Pho is the most popular dish in the morning, but bun cha is the top choice when it comes to lunchtime in Hanoi. And it’s been over 6 years since their visit to a local eatery, but the photograph of the former US President Barack Obama and the CNN’s celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain sitting at a bun cha table is still being mentioned when discoursing about the dish.
To those who haven’t heard of bun cha, it’s a Vietnamese dish that includes a bowl of cooked fish sauce containing charcoal-grilled pork slices and pork patties, a plate of thin noodles, and a portion of fresh fragrant herbs. Diners are supposed to mix the herb into the sauce, then briefly dip the noodle into the bowl for extra flavor on each bite.
Following are ingredients that made up bun cha dish:
- Fresh thin rice vermicelli (bun in Vietnamese)
- Grilled pork: marinated pork belly and meatball from minced pork shoulder (cha in Vietnamese)
- Cooked dipping sauce: fish sauce diluted with sugar, lime juice, vinegar, and water.
- Pickled vegetables: green papaya or kohlrabi, carrots.
- Fresh herbs: lettuce, basil, cilantro, purple and white perilla leaves (Vietnamese balm), and occasionally rice paddy herb.
- Side dishes: crushed garlic, sliced chili, grinded pepper, rice vinegar, and occasionally sliced limes or kumquat.
Now you may want to find the way to Bun Cha Huong Lien, where the president ate, to try the classic Hanoi meal (and to take a photo of the table where he sat). But there are many other families in the city offering it, at both sidewalk eateries and in-house dining style. Here in this blog post, we’re introducing top authentic bun cha eateries where the locals eat!
Note: the hygiene of the place is at the street level, those who care much about the hygiene of the entire eatery is suggested to visit the number two of this list.
1. Bun Cha Que Tre
Perhaps, because of its location in the far northern end of the busy Hanoi’s Old Quarter, this rustic bun cha is still off the tourists’ radar. Nonetheless, it’s referred as one of the most authentic bun cha in the city by local eaters, especially those looking for a on-bamboo-stick grilled pork.
Situated on the sidewalk at a corner of the Hang Bun and Nguyen Khac Nhu Streets, this bun cha is truly a street eatery having everything, including the “kitchen”, spread out on the sidewalk.
- Address: 16 Nguyen Khac Nhu, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
- Hours: 10h00 – 14h00
- Phone: 098 646 0704
2. Bun Cha Tuyet
Located in the northern most of the Old Quarter, Bun Cha Tuyet at 34 Hang Than Street is among the most well-known bun cha eateries in the city.
They have plastic stools spread along the sidewalk; diners are supposed to find an available stool to sit then order with fingers. They serve their bun cha on a tin tray, which includes fresh herbs, noodles, and a bowl of fish sauce with grilled pork. Order extra “nem” – Vietnamese spring rolls if you wish to try that dish with bun cha.
- Address: 34 Hang Than, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
- Hours: 8h30 – 5h30
3. Bun Cha Chien Loan
Located on Gia Ngu Street – where the first bun cha was believed to be served by a vendor in the early 1950s. Ms. Loan and her husband shifted their parent’s grocery store to a family run bun cha eatery in 2007. Then bun cha become the only thing they serve each day, starting from 10h30 and finishing up by 14h30.
Since its location is right at Hang Be Market, which is a block away from the northern point of Hoan Kiem Lake, and their dining table are more suitable for many travelers, we often come here with our clients on our Hanoi Street Food Tour. Our clients love the caramelized color of the meat balls, and the pork fatty are real and well marinated – so they are just really tasty.
- Address: 25 Gia Ngu Street, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
- Hours: 10h30 – 14h30
- Phone: 038 697 9552
4. Bun Cha Hang Quat
Nested inside a narrow alley on Hang Quat Street on the northwest of Hoan Kiem Lake, this is one of the most authentic bun cha in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Our food tour clients are always impressed with the ambience of the eatery, which is tucked away from the main street. The alleyway setting makes for an atmosphere full of character, and the meat patties and strips were grilled along the way.
The combination of charcole grilled pork belly, with the sweet and sour sauce and pickles in it, and the greens on the side is really a chapter on it’s own, and you must have tried it on your own to experience the unique flavors.
- Address: 74 Hang Quat, Hoat Kiem, Hanoi
- Hours: 10h00 – 14h00
5. Bun Cha Hoa
Situated right at the T-section on Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, this bun cha is most close to the Temple of Literature. So, it’s ideal to have a short walk from the temple to Bun Cha Hoa for lunch, and then another short walk will take you back to the Old Quarter.
This basic eatery is full of local eaters, and is crowded at lunch time so it may take sometime for the order. Diners are sitting on plastic stools on the sidewalk and on the street, so it’s a smoky and dusty with the sound of passing motorbikes.
- Address: 17 Yen The Lane, Dong Da, Hanoi
- Hours: 10h00 – 14h00
Those bun cha vendors have been doing their one specialty, for a few hours a day at lunch time, for decades. They’re where the smoke coming up from the sidewalk, and eaters are perching on low plastic stools surrounded by motorbikes. That’s how it works at street food level, day in and day out. That’s where your next real street eats Hanoi awaits!
We hope this post was informative enough to help you prepare for a wonderful foodie experience in our city. Learn the history of Hanoi and its people with a food tour from our private foodie experiences, and follow your personal foodie guide to explore the city through your taste buds!