Pho might be Vietnam’s most famous dish, but bun cha is a lunchtime obsession. The components of this dish are served separately, a broth made of vinegar, lime, sugar and fish sauce, along with vermicelli noodles, a basket of herbs and veggies, and a separate dish of seasoned pork patties and slices of pork belly grilled over a charcoal fire. Mix a little bit of everything together and have a hearty bite.
Bun rieu cua
Bun rieu cua is a vermicelli soup with a tomato-based broth made by slowly simmering pork or chicken bone. But unlike pho or bun bo Hue (Hue beef noodle soup), to which meat slices are added, the key protein component of this soup is the crab meat mixture made of freshwater mini crabs, pork and egg that is almost like a patty. This soup is hearty and wonderful during winter as it combines lots of ingredients like fried tofu, prawns, crab meat, pig blood pudding, bean sprouts and fresh Vietnamese herbs like perilla and cilantro. If you don’t mind the pungent smell, feel free to add some shrimp paste for extra savory since the soup is slightly acidic.
Being one of the most famous dishes of Hanoi, bun oc can satisfy people of all ages. The dish, however, is very simple, containing only rice vermicelli, several snails, sour broth and herbs. This is a special cuisine of Hanoi. Anyone who once lived in Hanoi cannot forget this cuisine, which has nourishing flavor of thickened vinegar, moreish and brittle snails, dried tofu, raw vegetables, etc. Although it is quite easy to cook, it needs secrets to have a delicious bowl of bun oc.
Bun thang or rice vermicelli with chicken, egg and pork can be enjoyed at any time of the day. The clear yet flavorful broth is made with 20 ingredients, including dried shrimp, squid, shrimp paste, spring onion, coriander, ginger, mushroom, beet, fish sauce, sugar candy, and vinegar. It is also a particularly attractive Hanoi dish as the noodles, chicken, eggs, pork slices, and a dollop of shrimp paste are carefully arranged to resemble a flower. Bun thang is one of the most popular yet hidden fares in Hanoi and one can find it only outside of the Old Quarters or a few special restaurants scattered across the city. The chicken broth is artistically done and the dish is beautifully served.
The main ingredients of mien lươn are mien (cellophane noodles), luon (eels), fried shallots, bean sprouts and cilantro. The eels are usually deep fried to eliminate their fishy smell and to add a tasty, crunchy touch to the dish.
Northern Vietnamese have certain rules for what food pairs best together. Bun tends to go with fish and shellfish, while phở is usually eaten with either beef or chicken. Mien (cellophane noodles) can go with either freshwater eels or poultry such as ngan (creole duck), and mien ngan is creole duck cellophane noodle soup. The combination of the duck and bamboo shoots in this dish is absolutely perfect.