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.
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!).
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.
20 Ta Hien Street