The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Street food in Hanoi Part 2: bun cha @ Bun Cha 34

There has been some buzz in the news about President Obama lunching on bun cha during his visit to Hanoi earlier this week. Obama was accompanied by Anthony Bourdain, who was filming an episode of his food travelogue Parts Unknown. It was also during our trip to Hanoi last year that we tried bun cha for the first time. I don't think we were prepared for how good this meal would be - it definitely was worth the trek on foot in the rain, manoeuvring the crazy road traffic with two kids in tow. Bun Cha 34 was one of the places recommended by our trusty hotel concierge (who had been thus far on point with all his street food suggestions).

For the uninitiated (like we were), bun cha comes in four components: the herbs, the noodles, the grilled meat and the dipping sauce. The meat is grilled on charcoal fire then dipped into the dipping sauce just prior to serving it. All the ingredients have their part to play, but the star of this show is no doubt the meat: sweet bite-sized pieces of pork belly and succulent pork patties wrapped in flavourful lolot leaves. The dipping sauce brings the whole dish together with its slightly sweet, salty and piquant flavour - a perfect mix of salty fish sauce, tangy vinegar, sugar and lime. Combined with the pillowy soft noodles, crunchy beansprouts and fragrant herbs, this is foodie heaven in a mouthful.

The shopfront. This is popular with the locals, and its location on the outer skirts of Old Quarter means less crowd and less tourists:

Be prepared to share a table. Don't worry, Vietnamese are courteous diners and will not bother you (though as an interracial family with two kids and one on the way, we attracted attention anywhere we go). An advantage to sharing a table is that you can easily watch how you're supposed to eat the food:

The noodles, grilled meat in dipping sauce and a mound of veggies and herbs that make up bun cha:


This meal happened on our last day in Hanoi, and I sorely wished we had given ourselves more time to try bun cha in other shops to compare. Bun Cha 34 is definitely worth the visit!

Bun Cha 34
34 Hang Than
Ba Dinh
Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel. +84 94 836 19 71

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