Bún Mọc Hà Nội Hanoi Vermicelli Noodles – 137 of 365

Bún Mọc Hà Nội

What is that expression about art imitating life?   A few friends and I piled into a taxi to head over to my favorite vegetarian restaurant here in Saigon since they were eager to expand their food base.   The driver took one look at our smiling white faces in his backseat and turned up some good ole American country music much to our shock.  He just grinned ear to ear and was so proud to show off his cultural awareness.

Though I am not too familiar with country music, I must admit I was impressed as the tinny stereo belted out lyrics along the lines of “I don’t turn it down, I turn it up.”  Turning it up is exactly what our driver did with the volume, and I know he had no idea some guy was singing exactly that.

None of us could say we had ever before bumped down the road in a subcompact Toyota to loud country music in an Asian country so we figured this to be a good omen for a great meal to come.   Our mobile concert dumped us off in front of Au Lac Restaurant at 237 Xo Viet Nghe Thin which turned out to be closed for the holiday.  Ah yes, the holiday.  Reunification Day.  The day the north booted us Americans out of the south.  I suppose my being over here for this holiday is much like a Brit watching fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Driving Through The Restaurant

We ended up walking the mile or so home and enroute stopped off at a random place called Bun Huyen Chi at 39 Nguyen Van Lac.  This wasn’t just any soup but “Hanoi” style soup.   I am beginning to learn that regional Vietnamese specialties served outside their appropriate home base is much like going to a McDonalds in Anchorage for the McRib and expecting something worthy of rural Texas barbecue standards.

My bún mọc Hà Nội was a clear pork tasting broth with a portion of meat balls and bologna like pork sausage called cha lua.  I later asked a friend in Hanoi about this one and he said a proper bún mọc contains mushrooms which I surely did not see floating around in the Saigon version.  The shredded banana leaf and water spinach turned out to be my favorite part as I am always a fan of proper condiment enhancement always so prevalent over here in these parts.  My friend said these vegetables are not normally served in the Hanoi version, but I don’t mind.   We’ll just call this fusion cuisine.

Now that I think about it, allow me to retract a previous thought.  The best part of sitting in that restaurant over a piping hot bowl of liquid was the cigarette smoking delivery man who drove his motorbike right through the restaurant.  Only in Vietnam!  The closest we come to this scene in America is the senile little old lady who hits gas pedal rather than brake only to accelerate her ’74 Dodge Dart right through the plate glass window of Burger King.

Now I can’t say this meal is one forever burned into my memory, but the journey to it is one I shall never forget.  The most delicious part of this lunch is the irony of “Turn It Up” by American Roger Creager playing inside a random Vietnamese taxicab on Reunification Day for three Americans to hear.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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