Jan 08 2011

Eating in Hanoi: Bun Cha

Published by at 11:45 am under Food

A Bun Cha and Nem Sign

A Bun Cha and Nem Sign

While pho is probably the first food everyone thinks of, or hears about, when they come to Vietnam, bún chả is a northern speciality and arguably one of the tastiest things in the world. Yes, I am a big fan.

It’s impossible to resist: as you walk past a stall the smell of barbecuing pork is as impossibly tempting. For those that don’t know, bún chả consists of mini pork burgers and slices, barbecued over coals and served in a light dipping sauce with rice noodles and greens on the side. To eat, you drop some noodles into the sauce, add some chilli and garlic if you like, and gobble up with chopsticks, adding some of the greens here and there. It’s often only available in the mornings through to just after lunch though some places stay open until early evening.

Most bún chả places also serve nem — delicious fried spring rolls — so if you’re particularly hungry it’s worth ordering a few of those too. Look out for “nem cua be” — crab spring rolls. Yum.

A Bun Cha Stall

A Bun Cha Stall

I’m not going to claim to be an expert on the best bún chả in the city, but I can point you in the right direction some reasonable places at least. But they’re scattered around — just follow your nose!

The most famous bún chả joint in Old Quarter is the stall at 1 Hàng Mành. It’s not the best bún chả around but it’s clean and central, portions are large and the staff is used to foreigners, so it’s an OK place to start. I’ve also heard good things about Bun Cha Nem Cua Be Dac Kim at 67 Duong Thanh Street: apparently it’s less crowded and the food’s better.

There are quite a few stalls along Cầu Gỗ, just north of the lake, and on the alleyway that runs between Dinh Liet and Hàng Bè. I can’t recommend any in particular as they’re all much of a muchness and generally don’t have a name so just take your pick.

Outside of Old Quarter there are some along Mai Hắc Đế — a great street for food generally — to the south of Hoan Kiem near Vincom Towers. If for any reason you happen to be out near my place, try the one on Đội Cấn Street near the turning of Vạn Bảo Street.

Expect to pay around 20,000VND for the bún chả plus 3,000VND or so for each nem — although well-known places like1 Hàng Mành are pricier.

Watch out for future posts about food in Hanoi and check out Travelfish’s guide to food and drink for more options.

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