Some of the best street food in the world comes from Vietnam, and the best street food in Vietnam comes from Hanoi. The streets are awash with small stalls selling everything from Pho to ....... ...... Everything comes to life early morning and ends long after dark. Some really good food starts to appears late morning, just in time for the lunchtime rush, and around sunset for dinner.
We were wandering around old Hanoi around lunchtime, when I began to smell the aroma of bar-b-q'd meat. As we neared the corner the smell was becoming incredible. The closer we got, the more my mouth was salivating. What we came across was a small shop with some low tables and chairs out front. There were a couple of girls grilling the meat over some charcoal burners. What we had encountered was Bun Cha or bar-b-q'd pork and noodles. A popular Hanoi lunchtime favourite.
We had to wait for a little bit as the place was packed. A very good omen. We finally managed to find two seats and a table under a tree. We were really not sure on what we were going to get, so we just ordered for 2. What came were 2 plates of fresh rice noodles, 2 bowls of bar-b-q'd pork in a fish sauce stock, and a dish of salad leaves. Everyone around seemed to have their preferred way of eating them. Some people were mixing noodles and salad leaves into the fish sauce and pork, others were just mixing the noodles and eating the leaves separate. I enjoyed dipping the noodles into the sauce and then eating them straight away. The pork was succulent and had a lovely chargrilled taste to it. The fish sauce stock, was just the right side of fishyness. Any more and it would had overpowered the pork.
It was such a delight to eat. The noodles were as fresh as could be. The pork was chargrilling before our very eyes. The salad leaves were fresh and had a great taste to them. I am getting to love mint more and more as a salad leaf. This simple dish just typifies how fresh ingredients used very simply are worth their weight in gold. This is what I am trying to do with my cooking. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. But in Vietnam, the times it works, they are incredible. I hope that I can reproduce Bun Cha in my own kitchen one day, as good as we had in Hanoi. And what made it even better was that it only cost us 20,000 Dong each, about £1.50p for us both. Could life get any better.