This restaurant, Nha Trang, out in the hinterland at 169 Tran Huy Lieu street in Phu Nhuan district, takes its name from the fluorescent Pattaya wannabe seaside town a few hours up the coast from Saigon. It specialises in Nha Trang-style nosh. The female owner has run this place for 30 years. Shopfront goes big on two dishes, Bun ca and Bun sua. Bun ca is a shit yer pants-tastic tamarind soup and Bun sua is a jellyfish noodle soup. We’ve covered a stellar Bun ca elsewhere before, whereas Bun sua is intriguing, unchartered scoff. Wossit all about?
This is the jellyfish. It sits in a glass cabinet along with the fish steaks. I believe jellyfish can be eaten fresh or dried and I’m not sure if we’re talking the fresh or a re-hydrated rendition here. A smashing, sweet ‘n’ salty fish stock forms the foundation upon which bun (fresh vermicelli noodles), slices of pineapple and tomato, fresh rau ram (Vietnamese coriander) and the jellyfish are piled. Hedgerow accompaniment comes from shredded lettuce (I think) and fresh basil. There’s a bollock kicking bowl of chilli sauce, some pongmungus mam tom – to mix into the broth – and nuoc mam (fish sauce) to dip the jellyfish into.
I’ve had jellyfish salad before and I’ll admit I was fully expecting this to taste rubbery and crap, but it doesn’t. A certain amount of gum action is involved – yes – but nothing that would fracture granny’s falsies. Some bites are even meltworthy. The jellyfish itself is tasteless, much like the snails are in Bun oc and it really needs the oomph from the nuoc mam dip. It’s the salty, sweetness of the soup I’m liking. It’s massive. That and the snap of the rau ram with the gentle texture of the jellyfish. It’s a hit. Additional appeal comes from the fact that jellyfish, while known for having soddin’ great stinging tentacles, are slow and stupid. If I wanted to, I could don my rubber outfit, wade into the sea, catch a bundle and cook these fellas at home. The path to the plate sounds arduous, but I seem to remember reading somewhere that jellyfish can be eaten raw. Anyone know more? Meanwhile there are more snaps, the business card’s here and there’s also a menu (in Vietnamese). Cost: 10,000VD per bowl.