Friday, February 12, 2010

Bun Cha Dac Kim - Hanoi, Vietnam (Old Quarter)

We actually tried coming here for dinner one night but they were closed. We made sure that we didn't miss eating bun cha (rice vermicelli with grilled meats) on our last day, so we came here for lunch the following day.

This store has several floors but on the main level is where the action takes place. One lady is in charge of frying the nem cua be (fried crab and pork spring rolls). We found space on a table on the first floor, so we squished together next to our neighbors and placed our order.

We were warned that the portions here were quite large and that two people could share an order of bun cha and an order of spring rolls so that's what we did. It ended up being a lot of food.

A bowl of grilled marinated pork and grilled ground pork meatballs in broth arrived. I loved that there were different types of grilled meats in this dish. The pork meatballs were juicy and delicious and the grilled, marinated pork was really tender as well. I couldn't quite tell what the broth was, it looked like it was the fish sauce dipping sauce we also received, but it looked darker, perhaps from the juices from the meat.

We also got an order of nem cua be, fried spring rolls. While the grilled pork provided a soft, tender texture to the dish, these spring rolls provided the crunch and crispiness. They were flaky and hot when they arrived and were packed with crab and pork pieces. I usually am not a big fan of spring rolls because it tends to be quite oily, but this was light and crispy and didn't taste fried at all. Plus, the airy filling inside made it all the more tasty.
Jung and I were amazed by the plate of fresh lettuce and herbs that we were served. We both remarked that buying herbs in the states can be so expensive, yet here they are so abundant and so cheap. They just refill the plates of veggies and herbs for you. We probably would have paid $10 for a tiny salad of these herbs in the states. So as you can imagine, we went crazy with the lettuce and herbs.

Along with the veggies, we were served nuoc mam pha, a mild fish sauce based dipping sauce with slices of a pale hard vegetable. I could not for the life of me, figure out what it was. It wasn't quite as hard as daikon, so maybe a green papaya?

To the nuoc mam pha, we added spoonfuls of the minced garlic and sliced chilies. Jung accidentally ate a chili and suffered dearly, so we quickly learned, it was better to put the chilies in the fish sauce, let it build up some heat and use the flavored fish sauce as the garnish. That way, you don't run into any problems of accidentally eating a raw chili.

You layer all the different ingredients together in this dish. You start with some bun (cooked vermicelli), spoon on some grilled meats or the spring roll, add some herbs and lettuce and douse on some of the flavored fish sauce with the papaya. Let the bun soak up the juices and dig in. Jung and I really enjoyed this dish. Even though we ordered one order of each, it was a feast. There was so much flavor and texture combinations from the soft meatballs to the pillowy and crispy spring rolls to the fresh flavors of the herbs. Now, if I could only find a place like this in LA somewhere ...

Bun Cha Dac Kim

1 Hang Manh Street


  1. you're absolutely right in bun cha hanoi..the broth is the nuoc mam dipping sauce and it will get dark from the juices of the can also add the pickled papaya to the broth as well..

    we also like to add grilled shrimp! :)

  2. So do you drink the broth afterwards? We weren't sure what to do with it so we just used the clear nuoc mam dipping sauce instead. Grilled shrimp would be amazing with this too. Yum!