Bun cha Ha Noi – Vietnam’s capital specialty food you must try

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Bun Cha is a traditional Vietnamese dish with a unique flavor profile that makes it a favorite among locals and travelers alike. It may not be as well-known as its comrade pho, but it’s only a matter of time before this happens.

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What is Bun Cha and its ingredients?

Originating from Hanoi, this dish is a balance of sweet and sour flavors, made with grilled pork patties (cha), rice vermicelli noodles (bun), and a variety of fresh herbs and vegetables. The vast majority of dining establishments that offer Bun Cha also put crab spring rolls on their menu. Related Tours: Hanoi Tours (Daily Tour)

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Vu Bang (1913-1984), one of Vietnam’s pre-eminent food writers with a deep love for Hanoi’s culinary gifts, remarked that “None of Hanoi’s crowded streets lack this food.” As it was sold in his day, “The vendor lays hot, smooth sheets of noodle into a small, flat basket lined with a young banana leaf, then adds vegetables. A few leaves of lettuce, some herbs, a few stems of coriander: only that much, and without even touching the chopsticks, we craved it, overmuch, and it seemed unbearable to wait for another minute. That was because as we sat waiting for the vendor to lay the verdant vegetables among the pristine white noodles, the aroma of the grilled cha has already enthralled our sense of smell! What a strange scent, how does it disperse and fly so far in the air? Sitting in a house in the middle of the streets, we can smell the aroma of the cha from the bun vendor parked at the end of the street that flies in to coax and tantalize your taste buds.” 

Today, like pho, Bun Cha has mostly transitioned to sit-down eateries instead of traveling vendors. 

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Popular locations to have Bun Cha in Ha Noi

Bun Cha Dac Kim since 1965 – Hang Manh street

Address: 1 Hang Manh Street, Hang Gai Ward, Hoan Kiem District

Although the establishment is narrow, as houses in the Old Quarter are, they have a whopping five-level sitting area. Prices here are higher than the typical Bun Cha place, but the servings are accordingly more generous. The heaps of noodles will make sure you feel full; two people with moderate appetites can even split a bun cha. 

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Bun Cha Duy Diem – Ngoc Khanh street

Address: 140 Ngoc Khanh Street, Giang Vo Ward, Ba Dinh District

The coal-grilled, seared cha attracts passersby and welcomes patrons, filling the air with its tantalizing fragrance. The place has plenty of seating space, with a streetfront and an alley area. Although the overall impression is good, the vegetables should be fresher and the crab spring rolls should have a more distinctive aroma.

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Bun Cha Huong Lien – Le Van Huu street

Address: 24 Le Van Huu Street, Phan Chu Trinh Ward, Hai Ba Trung District

Before it earned the epithet “Bun Cha Obama” because of the American president’s unexpected visit with food legend Anthony Bourdain in tow, Huong Lien has already been one of Hanoi’s premier family-run restaurants. The restaurant has capitalized on it by offering an Obama Combo – a typical order for a local, and a nifty way to introduce the “best of” to foreign friends: one plate of bun cha, one of crab spring rolls, and a refreshing can of Hanoi beer.

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Bun Cha Sinh Tu – Nguyen Khuyen street

Address: 8 Ta Quang Buu Street (near Hanoi University of Science and Technology)

Named after Sinh Tu Street, where the first restaurant was founded (later renamed Nguyen Khuyen Street), this small unassuming kiosk is where the Bun Cha place of 57A Nguyen Khuyen moved to. Not to be confused with the Bun Cha Sinh Tu places all around Hanoi with brown wooden signs, this eatery attracts students, staff, and locals from the University with plentiful, affordable food that doesn’t compromise on quality.  

Bun Cha Hang Quat street

Address: 74 Alley, Hang Quat Street, Hang Gai Ward, Hoan Kiem District

Defying notions about successful businesses around the world (but nothing out of the ordinary in Vietnam, where food lovers are unafraid to ford tiny alleys for the best eats instead of limiting themselves to street-facing storefronts), this stall has been serving massive bowls of noodles to diners beneath the tree canopy and towering walls of the Old Quarter for years.

Where to eat Bun Cha in Ho Chi Minh city

Bun Cha Ha Noi 26 – Thai Van Lung alley

Address: 8A/9C2 Thai Van Lung Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1

Tucked away in a little alley in an area with a high concentration of expats, this establishment grills the cha exactly as traveling vendors did long ago. They keep the coal at a delicate temperature, as they just begin to glow, so that the patties would retain fat, look full, and are not scorched. The dipping sauce is delicately concocted, neither salty or vinegary; guests joked that it was so palatable it can be drunk as is.

Bun Cha Ho Guom – Vo Van Tan street

Address: 135 Vo Van Tan, Ward 6, District 3

This space is roomy and often crowded with diners looking for a taste of the North. In addition to bun cha, they also offer bun nem ran tom cua bien – noodles with shrimp and sea crab spring roll – and banh tom, Hanoi-style shrimp pastry. Their food menu is relatively sparse, but filled with good choices, and their drinks menu comparatively more expansive.

Bun Cha Anh Hong – Ly Chinh Thang street

Address: 140 Ly Chinh Thang Street, Ward 14, District 3

This establishment is considered the true inheritors of the Hang Manh Bun Cha in Saigon with secret flourishes in their recipe to attract guests and keep devotees coming back. It has become a go-to for many Bun Cha lovers of the city, because of the commitment to the traditional flavors.

Quan Nem – Nguyen Thi Minh Khai street

Address: 15E Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1

To have a menu of only two dishes speaks to the commitment of the chef in perfecting their craft and staying true to what they already do well. Indeed, Quan Nem only offers crab spring rolls and Bun Cha to their hungry clientele. The owner, Nguyen Hai Nam, made this choice because he believes in showcasing the best of his native Hai Phong’s cuisine – and for him, its pinnacle is undoubtedly the humble crab spring roll.

From its flavor-packed broth to succulent grilled pork, Bun Cha is a truly unique culinary experience that should not be missed. Next time you’re in Hanoi, don’t forget to seek out a bowl of this delicious and soul-satisfying dish. 

Reviewed by

Diep Van

Phone: +84901166884

Email: diep.van@ftripvietnam.com

Diep Van

Founder & Photography Guide

Specialties: Culture, landscape, portrait, hiking, active and adventurous tour

Besides my unlimited passion for traveling, a professional tour guide for over a decade, I have been taking photographs since sitting at Hanoi of the University of Culture in the early 2000s. Photography started as a hobby but it was seriously taken due to my work relations and my significant passion for the beauty of our world, especially in Southeast Asian parts such as Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar.

Within a few years of taking photographs, my works began to be recognized by many reliable international publications such as AFAR Travel, The Times, and The Daily Telegraph newspaper. In addition, I continuously add to my growing profile by winning numerous major awards: 3rd Position of The Independent Photographer 2018, 1st Position of Amateur Photographer of the year 2018, Grand Prize Winner of the AFAR Travel Photography 2019, and a Gold Award of San Francisco Bay International Photography 2020.

I photograph a wide variety of subjects, from travel to landscapes to street scenes. I enjoy documenting the East’s rich cultural heritage and its land soaked in glorious sunrise or sunset light in remote and secluded spots. And, I am very happy to share my knowledge and experience with you. You can visit Luminousvietnamtour to explore tour!


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