There are spring rolls and there’s pho… but you really haven’t been to Hanoi / Vietnam if you haven’t had Bun Cha.
This was the first place we tried for Bun Cha, and frustratingly, everyone else I’ve asked subsequently points me to this same joint. It’s not that the food wasn’t good (it was GREAT!), but it did feel as if we were being charged “tourist” prices at 100,000VND per person, which is about 3 times the price at less famous roadside joints. To be fair, we did try alternatives and they were all lesser incarnations, so maybe Dac Kim knows they’ve got the market cornered. To be more specific, the lesser incarnations are likely to only come with the meat patties in broth (which still tends to be dry) and without the spring rolls.
There’s no need to stress about what to order. Just tell them how many people are eating and they haul out the corresponding motherload of meat. The meats and sauces are just FAB. BEW. LUSS. One of the staff came over to point at what goes with what, but frankly every combo – no matter how strange it may seem to a Hanoian – tastes amazing. The crispy Nem Cua Be (Crab Springrolls) go perfectly with the bowl of sauce that you flavour accordingly (depending on your heat and bad breath tolerance) with chili padi and garlic. You can then dunk chopstickfuls (did I just invent a new word?) of white noodles into that bowl of porky paradise. The broth is flavourful without being overpowering, containing slices of meat that live in harmony with mini patties of ground meat wrapped in a little green leaf. They didn’t live very long.
Hygiene tip: There’s a wise saying that if you want to eat good street food, try not to see how it’s prepared. Unfortunately, I was curious enough to see what happened to the mountain of assorted greens that comes with each Bun Cha portion. Most people are unlikely to get even half-way through. Turns out that the leftovers go back into the central pile of vegetables to be dished out to the next customer. I’m already not a fan of coriander, so this moment of “enlightenment” made sure I never had raw vegetables again in Hanoi – especially when they come in generous piles.
Next door is a interesting distraction while you’re chomping down with god knows how many musical instruments stuffed into a store. Meat + Music = Yumm… And don’t forget the beer (or “bia” as the Vietnamese say…)
Dac Kim Bun Cha
1 Hang Manh