Hanoi traditional cuisine has made its mark throughout Vietnam. Using the ingredients from rice paddies, the skillful Hanoi chefs have created a unique foodie story. Made from rice and water, rice vermicelli (in Vietnamese: bún) is not only a traditional breakfast, but also in all other times of day. Dishes of vermicelli are sold by street vendors at sidewalk, in restaurant, at market… They sold the most popular type, crab vermicelli soup (in Vietnamese: bún riêu). This tasty dish cook from fresh crab meat, sour vinegar, tomatoes, vegetables, onions… Another traditional popular morning breakfast is snail vermicelli soup (in Vietnamese: bún ốc). The snails were steamed by wine vinegar, mixed with the fragrance of ginger, the flavor of chilli made it became an irresistible breakfast to all.
(Photo: Thủy Nguyễn)
Another delicate dish is minced meat vermicelli soup (in Vietnamese: bún mọc). In the vermicelli soup bowl, you can see pieces of chicken meat, brown mushrooms, pork pie, spicy vegetable. The tasty smell of mushrooms plus the fresh of minced meat made it became an delicious snack for the morning. A special dish for autumn season in Hanoi is anabas fish vermicelli soup (in Vietnamese: bún cá rô đồng). Fish broth is poured over vermicelli, green colza and fennel to dispel the heat of sunny day. Travelers, tourists can find this dish in Saigon, around Tan Son Nhat international airport area, such as Thu Trang restaurant (in Vietnamese language, sometimes restaurant is known as “quán”).
A favorite lunchtime dish is grilled meat vermicelli (in Vietnamese: bún chả). Taste of this, surely, is unforgettable. In the past, minced meat patties were skewered on bamboo sticks, grilled on charcoal but today the minced meat is clamped between two grills, or even grilled on automatic oven. But thankfully, the taste of it remains unchanged. Surrounded by fragrance of grilling meat, the dinner dips rice-vermicelli into a bowl of sour, salty-sweat sauce that contains garlic and chilli, then take some fresh mint leaves. It isn’t difficult to make it, but it’s really hard to make it delicious. Each person has his own recipe and way to make it. You can find this dish in some Saigon street near the Tan Son Nhat international airport such as Pham Van Hai street, Hong Ha street (Hoan Kiem, Xuan Tu, Van Anh… restaurant).
Long time ago, tofu vermicelli was eaten only by poor people (in Vietnamese: bún đậu), but now it is a tasty and famous dish. The ingredients are simple: coil vermicelli, fried tofu, reddish shrimp paste mixed with the grease used to fry tofu. Fresh perilla, basil and marrjoram, thin boiled pork-meat… make dish complete. Famous tofu vermicelli is not hard to find in Saigon before, but now you just can find some good places to taste it, such as Đậu homemade, near Tan Son Nhat international airport (once again the phrase “near Tan Son Nhat international airport” appeared). If you want to taste or recommend your friends, Hanoi or northern food, just find in this area. There are many good restaurants with northern taste over there.
For those who like shrimp paste made with “cà cuống” (oil taken from a flying inspect), chicken vermicelli soup (in Vietnamese: bún thang) is the best choice. Stories said that there is around 20 spices are used to flavor the broth. While this may be an over-talk, but you can see that the preparation of dish is a meticulous process. Imagine rice-vermicelli, reddish lean pork pie, chicken skin, shredded fried egg, shredded salted shrimp, some dried turnips, salted eggs yolk, onions and spicy hearbs combined in one soup bowl.
It’s hard to list all famous Hanoi dishes made from rice-vermicelli, other famous dishes such as: grilled minced fish vermicelli (bún chả cá), shredded duck-meat vermicelli (bún vịt, bún ngan), spring-rolls vermicelli (bún nem)… All of them and others traditional Hanoi food had made it own mark long long time ago as a famous sentence: “Eat in the north, live in the south” (ăn Bắc, mặc Nam). Perfect on a rainy day in late summer season, minced grilled fish vermicelli is the most delicious food when eaten while watching the falling rain. The dish typically involves snake-head fish, hemibagus… Pieces of fish are mixed with shrimp paste, galingale, saffron, pepper, dried onions and oil, stuck with bamboo skewers and grilled on charcoal. A plate of fennel and spring onions, small pieces of vermicelli, a plate of roast peanuts and grilled pancakes, a bowl of shrimp paste mixed with lemon juice and belostomatid essence (obtained from beetle), and pieces of grilled fish form a feast. Healthy food without being too heavy, “bún chả cá” is a dish that no visitor should miss when coming to Hanoi capital.