Bun Cha Nuem Cua Be Dac Kim (67 Duong Thanh), Hanoi.

January 2015

In the firmament of Hanoi street food this little place is recommended by Lonely Planet as a good spot to try bun cha (barbecued pork with rice vermicelli). I was there on a wild Hanoi Saturday night, quickly found a seat in front, and was presented with cold vermicelli and a big plate of mixed greens without dressing.

Promptly after, the barbecued pork as chopstick-manageable and bite-sized ground fully-cooked patties arrived in a bowl of warm, not hot, soup also containing a crunchy vegetable and some carrots.

There’s something peculiarly adventurous about eating Vietnamese street food, although this restaurant doesn’t quite qualify, being a dozen-seat indoor hole-in-the-wall with apparently an upstairs. But the food is prepared amid the diners, and three girls (who look about 17, but being Vietnamese could be 35 or older) do the cooking and serving, and collect the money.

There is an interesting smell to these soups (I’ve eaten in one other street place so far) that seems sort of metallic but when first exposed to it I thought was bad meat. The rice noodles are gorgeous: soft, pure white, and perfectly tender. The pork patties are just barbecued pork patties. I think you can order spices to add, but the soup and patties were delicious and I wasn’t that hungry.

I could have done without the very interesting mixed greens which were butter lettuce, cilantro, some kind of mint, and a type of rocket or lamb’s lettuce. I drank one of the lovely Czech-inspired Hanoi beers. Out the door for $3.75.

I’m still forming my opinion about famous Hanoi street food. So far I wonder whether there might be a couple of layers of Emperor’s clothes on this set of delicacies. Thinking back, what made me decide to come to this town was an article by Anthony Bourdain, raving about the delicious meat and wonderful soup. Maybe I have to try something a bit more upscale.  Food 6.1, service 7.8, ambience… well, it’s authentic, value off the scale.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 30 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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