I was working on a short passage about a Bún chả encounter in the late nineties earlier this morning. I was reminded of a guide I wrote for myself and later distributed to friends and colleagues in Hanoi at the turn of the century (How old does that sound…) It was designed to help newbies in Hanoi choose where to go and eat. Here is the passage I wrote to introduce the ubiquitous Hanoi lunchtime marvel.
You’ll find Bún chả served all over Hanoi from 11 am – 2pm(ish) lunchtime. Barbecue grilled pork balls in a spicy fish sauce with a mountain of varied interesting greens and a plate of cold noodles all for around 5-8000 Dong. Having tried and tested in the region of 25 ++ different Bún chả in Hanoi here below are some of the addresses you might want to check out.
61 Ly Thai Tho just south of the junction with Lo Su you’ll find one of the more popularBun Cha hangouts.
20 Ta Hien street, near the Ngoc Quyen end. It’s a tiny little front room affair, fantastic Bún chả. One of the best sauces I have found in Hanoi.
Bottom of Hang Manh in the old quarter. This is the ‘famous’ one, but it’s not that good. In fact, this place is bollocks, compared to a lot of the street stalls knocking out the same stuff. If a Vietnamese friend recommends a Bún chả spot they invariably choose this one but the good days went a long time a ago.
Hang Da market, near Hang Da street in the old quarter also has a good Bún chả and many other interesting eating joints. Be warned this place is grubby in the extreme, you wouldn’t want to take a hot date here.
The best way to discover your fave Bún chả is to try a whole bunch of them. They are all slightly different and it’s all in the fish sauce. My personal favourite is a women sitting next to a tree on Phung Hung street. link
I wonder how many of these places still exist. I suspect the Lo Su and the Hang Manh joints continue to thrive, but who’s come along since to battle with the big Bún chả guns in town? And are the Phung Hung twins still there?
This was my introduction to Hanoi newbies who might be interested in trying out some Vietnamese street food. I suspect the hygeine bit may have improved a tiny bit. I hear plastic gloves are commonplace these days, but there again…
Vietnamese people eat early, quickly and sometimes noisily. You should aim to get to the following places before 9pm, otherwise you could be disappointed. Also, realize that hygiene standards are invariably low and occasionally downright disgusting.
Lets face it, you’re in Vietnam for a long stretch you’ve gotta give the local tucker a fair crack of the whip. You might not become a total convert, but you might find a few tasty morsels along the way. Unfortunately, a lot of Expats leave after three years or so having never once tried the real deal i.e. street food.
Below you’ll find a few highlights on the street scene and a few indoor affairs too. I am a convert and therefore incredibly biased. link