One Final Bún Chả – 336 of 365

Bún Chả

One final bowl of bún chả and finally some success after all those failed attempts in Saigon!  Of course I had to travel to Hanoi for a decent meal, but that’s ok.  Since I had to spend the night in Hanoi for work anyhow, I figured why not make the best of it and have what might just be my last bowl of these succulent grilled pork medallions.  I know bún chả has popped up a few times and the whole point of this food journey was to try new meals, but please indulge me here as this is my all time favorite Vietnamese food bar none.

This concrete open air shack at 49 Xuan Dieu Road in the Tay Ho neighborhood was one of the first restaurants I saw up close after moving to Hanoi, and my American sensibilities were just shocked into submission by what I deemed at the time a total disregard for proper western sanitation and cleanliness.  Maybe shocked is too mild a word.  Let’s say my appetite for Vietnamese food was eviscerated and annihilated as I surveyed what back then seemed like filth and squalor.  Food and trash all over the floors, dubious hygiene, meat left out to fester in the hot sun…you name it, I saw it.

I vowed then and there I’d never step foot in this joint.  Even walking past it daily and hearing their cries of “bún chả, bún chả!” over and over was never enough to even entice me inward to one of the tiny squat stools.  In fact, having to walk through that oily grill smoke polluting the sidewalk irritated me, and I just couldn’t understand why these girls kept yelling bun cha at me day in and day out when it was abundantly clear I was nowhere near biting.

Grilled Pork

Now you might understand a little better why at the beginning of this food journey I was so timid and even a bowl of pho was so far outside my comfort zone.  Well fast forward a couple of years and hell has frozen over and pigs now fly.  I am proud to announce I was finally able to sit down at this tiny bun cha stand and not even think twice.  I’ve come so far this year of food exploration and have a deeper appreciation for Vietnam as it is in the raw and not how I wish it could be all Disneyfied and westernized.

The bún chả was in a word delicious.  The round morsels were nicely seasoned, very soft and went so well with the warmed vinegary broth.  The thin slices of pickled unripe mango went so well with the meat.  Copious amounts of herbs ranging from mint to purple perilla to basil and even lettuce threw so many flavors my way I could barely keep up.  The rice vermicelli was soft and spongy and lacking the acidic bite of cheaper noodles used in some bun cha joints.

I promise I won’t go on the hunt anymore for a decent bún chả in Saigon.  This is the meal I want to remember it by, and anything else might taint the flavors I have saved deep in my mind.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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