This is a very belated article on 'the other noodle soup' – Bun Cha Ca. I've been here a year and a half and avoided it like the plague.
Most of the ones served here are pretty average to say the least.
Bun refers to Bun noodles – thin rice vermicelli which are very common over here.
They get used for lots of different things – inside the "goi cuon" rice paper wraps, as noodles in soup, in 'lau' hotpots, as a side dish for barbecued meat – the list is endless.
The famous noodle soups using bun noodles areBun Bo Hue and Bun Cha Ca.
Bun Bo Hue is an awesome beef, chilli and lemongrass soup that people outside of Central Vietnam just don't "get".
That's because it ends up as a bland, wishy-washy braised beef with lemon and a few herbs in an insipid broth. The real one is an absolute cracker with tender stewed beef, a rich multi-faceted soup and a few other things bobbing around like blood and pork meat balls.
Pity it doesn't travel well, or get done properly outside central Vietnam. It gives the dish a bad name and people wonder what all the fuss is about.
Bun Cha Ca suffers the opposite problem.
The Hanoi bun cha is a bit of a specialty….a totally different dish which I had confused with the Danang version.
Hanoi grills fatty pork burgers over charcoal and these are served with aromatic herbs and rich sauce.
This part of the country tags 'cha' on the end….pounded mousse, and celebrates the legend with a display of jaded chopped up fishcakes mixed through what looks and tastes like dish washing water topped with a few floating salad leaves. And maybe overcooked local tuna or mackerel.
We have a clean shop in Danang that does a nice bowl of bun cha ca in a restaurant environment.
It comes with fresh herbs, condiments and a tasty broth.
I really want to see that bent old lady fanning charcoal on the footpath in Hanoi with that wire contraption full of barbecue smoke and grilled pig flavour.
That would make this almost perfect.
Or maybe I'll just do a follow up post from Hanoi. I'm looking forward to that one.
Here's the local version on Nguyen Chi Thanh St in the city – a flavourful broth with cabbage and stewed pumpkin and some chunks of fresh Da Nang ocean fish. the place was clean, neat and had great staff and service.
On a very bright note I had a swig of the complimentary tea, almost swooned with pleasure and asked for another. So delicious.
They dropped off the whole teapot, gratis.
Great to go to a local place and see new plastic gloves used with each table. Good Girl!
These are the bun noodles which are a little similar to Khanom Jeen noodles in Thailand
At the table you get lettuce, peppery cress and shredded cabbage with which to liven up the noodle soup.
One thing I love about the food here is the liberal use of fresh herbs, leaves and salad greens. It makes even the most decadent feast seem somewhat healthful.
On the flavour side, the cress adds a punch but the chilli and lime are table staples across the nation.
the soup itself is quite spicy, so I imagine that's the central influence. In my (limited) experience here, 95% of all the Hanoians I have met would rather lose a limb than eat spicy food laced with chilli.
Black pepper is the extent of their adventures with spice in food, and that also used quite sparingly.
Central Vietnam has a penchant for capsaicin-enhanced dishes, especially Hue which is just a couple of hours North from here.
It was nice.
I won't be throwing myself under a train or slashing my wrists if the shop closes, but I will be back, and it is a nice light tasty addition to our regular round up of local morning meals.
The pumpkin is a bit of a surprise. Tastes great and gives one a bit of a challenge prying the last remnants of soft orange flesh off the skin.
Cooking is like comedy – It's all about the timing.
Everything here is done ahead, but nothing overcooked and everything is clean and fresh.
It's prompt, tasty and healthy with fast friendly service. No English skills, but we aren't in London, New York or Sydney doing a $12 – $20 replica.
55,000 VND for 2 bowls which works out to around £0.84, US$1.22 or 1 Euro a bowl.
THAT is a pretty good value meal in anyone's book.
Pop on in and see for yourself if you are in Da Nang or planning to visit.
109 Nguyen Chi Thanh Street, Danang City.
Thanks for reading. Please add your comments or experiences if you're a Bun Cha Ca fan (or hater).
I'd love to know what you think in the battle of the Vietnamese Noodle Soups.