Archive for the ‘Vietnam’ Category

For pho in Saigon, P and I stopped at a bright yellow building just minutes away from our guesthouse in Pham Ngu Lau, the backpacker district. It was a Wednesday night and Pho Quynh was packed with Vietnamese customers – a great sign! Apparently this place is known for their stewed beef noodles in tomato sauce, or pho bo kho. However, we’d just survived the most harrowing plane ride I’ve ever been on (a thunderstorm was chasing our tail so closely we could see lightning out of our window) so some comfort food was in order. Thus, we both ordered bowls of pho bo tai, or half-done beef pho.

First our pho accoutrements arrived: limes, bean sprouts, chilis, and a heaping plate of herbs including sweet basil, sawtooth coriander, and mint.


Then the bowls of noodles came out. I was surprised to see the meat was nearly all cooked. We went to Pho Hoa later on and ordered the same dish with the same result. It’s nothing at all like the pho bo tai I’d gotten in Hanoi or even in Hong Kong, for that matter; in those places, the beef really is quite raw.


Anyways, the pho itself was delicious. The broth especially had so many of the complex flavors I love – cardamom, star anise, and plenty of black pepper. As I mentioned, P and I also tried Pho Hoa, the pho institution in Saigon. Honestly, though, I was actually disappointed there. I think the pho is overhyped; the broth was more one-note than that at Pho Quynh, and that was before all the requisite green herbs were added. I definitely liked Pho Quynh more, which was just as well, given its convenient location.

Pho Quynh
323 Pham Ngu Lau, District 1 (on the corner of Cong Quynh)
Cost: 40,000 VND/bowl of pho bo tai


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Note: This updated post has further information about bun cha. Whereas I thought it was served in a soup, Ravenouscouple informed me it was actually nuoc mam choc. See their comment below for a link to the recipe. Thanks for the feedback!

E and I went to Laos and Hanoi over Christmas and New Year’s. Going into it, I was particularly psyched for Hanoi, which is known for its street food.

Bun cha: a Hanoi must-have

My most memorable meal in Hanoi was at a small store specializing in bun cha: a dish with vermicelli served with a side of nuoc mam cham (thanks for the correction, ravenouscouple!) with vegetables and (here’s the kicker) strips of just-grilled bacon and minced pork patties that reminded me of kofta. The soup and vegetables are served a bit lukewarm (or at least, at this stall they were) and the meat is fresh off the outdoor grill, adding some nice warmth to the dish. At the table there was a large basket of herbs, from which I chose saw-toothed coriander, basil, and cilantro to dress up my soup. You take the bun (vermicelli) and dip it into the soup/vegetables/pork to prevent the noodles from getting too soft while you’re eating (genius!).

We be grillin'

I think this meal sticks out in my mind because the meat was so good. Unlike the beef in pho tai, which basically comes out to be boiled meat (which I quite like in its own right), this pork was grilled. Specifically, that meant the bacon had crispy edges that added a great texture to the bun cha. Also, the kofta-esque patties were spiced with a heavy hand, which also suited my palate.

E loved it too, as we both declared this our best meal in Hanoi.

Bun Cha
20 Ta Hien Street
Old Quarter

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