Rub shoulders with the locals
67 Hang Dieu, Hoan Kiem
Bun Bo Nam Bo on Hang Dieu (number 67) was my first real eating-with-the-locals experience in Hanoi. It’s not just that the main dish served here of bun bo nam bo is quintessentially street food, but the environment and atmosphere of the restaurant are typical of a local lunch-time venue: it’s loud, it’s crowded, there’s rubbish all over the floor, the tables are scattered with scraps… and the seats are small. I loved it, and we went back a few times while we were staying nearby.
Then the restaurant, and the dish, drifted out of my consciousness as I moved away from Old Quarter and discovered bun cha. Now it’s back, with a vengeance, as I’ve discovered a place near the office which serves up a damn fine bowl of the noodley loveliness.
So what is it? As the name would suggest, its base is bun noodles (the thin spaghetti-like rice noodles). They’re put in a bowl on top of a bed of fresh lettuce and topped with a mixed stir-fry of beef, bean sprouts and onions. Then a broth is poured over and chopped roasted peanuts and dried shallots are sprinkled over the top. Some fresh local mint leaves make it in there as well.
When it’s served, give it a good stir and, if you like, add some fresh chillies or chilli sauce and a squirt of lime juice. Lap it up with chopsticks and keep a spoon on hand to scoop up the broth.
It’s a good summer and winter dish: not so hot as to overheat you on a summer’s day yet comforting enough for those cold Hanoian winters. It’s also, while not exactly healthy, not as bad as some of the alternative street food dishes — well, that’s what I tell myself anyway.
Bun Bo Nam Bo on Hang Dieu also serves nem chua: raw (well, I’m guessing it must be cured in some way) minced pork wrapped in a banana leaf. It’s not commonly served with bun bo but give it a go.
Other places worth trying are the stall outside Mao’s Red Lounge, at 7 Ta Hien, and my work local, next to Syrena Towers at 49 Xuan Dieu. Bun bo nam bo is most popular at lunchtimes but can also be found in the evening. Expect to pay 35,000 to 40,000 VND for a bowl.
By Sarah Turner
Last updated on 17th September, 2014.