In Praise of Bun Cha

by aengelson | February 26th, 2010

So, to stay on the topic of food for a moment, I’d like to put in a good word for bun cha.

I’m usually pretty good about mixing up my lunch routine. But this week I ate bun cha for lunch every day. And I’m still loving it.

I am addicted to bun cha.

I think of bun cha as Hanoi’s emblematic dish. Back in the states, everybody knows the noodle soup pho. And don’t get me wrong, pho is good and all, and I’ve had some amazing bowls of pho–both beef and chicken–in Hanoi.

But bun cha is synonymous with Hanoi for me.

It has it all: The garlicky pork meat patties grilled over a charcoal fire. The pile of sticky white rice noodles. The salty-sweet broth (or is it a sauce?) swimming with the pork and slices of green papaya. The herb basket–filled with fresh cilantro, mint, lettuce, and rau tio to (also known as beefsteak herb or perilla). The accompanying nem (fried spring rolls). Perfection.

To eat the dish, which is sort of cross between a soup and a salad, you grab some noodles with your chopsticks, coat them in the salty sweet sauce, and slurp them up. Pick out a tasty herb of your choice and eat it with a porn lesb sex savory pork meatball. Or dip a slice of spring roll in and crunch it up with some lettuce and mint.

I especially like rau tio to, a jagged-leafed purple herb that’s tangy, slightly bitter, and, with a bite of pork absolutely heavenly. And apparently it’s good for you (not surprising, since Vietnamese culture sees food and health completely intertwined). One website says the herb has been use for centuries in Asian medicine as

an antiasthmatic, antibacterial, antidote, antimicrobial, antipyretic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitussive, aromatic, carminative, diaphoretic, emollient, milf porn expectorant, pectoral, restorative, stomachic and tonic.

Anyway, it sure tastes good.

For those who like it hot, add some of the chopped garlic and chilies on the side or a spoonful or two of nuoc cham, that vinegary chili and garlic sauce that makes your tastebuds cartoon porn stand up and say “Hooooah!”

Part of the joy of bun cha is the ritual–varying the herb and meat and noodle combinations. And then there’s the wafting smoke from the bun cha lady’s grill. And the kid-sized chairs and tables. You can choose to keep your head down in your bowl, if you’re feeling solitary. Or smile  and attempt to chat with your fellow lunchmates if you’re feeling sociable (and if  they are, too).

My favorite bun cha stand in Hanoi is on Xuan Dieu street, between the World Wide Fund office and the Syrena shopping center. But there are great stands all over the city. Just pick one and dig in.

3 Responses to “In Praise of dating sites Bun Cha”

  1. Hi Andy , my name is Ha . I am a Hanoian , was born and now living in Hanoi . I’m very happy when I read this article , you describe buncha in a differrent way , but very interesting through . Can I copy this article to my English club forum ?
    You make me want to have a bowl of buncha next week . Lol

  2. aengelson says:

    Hi Ha,
    Thanks for the kind words–sure feel free to copy it, if it’s posted online just make sure to include a link back to this site.
    And enjoy your bun cha!

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About This Site

Hi, I'm Andy Engelson, a writer and editor who lived in Hanoi for five years and now lives in Geneva Switzerland. This blog is no longer active, but you can find more of my writing at The Lost Salt Atlas. I'm currently working on a historical novel set in the Northwest United States during World War II. In a former life, I edited Washington Trails magazine. I like to hike, travel, and play with my family.


But a gift makes a connection. To take the simplest of examples, the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss tells of a seemingly trivial ceremony he has often seen accompany a meal in cheap restaurants in the South of France. The patrons sit at a long, communal table, and each finds before his plate a modest bottle of wine. Before the meal begins, a man will pour his wine not into his own glass but into his neighbor’s. And his neighbor will return the gesture, filling the first man’s empty glass. In an economic sense nothing has happened. No one has any more wine than he did to begin with. But society has appeared where there was none before. The French customarily tend to ignore people whom they do not know, but in these little restaurants, strangers find themselves placed in close relationship for an hour or more. “A conflict exists, says Lévi-Strauss, “not very keen to be sure, but real enough and sufficient to create a state of tension between the norm of privacy and the fact of community. . . . This is the fleeting but difficult situation resolved by the exchange of wine. It is an assertion of good grace which does away with the mutual uncertainty.” Spacial proximity becomes social life through an exchange of gifts. Further, the pouring of the wine sanctions another exchange—conversation—and a whole series of trivial social ties unfolds. — Lewis Hyde, The Gift


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