Vietnamese Bun cha (grilled pork with vermicelli) has been a prominent presence in Vietnamese cuisine & street food culture, loved by the majority of international guests. Bun cha can be found in all regions of Vietnam, but the version of Bun cha Hanoi has an unmistakable taste, making it the pride of the capital city. Passing the street food stalls, no one can resist the scent of sizzling grilled meat. Hanoians have the habit of enjoying Hanoi-style Bun cha for lunch or dinner.
I - What does a serving of Bun cha Hanoi include?
Source: Leo Nguyen
1 - Ingredients in Hanoi-style Bun cha
As its name suggests, a serving of Bun cha consists of 2 main parts: vermicelli and patties, in addition to dipping sauces and a variety of raw vegetables. The serving of Bun Cha in Hanoi looks attractive with the smooth white color of soft and chewy vermicelli, the golden color of fragrant hot grilled meat and minced pork patties. Next to it is a plate of greens including marjoram, lettuce, basil,... and a bowl of dipping sauce that often has sliced green papaya, carrots and kohlrabi. They are colorful, floating on the fish sauce that has been mixed with spices, creating an attractive sweet, sour, spicy and salty taste.
When eating at Bun cha Hanoi restaurants, you would more often encounter the tangled vermicelli that are cut into a moderate length nowadays. But the traditional dish used a type of bun called “bowl vermicelli”, i.e. vermicelli pressed into a small round flat shape. Cha is also an important part of Hanoi-style Bun cha, consisting of 2 types: meat pieces and minced meat molded into small patties grilled until golden brown. Pork belly is often chosen to process for its softness and sweetness, marinated in many spices then mixed and grinded with shiitake mushrooms if making patties.
Grilled pork pie - Source: Internet
To make the best cha (grilled pork) for Bun cha Hanoi, instead of a metal grill, the cook must use bamboo sticks, which is the type of fresh bamboo with thorns, cut into sticks and washed clean before clamping into the meat. Grilled cha with bamboo sticks not only has the aroma of spices marinated in the meat, but also has a slight aroma of bamboo stalks, ensuring food safety as there is no rust. Even the process of mincing meat is sophisticated, best to make by hand so the meat is not crushed, giving the pork patties the sweetness and softness of the original meat fibers, creating an excellent feeling while eating the best Bun cha Hanoi.
After being marinated according to the traditional recipe, each bamboo stick with pieces of meat is grilled carefully on the stove while fanning by hand. Charcoal for grilling is also carefully selected, must be a solid coal that is iridescent inside, only turning red when fanning up but not fiery. When eating Bun cha in Hanoi, you put cha in a bowl of dipping sauce, dip bun in or pour a little dipping sauce over, eat with cha and raw vegetables.
2 - Nutritional information in 1 serving of Bun cha Hanoi
- Calories: 535 - 557 kcal
- Fat: 21g
- Fiber: 2.5g
- Sugar: 67.5g
- With other substances such as starch, protein, calcium,...
It can be seen that Bun cha Hanoi helps provide a lot of energy for your body, without causing weight or fat gain. However, you need to eat in moderation, to avoid making your calorie intake exceed the allowable limit. Moreover, vermicelli contains many acidic substances bad for the stomach, not suitable for people with digestive problems. Those who are sick and feverish should also limit eating because at this time the body is weak, easily prompting a cold stomach, indigestion and defecation. Pregnant or postpartum women can totally eat Hanoi bun cha but shouldn’t, and not too much, and remember to leave out the green papaya and the dipping sauce.
II - The best Bun cha Hanoi restaurants
Finding where to eat bun cha in Hanoi city is very easy, you can enjoy it at many places from roadside stalls, luxury restaurants to residential markets. If you’re indecisive, below are a few famous addresses that you can refer to:
1 - Bun cha Dac Kim - best bun cha in Hanoi old quarter
Believed to have been born in the 65s of the 20th century, this is one of the most famous Bun cha Hanoi restaurants. Dac Kim restaurant selects ingredients very carefully, with patties bigger than other restaurants, not burnt grilled meat and plenty of free raw vegetables. Bun Cha Dac Kim Hanoi is also fairly small and is always crowded, so those who visit at peak hours will have to go up to the upper floors or sit at the tables, and chairs arranged on the sidewalk.
- Address: No.1 Hang Manh Street, Hang Gai Ward in Hoan Kiem District
- Price: 20,000 - 150,000 VND / serving ($0.85 - 6.4)
- Phone: 024 3828 7060
- Opening hours: 9am - 9pm
2 - Bun cha Huong Lien Hanoi
Before US President Barack Obama visited, this Bun cha Hanoi restaurant had been very famous for its cha with a special flavor, soft, rich, sweet and fragrant with onions. With a history of more than 20 years, Huong Lien restaurant also has a more diverse menu than other Hanoi bun cha restaurants, with many dishes such as bun cha nem crab or seafood, square spring roll, etc. The dipping sauce is also quite tasty, with moderate sweetness, slightly inclined towards the sour taste from vinegar. Another plus point of this shop is the cleanliness of 2 spacious floors, the happy and enthusiastic staff, as well as the friendly owner.
- Address: No.24 Le Van Huu Street, Phan Chu Trinh Street in Hai Ba Trung District
- Price: 40,000 - 60,000 VND / serving ($1.7 - 2.56)
- Contact: 024 3943 4106
- Opening hours: 8am - 8:30pm
3 - Bun cha Cua Dong
This Bun cha Hanoi restaurant's meat marinade is cooked from sugar and filtered water, mixed with spices according to the restaurant's own recipe, grilled on charcoal and served with vermicelli, chili fish sauce, green papaya, banana flower and lettuce. Cua Dong bun cha shop has a light, simple but equally beautiful space, including many small sets of tables and chairs that can accommodate a large group of people.
- Address: No.41 Cua Dong Street, Hang Bo Ward in Hoan Kiem District
- Price: 20,000 - 30,000 VND / serving ($0.85 - 1.28)
- Phone: 090 458 19 64
- Opening hours: 10:30am - 9pm
4 - Bun cha Sinh Tu - one of most famous Bun cha Hanoi restaurants
Born in the 70s of the last century, this is a familiar Hanoi-style Bun cha restaurant for Hanoians, especially for those who are nostalgic. The broth here is prepared according to a secret recipe, when brought out, it is hot and rich in flavor, mixed with fragrant pieces of grilled meat. The important thing to create its own flavor lies in the selection of meat, marinated with various types of spices. The raw vegetables here are washed clean, always fresh and not crushed, mixed with other ingredients to create the famous Bun cha Hanoi. Because of its popularity, the Bun Cha Sinh Tu brand is often copied by many other restaurants, so you must pay attention to the right address.
- Address: No.57A Nguyen Khuyen Street, Van Mieu Ward in Dong Da District
- Price: 30,000 - 50,000 VND / serving ($1.28 - 2.14)
- Contact: 098 565 88 99
- Opening hours: 7am - 8pm
5 - Bun cha Hang Khoai
This 20-year-old Bun cha Hanoi old quarter restaurant opens very early, mainly to serve the night traders at the Long Bien market. Every morning, the bustling image of the staff fanning the coals and preparing the dishes, with the fragrant aroma from grilled meat, attracts passersby. Hanoi-style Bun cha here is eaten with a rich dipping sauce, mixed with chili and lemon, sour rolls and vegetables to create a delicious and unique taste.
- Address: No.48 Hang Khoai Street, Dong Xuan Ward in Hoan Kiem District
- Price: 15,000 - 45,000 VND / serving ($0.64 - 1.92)
- Opening hours: 6am - 3pm
III - Best Bun cha Hanoi recipe
Ingredients to make Bun cha - Source: Novadigita
1 - Preparation
- 250g lean pork
- 250g minced lean pork
- 1kg vermicelli
- Carrot, radish, garlic, peppers, and raw vegetables.
- 50g minced lemongrass
- 15g rock sugar
- 1tsp lemon juice
- 4tbsp fish sauce
- 1 cup of boiled water
- 1.5tbsp honey
- 2tbsp soy sauce
- 2tsp sesame oil
- 1.5tbsp oyster oil
- 6tbsp vinegar
- Spices: seasoning, MSG, sugar, salt, ground pepper,...
2 - How to make the best Bun cha Hanoi
Source: Mark Torkington
Step 1: Preliminary treatment
The lean shoulder meat is washed and left in the freezer for about 1 hour, then taken out and cut into thin pieces. The carrot and radish are peeled, thinly sliced and soaked in salt water to remove the smell, then rinsed with clean water and left to dry.
Step 2: Marinating
The lean shoulder meat is marinated with spices for 15 - 20 minutes, by the amount as follows: 1 tsp seasoning, 1 tbsp minced lemongrass, 1 tsp ground pepper, 1 tbsp oyster sauce, 1 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp soy sauce and 1 tsp sesame oil. Ground meat is marinated with 1 tsp ground pepper, 1/2 tbsp minced lemongrass, 1 tsp seasoning, 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil and 1/2 tbsp honey.
Step 3: Grilling
After being marinated, the pork pieces are put on the griddle and grilled until golden, while the ground pork is shaped into a flat round shape. Keep turning the meat over to cook it evenly while waiting, and arrange the other ingredients eaten with Bun cha Hanoi and ones for making dipping sauce.
Step 4: Making dipping sauce
Boil 1 cup of water with the prepared amount of sugar, vinegar and 1 tsp of salt, let the mixture cool and soak the prepared radish and carrot slices in it. Put 15g of sugar in 1 cup of boiling water, stir then add fish sauce, lemon juice, minced garlic and chili. Continue stirring to mix all ingredients, then add carrots and radishes only right before eating to keep the crispiness.
Bun cha Hanoi is not only the pride of the people of the capital, but also an impressive feature of Vietnamese cuisine. This dish has captivated many international diners, promoting the reputation and culture of this country to the world. Therefore, if you have the opportunity to come to Vietnam and its capital, you must definitely visit a Hanoi bun cha restaurant and enjoy this specialty.