Described in our Luxe Guide to Hanoi as “Yes, it’s a total dump, but who cares when the grilled pork patties and spring rolls are that good” — so obviously we had to try it. :) While you physically sit inside a cramped, multi-story building with winding cement staircase, much of the cooking is done on the sidewalk outside, and part of the first floor inside. The bottom line? For the extremely modest sums they charged, this was great value for money…
As far as we could tell, there were only two things on offer here, grilled pork patties and other grilled pork meat (wrapped in leaves) served in a broth that was ladled over thin slices of unripened papaya, and fried spring rolls. This all arrived at your table with rice noodles, the ever present bowl of herbs and some chilies and fish sauce. We just ordered whatever we saw from diners around us, 95% of whom were locals, despite this place appearing in nearly every guide book we had read.
The pork patties arrived in a lightly flavored broth or soup, laid on top of papaya slices (that’s more papaya slices in the bowl in the back) and the freshly fried spring rolls were stuffed with noodles and pork. The pork was drowning in a surface oil slick half a centimeter deep, too much oil, in my personal opinion. And I like lard, but this was a bit of a turn off to be honest. The pork tasted delicious, but you had to dab it on some noodles (that were not to be consumed) to remove some of the fat.
The spring rolls were delicious, and I suspect they must do a “double-fry” — apparently the key to great fried vietnamese spring rolls.
A bowl of fiery chilies and pungent chopped garlic was essential to concocting a personal bowl of noodles, and bun, and broth, grease, papaya and herbs whose sum was truly greater than the parts. I finished my entire portion of rice noodles, but Mrs. MM and the Teen struggled with theirs.
The plate of mixed herbs was always such a stunning, fresh and aromatic touch to all our meals in Hanoi…
…but these particular herbs were just plucked from this large plastic laundry basket that was laying directly on the sidewalk just outside the restaurant. There was that nagging voice of my long departed mother about typhoid and hepatitis and parasites that niggled in the background… but none of us got ill despite eating in less than what we would normally consider to be acceptable sanitary conditions. Service was cordial and swift and we were in and out of there in less than 20 minutes, paying a bill that was perhaps less than USD4 per person, including softdrinks/bottled water.
The head “chef’ doing her thing on the sidewalk. Notice the once fried spring rolls on her right, and the double-fried spring rolls on her left.
If you are in the vicinity, we recommend you give Bun Cha a try…
1 Hang Manh