition

Nam Cao Hoai (l.) and Chi Cao Hanh emigrated with their mother to the former GDR in the 1980s. After reunification, their mother, Dang Thi Tuyen, opened her own restaurant in Berlin, however it didn't survive. But when the siblings came of age, they followed in their mother's footsteps and with Dudu made a new start in Berlin-Mitte.

Planet Berlin: Southeast Asian fusion cuisine

Asialicious!

Every member of the Dudu family business injects their own culinary experiences and interests. The menu is therefore not purely Vietnamese, but skillfully combines Japanese, Indo-Chinese and Peruvian recipes. Some are featured in the family's own published cookbook, "Dudu Kitchen: Asialicious!" By the way, Dudu, Vietnamese for papaya, was Nam Cao Hoai's nickname as a child.

Planet Berlin: Southeast Asian fusion cuisine

All welcome

It's never really empty in Dudu. It can happen that students dine alongside Hollywood stars. Hilary Swank, George Clooney and Tom Hanks are said to have been guests. Despite the chic, minimalist decor and celebrity appeal, Dudu is not an upscale eatery but rather a crowded Asian restaurant offering quality flavors at relatively affordable prices.

Planet Berlin: Southeast Asian fusion cuisine

A growing empire

In the meantime, the siblings ventured to open an offshoot of their successful restaurant, opening Dudu31 in Charlottenburg. Focused on sushi, it feels more exclusive but remains a down-to-earth family business. Incidentally, sibling Chi Cao Hanh also creates her own Japanese raku ceramics for the restaurants.

Food is a family thing for Dudu founder, Nam Cao Hoai. He learned to cook as a teenager from his mother and today is the boss of a celebrated restaurant.

It's always busy at Dudu. At lunch, the DJs from Mitte sit back-to-back with young professionals and families with children. Everyone has come to sample the authentic food that Nam Cao Hoai and his family have been preparing for the past ten years at their restaurant on the hip Torstrasse. Here, Vietnamese tradition meets international ingredients: tender vegetables, fresh fish, and roasted potatoes combine in a delicious symbiosis. 

"Our plates are as colorful as the people here," says Nam Cao Hoai with a laugh. The restaurant is decked out with stylish wooden benches, and electronic music pulses away in the background. Dudu is the perfect reflection of its owner – both Vietnamese and German parts have their place at the table. Nam Cao Hoai was nine when he moved from Hanoi to Germany, the last member of his family to do so. They had been drawn to the country for its job opportunities since the early 1980s. "I didn't even want to come," he says. He had to master German quickly at school, and the culture was so different. At the age of 14, he began helping his mother in their first restaurant.

Vietnam: Dudu - Move your cursor or finger for the 360° view

Celebrity clientele

She'd sometimes work in the kitchen for up to 18 hours a day. In spite of the hard work, Nam Cao Hoai was warming to the idea of owning his own restaurant, too. The time came in 2008. At the beginning, it was mainly friends and family coming in for a bowl of noodle soup, which Nam Cao Hoai would often be serving early in the morning after partying all night. "One morning there was no soup left, and my mother took away my key to the restaurant," says Nam Cao Hoai with a grin. But those times are long gone. Dudu grew up – just like its proprietor. 

In 2015, the family opened a second branch in Charlottenburg, Dudu31. Here the atmosphere is more sedate than at the lively location in Mitte. The restaurant's versatility makes it a favorite among celebrities – in fact, George Clooney once ate sashimi here. And his colleague Bill Murray always stops in when he is visiting Berlin. That's certainly something to be proud of, but it's not the most important thing. "No matter what you do in your life, the main thing is to stay true to yourself," says Nam Cao Hoai.

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Author: Anima Müller

DUDU
Torstr. 134
10119 Berlin-Mitte