Bun Cha is not native to southern Vietnam. It comes from the north. It is popular all over Vietnam–in fact all over the world–but it comes from Hanoi. In fact, in the Washington, DC area, menus refer to this dish as “Hanoi Grilled Pork”.
It was now beginning to get dark as we got on the backs of our guides’ motorbikes and rode across town to District 5. District 5 is known for its concentration of the Chinese community in HCM. I’ll share more about our subsequent visit to Saigon’s “Chinatown” in a subsequent post.
At this point jet lag was setting in with some gusto. We left Washington, DC on a tuesday night and it was now Thursday evening and we had yet to sleep in a Vietnamese bed! Our guides, Huy and Nana told us we had a lot more stops, each with a lot more food!
We stopped at a large and pleasant restaurant called Quan Bún chả Hồ Gươm. They had a motobike valet parking attendant! Nana said the place made some of the best Bun Cha…in the south. Sort of like the “Best New England Clam Chowder in Miami”!
It was a fantastic dish! The pork is marinated, grilled, and served with a sweet and garlicky fish sauce. We had it with fried spring rolls. Those spring rolls alone were better than the best Vietnamese food I’d ever had in the states!
As with the Banh Xeo, the dish was served with a variety of greens, each with a different flavor profile. I think Nana recognized the zombie-like looks in our faces and fixed our bowls for us with greens, chilis, garlic, and sauce on the side.
We also had a cold milk-like drink made from corn. If they had this drink here in the US it would be every kids’ favorite drink! It was very sweet, but fresh and delicious!
As much as I enjoyed the dish, our guides assured me I would be blown away by the bun cha in Hanoi. Saigon freely gives Hanoi credit for making the best version of this dish.
It was indeed good In Hanoi and they know it. I would even be told that I can’t get good bun cha in the United States because all the Vietnamese people in the US are from the south! It reminded me of all the New Yorkers I know who whine that “you can’t get good pizza outside of the city”!
But this was some pretty good bun cha! Next we were off to enjoy some coconut ice cream.