I used to visit the Bun Mam stall in the picture above once per week for 5 or 6 years up until 2006. It was the single best soup I ever tasted in Vietnam. I've often wondered if the old lady, Ba Sau, was still there doling out her delicious muddy brown swamp. A few people have emailed over the years to ask where the stall is located. A few have even made it, and tried it, and liked it. However, I didn't have any photographic evidence of her continued existence until last week, when Brian Woo from Hong Kong contacted me in search of the soup.
"Found the bun rieu ladies but they were closed just hanging out. They told me to go tomorrow at 7am. No sign of the bun mam, but the whole street was empty as it was the afternoon. I'll update u when I get a chance to head there again."
The next morning, he tried again,
"Went to the morning market this morning to see if I could find the lady. I believe this should be her (see picture above) today she made bun cun cua, which was quite delicious. Everyone along the whole street had a bowl! The bun rieu lady was making pho today, stopped by to have a bowl after the bowl of bun cun cua, also good. Thanks again for the help"
So… she IS still there, hair a bit longer, pyjamas a bit faded – see above – and she still serves up soup, mornings only, down the same alleyway. However, on Brian's visit at least, she has changed tack from my day – she served Brian a Bánh canh cua, which from the photograph below, looks amazing.
And, for comparison purposes, here's the bowl of Bun Mam she used to serve back in the pre-Raphaelite era.
I am eager to get back to Vietnam soon, to try this soup and many other things again. The book publishing world moves at the pace of a crippled sloth, but you can be sure this stall will be one of the very first stops when I do eventually get back to Saigon. In other good news, the Phổ stall oppostie the Bun Mam stall is still there and still doing a roaring trade.
And, here's how the stall used to look eight years ago (exactly the bloody same…)
Thanks to Brian for emailing me, bothering to seek these stalls out and sending me the photographs. Much appreciated.