Al Gore, the former VP of US and A, was famous for inventing internet. But did you know President Obama was not just famous for inventing being first black president, but also being the first president to get down and dirty with the locals on the street food scene? And when he was in Hanoi, he had Bun Cha.
Saigon might be the party capital for Vietnam, but street-food-wise Hanoi is the undisputed king of the castle. And Bun Cha? This is the quintessential Hanoi street dish (for other choices check out my top Hanoi street food blog).
No one quite knows who invented bun cha or when, but let’s get onto the nitty gritty of how it is made and what makes it so damned good!
What the hell is bun cha?
Bun cha is a genuine original Hanoi dish, although you can now get it in other cities and there are copycat variations in places like Saigon. For real bun cha, though, it’s all about Hanoi.
The dish itself is actually really simple. You get a bowl of broth served with greens on the side, as well as vermicelli noodles. You then get what makes this dish so kick-ass: the properly BBQ’d pork that is then added to the broth. After that it’s down to you to mix up the storm you want! Want it spicy? No problem.
So bun – cha?
The bun is the vermicelli noodles, which to be done properly should be thin, chewy and a little bit soft.
So, the cha?
Cha is the best part: it’s the meat! Apparently, this can be done in two styles: either minced pork or grilled BBQ pork. We adhere to the latter! BBQ Bun Cha all the way, baby!
The bun cha broth!
For me the meat of bun cha is the highlight, but the broth is extremely flavorsome, with the option to add extra spices, and even vinegar to “have it your way”.
Obviously the most boring part of bun cha is the big bowl of greens which consists of lettuce, vegetables and herbs. In the defense of the herbs they really liven up the broth at least.
When should you eat bun cha?
In the past it was considered a breakfast or lunch dish, but nowadays you will find street vendors knocking out bun cha at night, which with beer makes a decent change from Hanoi BBQ or Hanoi Hot Pot.
Where to eat bun cha?
The most famous place in Hanoi to eat bun cha is the restaurant that Obama visited called “Bun Cha” Huang Lien at 24 Le Van Huu. This place is busy, and obviously famous, but serves good food. Alternatively we found a great little street vendor run by a rater eccentric gentlemen that let us drink our own whisky there! His restaurant is situated on 57 Hang Chieu.
To sum it all up, you’ve not been to Hanoi unless you eat yourself some Bun Cha!