Top of Hanoi’s gutter grub hit parade and an unfamiliar face on the lunchtime pavements of Saigon is Bun cha. So far I’ve spotted a paltry eight places serving this northern specialty in Saigon. A large proportion of them are near the airport. Whereas, the bun cha babes of Hanoi are grillin’ in the gutters on every available street corner in town. In the soft south I’ve found only one al fresco barbie and that’s at 8 Ly Tu Trong Street in District 1. They’ve lifted their bun cha out of the gutter with their waist high ‘deluxe’ barbie unit. You won’t find this up north. You won’t find a guy grilling up north either, but it’s the man’s job down south.
I blogged up another Saigon bowl of bun cha some time ago, but a serious bun cha habit isn’t easy to break and it’s never long before the carnivore in me starts stalking the streets for more charred carcass. This joint on Ly Tu Trong Street has five or six plastic tables on the pavement next a bamboo tree. There’s plenty more seating inside. Like the bun cha I blogged up previously, it’s massively popular. Packed around 11am (Bun Cha is a lunchtime only dish) mostly with Hanoians looking for northern scoff cooked by northern cooks. There are a few differences between this one and the last one I tried; there’s far less variety in the hedgerow department here (lettuce, beansprouts, rau muong (stripped morning glory) and Rau Dap ca (fish mint) – that’s yer lot), smaller cha gio (Vietnamese spring rolls) and a much lighter fish sauce.
I’ve eaten here many times before without complaint, but I found the meatballs were a little ‘off’ today and needed a higher char factor. I added a spoonful of the garlic vinegar and a couple of the garlic cloves from the pot on the table. The lightness of this bun cha sauce begs for the bollocks the garlic vinegar gives it. The cha gio were slightly disappointing. Large lumps of pork meat are not a fave find inside my spring rolls. It’s a crime committed in various other parts of Saigon and I wish it would stop. You’ll find better here and here. Bun cha, cha gio, iced tea and a wet napkin set me back just over a buck at 18,000VD.