I happened upon Ca Vang on the way to the airport. I have driven by it countless of times and have never seen the whole reason for stopping by. Luckily, I was sitting backwards in the tuk tuk and spied the three words on a streetside menu that made me stand up, hit my head on the top of the tuk tuk and yell “Holy crap!”. I told the driver to stop, pointed at a very confused Ca Vang employee and yelled “Bun Cha Hanoi??” Fortunately, he said yes but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to sample the dish and had to wait a few days to get my fix.
Bun Cha Hanoi
Bun cha hanoi was the favorite of all the great dishes my grandmother used to make for me during my childhood. There is something so simple yet so nuanced about the grilled to the point of charring pork slices and patties combined with the vinegary, garlicky broth. It is also quintessentially Vietnamese by the DIY nature of the dish. Along with the pork in the broth, you get a garnish of rice vermicelli noodles, green lettuce, assorted herbs, garlic and chilis. There is no real “proper” way to eat it. When I feel like getting messy, I make a mini burrito out of all the ingredients and dunk it all in the broth. Other days, I put everything in the broth and eat it with some chopsticks. It’s also non-existent in Phnom Penh which is the reason for my freaking out in the tuk tuk.
The menu at Ca Vang restaurant
So back to the restaurant. Ca Vang is a no frills street side restaurant located on a very busy street. Their menu only has 4 items with several variations. I didn’t bother with the rest of the menu (though the Com Thit Heo Nuong or Rice with Grilled Pork might be worth another visit) and ordered the bun cha. Surprisingly, Ca Vang keeps with Hanoi tradition and also offers Nem (eggrolls) on the menu!
After sucking down a fantastically syrupy iced coffee, the bun cha and nem arrived. The nem had a crunchy blistery skin that contained a well seasoned filling of clear glass noodles, pork and wood ear mushrooms. The bun cha didn’t have the pork patties usually associated with the dish but the sliced pork easily made up for it by the tell tale charred bits floating in the broth. I opted to go for the less messy approach and put some noodles, herbs to my plate. I didn’t miss the patties as the sliced pork had that great charred taste only barbecued meat can give. The broth was spot on and the veggies fresh and bright. The only thing I would complain was the amount that I got with the order. That isn’t really a complaint as there was plenty, just not the usual gargantuan size you normally get in Hanoi. — Vinh
Bun Cha Hanoi
Bun chaaaaaaaa! Basically the most delicious dish/concept/meal on the planet–grilled pork and pork sausage patties afloat in a tangy, sweet-sour, nuoc-mammy broth accompanied by vermicelli and herbs–and one that’s bizarrely difficult to find in Phnom Penh, despite legions of Vietnamese places with scruffy awnings dishing up pho. This version was adequate but didn’t quite hit the sweet spot. First, there was an off-puttingly astringent note to the pork and pork broth mixture (maybe stemming from the high degree of char on the meat)…and even more dubiously, there were no freaking pork sausage patties. Bun cha without the patties edges perilously close to pointlessness. Still, whatever, pork is generally fucking delicious unless you really fuck it up. And there were plenty of toothsome carrot and daikon pickles in the broth, and huge heaps of fresh herbs and vermicelli to pile the meat onto. The iced coffee was far too sweet for my taste, but it had a nice peanutty afterkick. I think we all felt pangs of desire at the meaty slab of com suon whisked over our heads to another customer’s table right as we were leaving. I regret my self-control at not having ordered one immediately. — Julia
Bun Nem Hanoi
major p.s., I forgot to mention how incredibly respectable the bun nem were!
Bun Cha Hanoi
This was my first bun cha hanoi adventure having completely missed it the one time I was in Hanoi. But I really enjoyed everything. The bun nem spring rolls showed up first and they were amazingly crispy and really tasty. The bun cha was a bit daunting for me not knowing how to attack it. Plates like this confuse me, if you are supposed to put the noodles in the bowl, why don’t they just do that for me? But that’s probably just my unsophistication taste showing. The broth was pretty greasy but really nice and the bbq pork was clearly straight off the grill and into the bowl; lots of bbq flavor. The coffee had an unique flavor but was too sweet even after Julia had asked for them to go light on the condensed milk. But the prices are cheap, it was relatively clean for the type of spot and next to the only fishing store I’ve ever seen in Phnom Penh. I would definitely go back and try out a few more things on the menu. — Bryse
Bryse – 4.5 out of 5 nyomies for the food, 2.5 on the iced coffee
Vinh – 4 out of 5 nyomies
Julia – 3 out of 5 nyomies
On the North side of Sihanouk just East of the Olympic Stadium next to the Mai Linh Bus office
#371 Street 274 (Sihanouk)