If you've tried one Vietnamese dish, it's most likely pho. The beef noodle soup, which is made with rice noodles, is a must-try on the streets of Vietnam - not to mention readily available overseas.
But there's a lot more to Vietnam's diverse noodle scene than this well-known dish.
Another delectable noodle dish hidden in plain sight of travelers is vermicelli, which is as surprising, variable, and seductive as jazz.
The joys of vermicelli
The term "bún" in Vietnamese refers to rice vermicelli. It is essentially Asian spaghetti. It's slurpable and versatile, with endless combinations that make it taste different every time.
Hanoi is a paradise of vermicelli. You can’t count how many kinds of vermicelli that Hanoi proudly has. Hanoians prefer long, thin vermicelli with a white, tough fiber.
They eat bun with fish sauce or tomato broth, snails or grilled meats, wrapped in a spring roll,... Particularly for ‘bun dau mam tom’, they will eat ‘bun la’. It is woven into palm-sized bun blankets.
Created from rice grains, the quintessence of Vietnamese cuisine, vermicelli is fragile but like a red silk thread connecting a strong relationship and love.
Of course, not all vermicelli dishes are the same. Examining and tasting the broth and fish sauce is the best way to judge a vermicelli dish. Hanoians dislike cloudy broths, so the best broth is clear.
The clearer it is, the better the balance of flavors (salty, sweet, sour, and bitter) that are essential for a wonderful dish. Ready to slurp some Hanoi’s vermicelli? Here are seven typical vermicelli dishes of Hanoi and where to try them in the capital city.
Some typical vermicelli dishes of Hanoi
You can easily find a lot of vermicelli dishes when wandering the streets of Hanoi. Using the same principle ingredient as vermicelli, the vermicelli seller can cook many dishes.
1. Bun oc
No one knows where the snail vermicelli comes from, possibly a suburban dish that was introduced into the ancienst capital of Thang Long. Hanoians have been eating snail vermicelli for many years, can enjoy three meals a day.
Bun oc is a popular breakfast dish in Hanoi. Photo by @duminhtam2101
The ingredients of the dish are not picky, just the fat snail, the clear, rich broth, and the smell of vinegar are delicious enough. Snails must be medium-sized, boiled, and cooked when eaten with chewy and greasy, not fishy. Hot snail vermicelli is used with tangled vermicelli, cold snail vermicelli is eaten with leaf vermicelli.
Diners often put chili and shrimp paste in a bowl of vermicelli and serve with raw vegetables. Many restaurants in Hanoi add fried tofu, spring rolls, and pork rolls to keep diners full.
A simple bowl of snail vermicelli usually costs 15,000 - 30,000 VND. Finding snail vermicelli in Hanoi is easy, diners can go to vermicelli shops at:
- Bún ốc cô Thêm: 9 Hang Chai, Hoan Kiem & 134 Bach Mai, Hai Ba Trung
- Bún ốc bà Lương: 149 Trieu Viet Vuong, Hai Ba Trung
- Bún ốc cô Huệ: 43 Nguyen Sieu, Hoan Kiem
2. Bun thang
Bun Thang is a unique, signature noodle that can only be found in Hanoi. The “Thang” in the name origins from the way the dish is prepared. Because it takes so many ingredients to make the dish perfect, people compare it to how old Vietnamese pharmacists prepare herbal medicine for their clients/patients.
Bun Thang ingredients include tangy vermicelli, shredded chicken, fried eggs and thinly sliced pork rolls, sliced shiitake mushrooms, shrimp paste, pickled radish, salted eggs... create beautiful patches of color. The broth of bun thang is clear and sweet, simmered with shrimp, pork, or chicken bones (can't use beef bones because of the smell).
Bun thang is a typical vermicelli dish only available in Hanoi. Photo by @megan_ngochuyen
When eating, diners often add Chinese flavor, laksa leaves, scallions, chili garlic vinegar, pepper, and a little shrimp paste. A standard bowl of bun thang is not only delicious but also beautiful. Eating a delicious bowl of bun thang, people will feel the sophistication of Hanoi's culinary art: simple but very delicate.
A bowl of bun thang costs 30,000 - 50,000 VND. Currently, in Hanoi, there are only a few places selling bun thang. Some longtime addresses that are popular with locals are:
- Bún Thang Quán cũ: 31A Phan Dinh Phung, Quan Thanh, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
- Bún Thang Bà Đức: 48 Cau Go, Hang Bac, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
3. Bun moc
Bun moc is a familiar breakfast dish for the people of the capital, which appeared about half a century ago. Many people believe the vermicelli dish is named after the place of origin, Moc village, now Nhan Chinh (Thanh Xuan, Hanoi). However, many other opinions believe that sprouting is the way to call the raw pork balls dropped into the vermicelli pot. And it is associated with the profession of making spring rolls in Hanoi.
Bun moc is suitable to eat in summer. Photo by halotravel
The principal ingredient is that the pellets must be delicious, seasoned just right, made from finely ground raw pork with natural pink color from the meat. To increase the flavor of the dish, many places add shiitake mushrooms, wood ear mushrooms, and minced meat to the sprouts.
This dish has many versions such as served with bamboo shoots, pork ribs, chicken, sausages, crab noodles... but the broth is said to be up to the standard, must be clear and sweet from the bones. When eating, sprinkle a pinch of chopped scallions and coriander, add pepper, chili vinegar.
Bun moc in Hanoi costs 20,000 - 40,000 VND. Some famous delicious places in Hanoi:
- Bún mọc Điện Biên Phủ: 22 Dien Bien Phu, Dien Ban, Ba Dinh
- Bún mọc Hàng Lược: 57 Hang Luoc, Hang Ma, Hoan Kiem
4. Bun rieu
Bun rieu was not born in Hanoi but has been a favorite dish of the people of the capital for a long time. Previously, the suburban areas of Hanoi were still vast fields. There was a natural source of crabs with sweet meat, and this vermicelli from here was brought into the city according to the people's enjoyment. Although bun rieu is cooked hot but has a cool taste, Hanoians often eat vermicelli to fight boredom after Tet.
Bun rieu Ha Noi is cooked from crab meat. Photo by bepmina
An original bowl of bun rieu has vermicelli and crab broth, but not full of beef, cartilage ribs, ear rolls, fried tofu, and stir-fry like today. The standard broth has a sweet taste from the crab, not the meat and bone broth. The brick is golden yellow, not friable, not stuffed with tofu.
A few professional noodle shops in Hanoi cook crab cakes with fried onions, lard, and sweet gourd to create a rich, nutty flavor and iridescent color for the noodle soup. Vinegar is an indispensable condiment when eating vermicelli in Hanoi, with a mildly sour taste, fragrant rice aroma, reducing the fishy smell of crabs and making the broth taste cool.
In Hanoi, bun rieu cost about 15,000 VND. If diners order a full bowl with spring rolls, meat, snails, and beans, the price is up to 40,000 VND. Some famous shops in the old quarter are:
- Bún riêu Bát Đàn: 25A Bat Dan, Hang Gai, Hoan Kiem
- Bún riêu Hàng Lược: 14 Hang Luoc, Hang Ma, Hoan Kiem
- Bún riêu thập cẩm: 19 Lan Ong, Hoan Kiem
- Quán Thu bún riêu: 5A Tho Xuong, Hang Trong, Hoan Kiem
5. Bun cha
Bun cha is one of the oldest dishes originating from Hanoi. Besides, this iconic dish received international attention when President Obama and Anthony Bourdain were enjoying it on an episode of Parts Unknown.
For gourmets, Hanoi bun cha still has a very distinctive taste. Good vermicelli must ensure factors such as sweet and sour dipping sauce just enough, thinly sliced pickled green papaya, and carrot must be crispy.
Bun cha features hunks of charcoal-grilled fatty pork. Photo by @thechefandthedish
The pork is carefully marinated, grilled over charcoal but not burnt. The meat is served with rice vermicelli noodles and a generous pile of fresh vegetables.
The hot, aromatic grilled meat that is both fatty and greasy mixed with the sweet and salty taste of the dipping sauce mixed with the cool taste of vermicelli and the coolness of raw vegetables will bring you an unforgettable culinary experience.
To eat bun cha, you can visit:
- Bún chả Hương Liên - Obama shop: 24 Le Van Huu, Hai Ba Trung
- Bún chả Cửa Đông: 41 Cua Dong Street, Hoan Kiem
- Bún chả Bạch Mai: 213 Bach Mai, Hai Ba Trung
6. Bun bung
Bun bung is a popular dish for Hanoians. No one knows exactly when it appeared, but in the 1990s, this noodle dish was sold a lot on the sidewalks of the capital.
Bung' is the word for dishes that have to be boiled for a long time with a lot of water. The vermicelli is made from pork bones, the sour taste from the tamarind, the iridescent yellow-red scum from the sautéed tomatoes, and marinated turmeric.
Bun bung is a popular vermicelli dish in Hanoi. Photo by @varonica.ngo
The vermicelli is blanched in a pot (not too long) and then scooped out into a bowl with lean pork legs or young pork ribs, along with the mosquito net, and tomatoes. These ingredients of the meat are marinated with simmering turmeric, both beautiful and soft. Some shops also add wood ear pellets, quail eggs, and spring rolls to fill the bowl of vermicelli noodles beautifully.
Bun bung in Hanoi costs from 30,000 VND a bowl. This dish is often sold in combination with bun rieu and bun thang shops. Some places that are frequented by Hanoi diners are:
- Quán Bún bung Chân giò Bún thang: 32 Cau Go, Hang Bac, Hoan Kiem
- Bún bung bà Minh: Truong Chinh Street, Nga Tu So, Dong Da
7. Bun dau mam tom
This typical Hanoi vermicelli dish has become famous today and is available in many regions across the country. Bun dau mam tom is a very popular dish with a few chopped vermicelli leaves, a few chopped tofu, and deep-fried in fat until crispy and golden, then picked out and eaten with shrimp paste prepared with chili, sugar, a little kumquat.
A full serving of bun dau mam tom. Photo by @nuunii6670
Picking up a piece of vermicelli leaf, a piece of tofu paste with a little shrimp paste, and then eating it with marjoram, perilla, the smell of China, you will feel the aroma of vermicelli, the greasy taste of tofu, the salty and sweet taste of well-mixed shrimp paste. This chorus is very attractive, hard to refuse.
Today, to please diners, vermicelli dish is often added with spring rolls, cinnamon rolls, fried intestines, boiled pork tongue... However, just vermicelli with golden fried tofu, this dish is delicious and attractive enough.
Unlike other vermicelli dishes, bun dau mam tom is sold a lot and is popular, so almost everyone has their pocket address. However, if you do not know where to go, where to eat deliciously, you can visit Hang Khay street or Phat Loc alley to try this dish.
You see, each of Hanoi's vermicelli dishes has its flavor and characteristics, but they all represent the diverse cuisine of the capital. If you plan to come to Hanoi, don't miss enjoying these typical vermicelli dishes.