Vermicelli is a rustic dish but holds the soul of Hanoi cuisine. There are five types of vermicelli that the tourist joining Hanoi local food tours all want to try.
Referring to Hanoi cuisine, people cannot forget bun cha because it has long been a Hanoi traditional food. The pork shoulder is used to make two types of cha (roasted pork) which are roasted pork balls and roasted sliced pork. The characteristic smell of cha is the smoke from the charcoal oven.
Another decisive factor of bun cha is the sauce. That sauce is the perfect combination of the opposite flavors, the sourness and the sweetness; and it is also the secret of each seller. As the balance between yin and yang or cold and hot in cuisine, the herbs is indispensable. In addition, people also eat bun cha with salted green papaya.
Bun cha in Hanoi is nearly the same as the vermicelli with roasted pork in the Central and the South; however, the flavor of the sauce and the way to enjoy are different. To fill up the stomach, the diners also can order spring rolls which is not unfamiliar to the tourists attending Hanoi cooking class.
Hanoians often have bun cha for lunch. In Hanoi, bun cha can be found anywhere, but the most famous shop of bun cha is on Hang Manh Street.
Bun thang is really a quintessential dish of Hanoi cuisine that cannot be seen in any other places. Bun thang shops are abundant here in Hanoi, but the shops that serve the best of bun thang is rare. It is because to make a bowl of bun thang is sophisticated in preparing and processing, and it also requires the patience of the cooks. The ingredients are too fussy for many impatient people. A bowl of scrumptious bun thang needs up to 12 ingredients. The bowl of thin string vermicelli is decorated with shredded fried egg, shredded gio lua, ripped chicken breast, shrimp floss, salted radish, a slice of salted egg, coriander… The decoration looks like a flower.
The broth of bun thang is clear despite being made from the essence of some ingredients including chicken bone, dried shrimp… To stew the pure broth, the cooks have to skim off the scum.
The connoisseur of Hanoi street food will eat bun thang with some spices like vinegar, chili, garlic, pepper, shrimp sauce and belostomatidae essence. Belostomatidae essence makes bun thang smell very good; however, this essence is not easy to find now.
Bun rieu cua
Bun rieu cua or crab vermicelli is the traditional dish of the northern people. To make the broth of bun rieu cua taste sweet, the cooks use crab roe and grind the crab meat with water then filter. Crab roe, tomatoes, melted fat, wine vinegar and other spices are boiled in the water filtered from ground crab meat.
Shrimp sauce and herbs are also indispensable in this dish. Nowadays, bun rieu cua has changed a lot. The ingredients are various, people eat this dish with beef, fried tofu… However, the traditional bun rieu cua is still the favorite of many Hanoians.
Bun oc (also known as snail vermicelli) is often sold with bun rieu cua because they have the same way of process and flavor. The broth is made from the stewed bone and added wine vinegar and tomatoes.
Hanoians eat vermicelli with both big snails and small snails. The snails are boiled and pulled out of their shells. The sellers put snail meat on the white noodles and pour the hot broth. Bun oc is eaten with chili paste and some kinds of herbs when it is hot or cold.
In Hanoi, there are many sweet bistros which are well-known for bun oc. They are on Khuong Thuong Street, O Quan Chuong Street or in the small alley of Dong Xuan Market. These addresses seem to be familiar to the people who love food walking tour.
Pork paste vermicelli soup or bun moc is the traditional dish in summer of the North. Colocasia gigantea (or giant elephant ear) is washed with salt to be eaten with the vermicelli, pork hock meat is sliced thinly. Pork paste is made of pork and wood ear mushroom. In some shops, the bun moc is served with pork ribs or pork hocks.
The flavor of this dish is sweet and sour. The sweetness comes from stewed bone, the pleasant sourness is given by dracontomelon and pineapple.