Bún Thịt Nướng in Phu Quoc – 184 of 365

Bún Thịt Nướng

For weeks now my coworkers have raved about a pork and noodle dish available on Phu Quoc Island early in the morning.  The purser calls ahead to the airport station manager who then arranges for the food to miraculously appear planeside during the 25 minute ground time.   Now how’s that for service as early as 6:30am?  I can only imagine the security meltdown and national scare were a food truck to roll up curbside at an airport terminal in America under the cover of morning light.  Enough said there…

Of course because I’ve been dying to try this mystery meat, my only flights to Phu Quoc have been later in the day well beyond the proper pork noodle window.  In Vietnam we don’t vary from the script and if this dish is available only for breakfast, then we don’t rock the boat trying to find it after breakfast.  Well, my turn at bat finally came up for that elusive morning arrival in Phu Quoc.

Rainy Day in Phu Quoc

Oh dark thirty comes fast, and a 5am hotel pickup without breakfast in the belly only makes the predawn misery worse.  Even though starvation like hunger was gnawing away at my insides, I gave the suspiciously weird airplane breakfast a very wide berth since I wanted my full attention devoted to a much tastier pork treat.

Marginal weather shrouded the mountainous island during our approach, and I testily thought to myself I did not fly two and half hours on an empty stomach only to not be able to land here.   The rain showers and low clouds miraculously parted ways and minutes later I finally held it in my hands.  Yes, after all these weeks, the moment had arrived.  I just hoped the flavors secreted inside weighed in as heavy as the actual white Styrofoam box.

Popping open the lid revealed quite the surprise.  This was not some crazy mystery meat but an old friend…bún thịt nướng!  Upon closer inspection the Phu Quoc version’s slight nuances make it different indeed from my Saigon breakfast lady’s sidewalk stand creation.  And remember the vegetarian version from just a few days ago?   This one puts that faux substitution to great shame and could possibly make a meat lover out of even the staunchest vegans out there.

The grilled pulled pork was perfection.  A crisp outer layer of charred skin and fat framed super moist insides that melted on my tongue.  Spearmint, Thai basil and other fresh herbs pack a potent yet sweet punch when mixed with the savory meat.   Of course the spicy nuoc cham sauce pushes this one across the finish line quite the winner and the soft rice vermicelli greedily soaks it all up.

Watching the smile on my first officer’s face as he took his first bites showed how wonderful an experience great food can be.  He had never before tried bún thịt nướng and this maiden voyage turned into a flavor packed journey to places he had not yet ventured with Vietnamese cuisine.   That food zen frequently crosses my path, and I know well those first few blissful seconds when tasting something so new and amazing.  After all that is what fuels this food journey one bite at a time.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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