WATCH: Hanoi eatery serves up 'Coronaburger'

(Agence France-Presse) - March 27, 2020 - 3:39pm

VIETNAM — One Hanoi eatery is serving up queasy-colored coronavirus-inspired burgers in a bid to boost ailing sales -- injecting some much-needed levity as Vietnam girds itself against the pandemic.

Chef Hoang Tung hopes his green-tinged bun creations -- topped with crown-like features -- could bring a smile to those consuming 24-hour news coverage of the deadly disease.

"I've seen so much negative and sad news about the coronavirus so I thought about making something... that makes people feel happy," Chef Hoang Tung tells AFP.

Inspiration struck when he saw the green alien character in Pixar's "Toy Story", whose head antennaes resembled the chemical structure of the novel coronavirus.

But finessing the right shade proved a challenge, he says.

His team experimented with different ingredients like matcha powder and pineapple leaf extract, before settling on katuk leaves, a sweet herb commonly used in Vietnamese cuisine.

Since the coronaburger's launch Monday, Tung's small eatery Pizza Home has seen an uptick in customers, selling about 50 of his creations a day.

He's pleased with the burger's fast popularity, but Tung already has the approval of his most important customer -- his son.

"He said the burger is great and now he does not feel afraid of the virus anymore," Tung says.

Like other Hanoi businesses, Pizza Home had already seen a massive drop in customers in recent weeks, due to an uptick in cases.

The rate of infections had initially slowed in February, but it jumped two weeks ago with the return of several Vietnamese.

Vietnam officially announced Thursday all entertainment facilities -- including beer houses and restaurants -- must close on March 28 to stem the spread of the virus, though takeaway services are still allowed.

Gatherings of more than 20 people will also be banned.

The country has recorded 148 cases, and officials have moved quickly in the last few months to curb its spread.

In February, it put a region of 10,000 residents under quarantine after a cluster of infections was discovered there.

The government also released a catchy pop ditty urging citizens to wash their hands and stay at home -- a song that went viral on TikTok and was featured on HBO's comedic news show "Last Week Tonight".

The virus has killed more than 21,000 people globally.

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