A northern speciality
What we say:
While pho is probably the first food everyone thinks of, or hears about, when they come to Vietnam, bun cha 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, bun cha 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 bun cha 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.
I’m not going to claim to be an expert on the best bun cha 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 bun cha joint in Old Quarter is the stall at 1 Hang Manh. It’s not the best bun cha 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 Cau Go, 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 Hac De — 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 Doi Can Street near the turning of Van Bao Street.
Expect to pay around 20,000VND for the bun cha plus 3,000VND or so for each nem — although well-known places like1 Hang Manh are pricier.
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