Hanoi Snapshot with a Serving of Bun Cha

June 3, 2011

We were quite charmed by Hanoi.

We stayed in the Old Quarter, and spent much of our time exploring this quaint area. We found it to have the bustle of a busy Asian city yet still oozing olden-day charm. Many of the old buildings are preserved or restored. It was all rather gorgeous.

We explored on foot, getting very much lost and happily stumbling across old open houses

Corn on the cob…this actually tasted pretty terrible, so let’s just focus on how pretty it is, shall we?

There were markets on practically every street-corner.

And there was Bánh Chưng frying on the street, the smell was incredible…

We rested our feet and refreshed ourselves with a glass of diced fruit with sweetened condensed milk. Here we are, hanging with the local kids, trying (and failing) to blend in.

and then there was…

Beautiful Bun Cha

Bun Cha is a very popular dish in northern of Vietnam. It consists of grilled pork, vermicilli noodles, greens (lettuce and herbs), a bowl of fish saucy soup and a plate of crunchy fried spring rolls. To me this felt like a fairly random combination, but I was very keen to try it.

There is one restaurant that is supposed to be the place to go for bun cha in Hanoi, located on the corner Hang Non and Hang Manh in the Old Quarter. We ended up eating at this revered restaurant a different day, and it was nowhere near as delicious as the first one we ate at, below.

For breakfast on this exploration day, we decided to follow our instincts and eat at a restaurant we stumbled across. At around 9am we found ourselves at 3 Nguyen Sieu. The sweet waft of grilled pork in betel leaf and the sight of large vats of soup bubbling away drew us in.

This dingy, narrow little eatery was screaming, “eat here! Eat here!”.

And so we did.

And so we fell in love with bun cha.

And so I find myself often dreaming of this dish.

And so I find myself questioning the honesty of the lady from whom I purchased this enormous hat off the street, who ensured me it looked good…

At least my head was warm.

My belly was also warm. This dish was just incredible.

You dip the cold noodles into the sharp, sweet sauce/soup, pick up some pork and crunchy vegetable and pop that delicious salty, sweet bundle into your mouth. Heavenly.

The bursting flavour of the soup was phenomenal, like nothing I had ever eaten before. I was loving every mouthful. It was a complete revelation.

…..

Hanoi has so many gems, more hidden ones than exposed. I only wish we had longer to explore every nook and cranny of this charming, gentle city. I just know there are so many more delicious and exotic eats to be had. I suppose another visit is in order…

Heidi xo

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  • Lisa June 3, 2011 at 8:24 am

    Thankyou for sharing this photo journey!!! I miss travelling!

  • Lisa June 3, 2011 at 9:01 am

    Yay, a travel post! You do them so well. And I'm thrilled to finally hear someone who enjoyed Hanoi. I've only been to South Vietnam and all the reports about the north weren't that encouraging, but now I'm more keen than ever to get back there.

  • Heidi June 3, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Lisa – me too!! and you're welcome 🙂

    Lisa – thank you! and yes we loved the North. Granted we only really saw Hanoi and Ha Long Bay (which I didn't love, to be honest), but Sapa is supposed to be gorgeous.

    Heidi xo

  • hollypop June 3, 2011 at 10:04 am

    hahaha you look cute. like the mushroom on mario brothers 🙂
    i wanna go back to vietnam now.

    i want that colourful drink . yes, that will do nicely.

  • Leah June 3, 2011 at 10:48 am

    stunning photo's Heidi. Your really making me want to go to Vietnam, the food looks amazing!

  • alice hayes June 3, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Bun Cha was by far my faaavee meal in Hanoi Heids! love the blog as always 🙂 xxx

  • Heidi June 3, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Hollypop – hehehe yes!! I so do. And that drink was amazing.

    Leah – ooooh it was Leah!!

    Alice – thanks, lovely! Yep, my fav too. Amazing. Let's go back.

    Heidi xo

  • Ashley June 3, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    Aww, I love that first photo! Gorgeous colours 🙂

    I quite liked Hanoi too, although the hoard of scooters everywhere was a bit frightening at times, especially when trying to walk my grandma around the old town!

    Love seeing your little travel blogs, makes me miss Vietnam… 🙂

  • Ben June 3, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    mmmmmm Bun Cha

  • Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella June 3, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    I love bun! Hubby always goes for pho but I go for bun 😀 The hat looks really cute on you too!

  • Michelle Chin June 3, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    I want to have bun cha now!

    It must taste really different from the ones they served here…

  • Heidi June 3, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    Ashley – yes I can imagine it would be chaotic with a little grandma! Although we found it to be rather placid compared to HCMC.

    Ben – mmmmmmmmm

    Lorraine – hehe thanks 🙂

    Michelle – I've never tried it here, but I'm hoping to find a place that serves a good bun cha!

    Heidi xo

  • InTolerant Chef June 3, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    Now that's my style of dish for sure! I love the photos of everyday objects too, they look so different in this setting and pretty with that wall as a backdrop.

  • Kath (My Funny Little Life) June 4, 2011 at 12:29 am

    Strolling through old, open houses is what I consider the most wonderful way to explore a city (and spend a holiday, anyway). I totally love that! Old, abandoned houses have an unresistable fascination for me, I love to explore and look at all the things that people left behind and that silently tell stories from their lives …

  • chopinandmysaucepan June 4, 2011 at 7:43 am

    I've been to Hanoi 3 times and each time we stayed at the Old Quarters. Apart from the food, the other aspect of Hanoi is the beautiful art by Vietnamese artists which were relatively cheap about 13 years ago but have now really appreciated in price.

    The hat looks good on you. Pity about the corn, it did look good though.

  • Heidi June 4, 2011 at 9:25 am

    InTolerant Chef – thank you 🙂

    Kath – what a well articulated comment, thanks, lovely. I completely agree.

    chopinandmysaucepan – oh thanks, haha. I looked at all my photos after I bought the hat & I was like, "damn, my head looks huge!" 🙂 You know, art is one aspect where I'm not very experienced, but I trust your knowledge. I can imagine they'd have some gems, absolutely.

    Heidi xo

  • Anna Johnston June 4, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    And so, Anna drools all over another of Heidi's Vietnam travel tales, gotta try this Bun Cha, you've convinced me its the business 🙂

  • Hannah June 4, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    For once, I'm not as upset by envy over your travels, as I'm currently in Melbourne having a Grand Old Time. PROUD MARY IS AMAZING 😀

  • Heidi June 4, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    Anna – oh it's the business, alright 😉

    Hannah – wipee!! I must try Proud Mary soon, there is still so much to try in my city!

    Heidi xo

  • Iron Chef Shellie June 7, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    yay another travel post! gorgeous photos 😀 x

  • Julia December 12, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Hi Heidi! I'm reading old posts as I'm planning a trip to Vietnam for February. Love your posts! The Bun Cha looks so delicious. Just wondering if you have any hotel recommendations for Hoi An or Hanoi?

  • Heidi December 12, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    Hi Julia! How exciting 🙂 Yes in Hoi An we stayed at Phuoc An Hotel – just on the outside of the old town. Would absolutely recommend it. In Hanoi we stayed at The Jasmine Hotel. I really liked our location & room was very nice too – definitely recommend it. Staff were very helpful! Hope this helps!
    Heidi xo

  • Julia December 13, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    Thanks heaps, I will check them out! eeek can't wait!