The corner of Ancoats that’s turned into ‘Little Vietnam’
STEAMING bowls of noodles, dangling red lanterns and a cash machines displaying only Cantonese characters...
This could easily be a scene from Hong Kong or the Vietnamese capital city Hanoi, but we are standing outside a small parade of shops in Ancoats.
A stretch of Oldham Road – not far from Manchester city centre – has slowly been transformed into a small hub for South East Asian businesses.
Previously the area was nicknamed Little Italy, due to the influx of Italian immigrant settlers who moved to Manchester in the late 19th century.
But now it’s known to some as Little Vietnam, where cafes sell bowls of pho noodles instead of pasta.
The businesses which have now set up shop are predominately Vietnamese, with three cafes and a Vietnamese supermarket. There are also some Chinese businesses including the Chinese Cultural Art Centre and a parcel shipping service.
A large reason businesses have chosen this area is that the Wing Yip Chinese supermarket, the biggest Oriental supermarket in Manchester, is just across the road. And when The Vietnamese Store opened 12 years ago, a number of traders were also attracted to the area.
Chi Luong Diep runs the store on behalf of his mother-in-law. Initially it was difficult to attract footfall. But once word-of-mouth got out the shop has soon began to bustle with Vietnamese-Mancunians visiting regularly to buy essential items that would be hard to source in even the most cosmopolitan supermarket.
The store was originally based further up Oldham Road, but moved into a bigger premises closer to the Manchester city centre end of the road five years ago. Ca Phe Viet then opened three years ago, which is attached to the supermarket.
Businessman Diep, 35, told the M.E.N.: “We get a lot of customers from Vietnam and China here. We don’t get many English customers apart from workers around here.
“The Vietnamese Store was the first one to open. Since then others have followed. There are two cafes, and the nail supply shop. It was quiet when we first opened. At the start it was not busy as people didn’t know about it.
“I think we have these shops because a lot of the Asian community live a bit further up in Miles Platting and Ancoats and maybe because it is close to town a lot of people tend to live here.”
Diep, who was born in Manchester and now lives in Cheadle, Stockport, said the most popular products are shrimp paste and Vietnamese pork roll – which is a bit like a sausage.
He added: “English customers who visited Vietnam like to buy the Vietnamese coffee. We have a cafe attached to the store. It was probably one of the first places in Manchester to sell banh mi (a Vietnamese baguette).”
Diep said he thinks the HN Nails and Beauty Supplies shop next door also brings a lot of footfall, with customers then opting to do their food shopping in the area.
Another trader in the area
supported by people living in nearby new flats is Mango Logistics. The shop ships parcels to China and also helps international students coming to Manchester University transport their luggage. A lot of these students live in the surrounding new-build flats. The business is run by Joanna Yang, 38, who is originally from China but moved to the UK to study 15 years ago. She said a lot of Chinese people in Manchester use the service to ship over baby products they buy in bulk over here.
Joanna said: “I think this street is seeing more and more businesses come here, there are a lot of Chinese societies based here. It is because of the Wing Yip Supermarket. People come to this area to buy food. It is a little second China Town.”
She added: “A lot of Chinese people don’t drive. People live in flats around here rather than a house further away, as well as the international students who live in flats.”
She has two full-time members of staff working for her, as well as a number of part-time workers who are university students.
Towards the north Manchester end of the parade of shops sits Simply Viet, a Vietnamese cafe which has been open for a year-and-a-half. It is owned by Anh Trieu, who has been working in the food industry for many years.
She moved to the UK in 1983 with her parents from the Lang Son area, following the Vietnamese War and during a time of political upheaval. She initially lived in London, but moved to Manchester to set up her business.
Trieu, who lives near to the cafe, explained why she moved to the area: “It is because of the Vietnamese store and Wing Yip, and the nail salon has a lot to do with it too. We get a mixture of English and Chinese people coming here.”
As we’re talking Trieu insists on serving me a bowl of pho, the cafe’s most popular dish, which comes served in a bucket-sized bowl with flat noodles and a huge plate of fresh herbs to add to dish.
In the back a chef is working while deliveries come in from Uber Eats and Deliveroo.
Outside the window, sky-high cranes can be seen working on new apartment blocks as Ancoats continues to undergo rapid redevelopment. However, Trieu says it is not really concerning to businesses here as more people can only mean more trade.
And she hopes that – as the cafe is just a few hundred yards from the bustling city centre – curious visitors might find themselves surprisingly at home, particularly if they have ever visited Vietnam.
She adds: “Every new business has struggles, but we get good feedback. People say our food is the real taste of Vietnam.”
Chi Luong Diep
Joanna Yang and Ziyu Ma
The Wing Yip store in Oldham Road, Ancoats
The Vietnamese Store
Lanterns at Simply Viet Cafe