Vietnamese street food : Bun rieu cua (noodle soup with crab and tomato)

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Bún riêu cua (riêu, pronounced with a ‘z’ sound, like boon zeew) is a Northern style soup, popular in Hanoi as a breakfast. As always I break down the translation of the words for myself because I find that the more individual words I recognise in a language, the easier I find it to work out what and how a country eats –  Bún (noodle, in this instance a white rice noodle) riêu (soup) cua (crab). Noodle soup, with crab.

The strong flavoured, and delicious soup is made using tomatoes and stock generated from the crab shells and additional pork bones. The noodles are joined in the broth with soft, pillows of tofu which soak up all the delicious juices like a sponge, rogue lumps of soft poached tomatoes and clustered crab meat. The crab meat is cooked with a mixture of spices and eggs (as a binding agent) and added to the broth. It can break down in the bowl, physically resembling scrambled egg, but having a much more crab-like taste.
Bun rieu breakfast table

Bun rieu breakfast table

The dish is served with the usual sides of mixed Vietnamese herb leaves, pungent shrimp paste and beansprouts.As a popular breakfast, many places will stop serving before lunchtime. We enjoyed eating at 11 Hàng Bạc, a tiny unmarked restaurant where customers gather in a busy, crowded front room, which also spills out onto the street – grab a seat outside if one is available.
Like many noodle soup dishes in Hanoi & Vietnam fried breadsticks, known as quay, (may also be known as youtiao or Chinese crullers) can be added to soak up the juices.
A bowl cost around 25’000VND.  
Some useful phrases
Sin chow – hello
Mot – one
Hai – two
Gam urn – thank you
Tra da – iced tea, a popular and cheap drink to accompany meals and usually available at hole in the wall restaurants (pronounced cha)

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Vietnamese street food : Bun thit nuong (grilled pork and noodle salad)

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One of our absolute favourite things to eat in Vietnam is bún thịt nướng (pronounced more like boon tit nurnn )

As always when I travel I  try to break down the translation of the words for myself because I find that the more individual words I recognise in a language, the easier I find it to work out what and how a country eats –  Bún (noodle, in this instance a white rice noodle) thit (meat) nướng (grilled) ‘grilled meat on noodles’.

 

Bún thịt nướng comes from the south of the country and it’s the perfect blend of sweet, sour and spicy whilst being incredibly fresh and, like many other Vietnamese dishes pretty healthy.

Bun thit nuong, or Vietnamese grilled pork noodles

Bun thit nuong, or Vietnamese grilled pork noodles

There’s quite a lot of components – Fresh bún rice noodles are served cold, topped with grilled pork meat which is marinated in a mixture of sugar and fish sauce. The grilled meat has great smoky, fatty caramelised flavours.
Chilli, peanuts, beansprouts, pickled carrot and cucumber matchsticks and crispy fried onions are added to add texture and balance the ingredients. For freshness, a handful of Vietnamese herbs, mint, perilla and lettuce are added with fresh coriander.
The contents are dressed with Nước chấm (pronounced more like nook chum)  – a dipping sauce, which blends sweet and salty flavours of fish sauce, palm sugar, lime and sometimes chilli and/or garlic depending on its use.

Street seller making  cha gio

Street seller making cha gio

Often, many places will include fried minced pork spring rolls known as chả giò (pronounciation more like jah zo) – the warm slightly greasy crunch is a welcome addition.

Bún thịt nướng could be considered the southern counterpart to bún cha, a dish from the north, specifically Hanoi. Similarly, it’s grilled meat, cold noodles and salad but served individually, for the eater to mix to their liking. In the north cha gio are known as nem rán (pronounce nem zan)

Some useful phrases

Sin chow – hello
Mot – one
Hai – two
Gam urn – thank you
Tra da – iced tea, a popular and cheap drink to accompany meals and usually available at hole in the wall restaurants (pronounced cha)

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Vietnamese street food : Mien banh da cua (brown rice noodles with crab)

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In Hanoi, a lot of the food you encounter is noodle orientated and seemingly tourists go crazy for phở and Bún noodles – which are both great, by the way – but what about other noodles? Mien or bánh đa?
Although bánh đa is, like the aforementioned a rice noodle it’s brown, with a chewier texture. It’s a really nice variation when you’re a little noodled out with the more popular soft, white rice noodles.

The dish itself eaten is mien bánh đa cua. Mien refers to thin noodles, usually known to westerners as glass noodles, or vermicelli. Bánh đa is the thick, flat brown rice noodle with visual similarities to tagliatelle. Cua as in crab refers to the broth.

a bowl of delicious mien banh da cua

a bowl of delicious mien banh da cua with Dill fishcake (top left) wilted greens (centre) cha lua (middle right) and tofu (bottom and right hand side)

Traditionally, the meal is from Hải Phòng, on the coast near to the well-known attraction of Hạ Long Bay – it is something you can find in the bigger cities.

The mixture of noodles are served with sausage shaped chả lụa (seasoned pork ground to a paste before being wrapped in banana leaves and steamed until a sausage-like loaf is made) some crumbed crabmeat, flakes of soft meat, greens (it may be morning glory, or a type of water spinach – I’m not sure) beansprouts soft pillows of tofu, boiled egg and a fried fish cake overflowing with fresh dill flavours.
Table options included crushed peanuts and chilli sauce to personalise the flavours.

Overall, it’s one of the best noodle soups available in Hanoi – an overflowing bowl of delicious ingredients, contrasting texture and flavours.

We ate at Mien Bánh Da Cua , 59A Phùng Hưng, on the eastern side of the Old Quarter. A bowl cost 30’000VND, little English spoken but the lady chef was eager to feed us on every visit.

Some useful phrases
Sin chow – hello
Mot – one
Hai – two
Gam urn – thank you
Tra da – iced tea, a popular and cheap drink to accompany meals and usually available at hole in the wall restaurants (pronounced cha)

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Vietnamese street food : bun ca (fried fish noodle soup)

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The name, Bún cá, translates literally as noodle (bun) and fish (ca) leading to a potentially wide interpretation and delivery of a simple noodle soup.

In Hanoi,  this represents a thin tomato based stock, packed full of dill and slithers of spring onions, bún  – a thin rice noodle, comparable to vermicelli –  and wilted greens topped with golden, crispy chunks of deep fried river fish, not to be confused with the synonymous Hanoi dish bún chá 

There’s a certain amount of alchemy going on here, because at face value, it’s just noodles, tomatoey broth and fried fish.

Bun ca & a side of ca cuon thit

Bun ca & a side of ca cuon thit

The broth! The broth is a delicious nectar – sweet from the tomato, soured with the use of pineapple, purists and haters of fruit in soup this may be the conversion you need. If you’re lucky, you might just get a chunk bobbing around in the bowl.
The fish retains the crunch, it’s still just as pronounced and satisfying five minutes in, when you’re fishing bits out of the bottom and they somehow haven’t been corrupted and softened by the juices. The taste and crunch has that familiar comforting deep fried texture. The oily residue coagulating on the surface would normally be considered a downside, but somehow it adds to the flavour, the huge amounts of dill scattered in the bowl cuts through the grease like a knife. This is absolutely one of my favourite Hanoi meals.

The place I’ve been an unhealthy amount of times in a short space of time is located only a couple of minutes walk from Hoan Kiem Lake, on Trung Yên, a narrow alleyway off Phố Dinh Liet, a microcosm of kitchens, street traders and a truly photogenic walkway (the restaurant is spread either side of the kink in the lane)
I was drawn here by the cá cuốn thịt, a deep fried roll of minced pork, mushrooms and fish – equal parts unhealthy and indulgent. It’s impossible to only order one.

Dill as a herb in Vietnamese cuisine is a popular ingredient used with fish in Hanoi and the north. The further south you go the less you will see it used, it’s also a common ingredient in the classic, sought after Hanoi dish Ch Cá Thăng Long, a skillet of sizzling fish seasoned with turmeric and served with fresh dill. It’s available on Pho Cha Ca – fish street.

Expect to pay around 35’000VND for a bowl.

Some useful phrases

Sin chow – hello
Mot – one
Hai – two
Gam urn – thank you
Tra da – iced tea, a popular and cheap drink to accompany meals and usually available at hole in the wall restaurants (pronounced cha)

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Vietnamese street food : Bun bo hue (Hue style beef noodle soup)

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Vietnam has a lot of noodle soups, and they are all different.

I always try to break down the translation of the words for myself because I find that the more individual words I recognise in a language, the easier I find it to work out what and how a country eats.
The name translates as  bún (noodles) bò (beef) Huê (pronounced more like hoo-ay) the imperial city in the central region of the country where the dish originates.
The area is famed for its cuisine and its relative spiciness compared with other Vietnamese dishes.  According to Lonely Planet, Emperor Tu Duc was quite the fussy eater and this lead to Huê’s culinary distinctions from other areas of the country.

Bún bò Huê consists of a plethora of ingredients, and after looking at a few recipes seemingly takes time, diligence and a lot of specific ingredients to create.

It’s a deep, rich base of pork and beef stock, coloured red from the inclusion of annatto seeds, flavoured with lemongrass, pineapple, onion and Vietnamese shrimp paste, mam ruoc. The broth is filled with bún noodles – thicker than you would find in bún cha, or bún thịt nướng, more like worms and less like spaghetti –  with beef and pork meat. It’s commonplace to have pork knuckles (and have read about trotters) bobbing about in the soup broth with blood cubes and cha. In our experience, we were saved from the gelatinous blood cubes and had tasty knuckle included in the soup. 

Cha is a kind of Vietnamese sausage, or meatloaf which is often added to soups – it’s made by grounding meat with spices and fish sauce into a paste and then wrapping in banana leaves before steaming or boiling. Cha can also be found served with bánh cuốn & xôi. 

Bun Bo

Photo sourced from Flickr via a creative commons license. Thanks, Long Khủng

Like a lot of other Vietnamese dishes it is served with a mount of fresh herbs. These usually contain mint, Vietnamese coriander, purple perilla and in this case slithers of banana blossom too.

It’s a really tasty soup, a good dish to try to differentiate tastes from other Vietnamese soup dishes, such as phở.

Although this is a Huê dish, it’s available throughout the country in speciality restaurants – in Hanoi, there is a popular restaurant ‘Net Hue’ chain which serves Hue classics, it’s cheap and has English language menus so popular with both locals and tourists. In Siagon/HCMC we found Bún Bò Huế Đông Ba via the useful blog eatingsaigon. In Hue, it will just be referred to as ‘Bún bò’.   

Some useful phrases

Sin chow – hello
Mot – one
Hai – two
Gam urn – thank you
Tra da – iced tea, a popular and cheap drink to accompany meals and usually available at hole in the wall restaurants

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Thai street food : Khao soi (Chiang Mai curry noodles)

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Chiang mai is a great city, full of life and good food at every turn.  There is real food heritage, and dishes you wouldn’t find in western style Thai restaurants. Northern food contains influence from many of the surrounding countries – Loatian, Burmese and Chinese food.

Khao soi (sometimes soy) is a coconut based curry historically originating from Burma, served with noodles instead of rice.

The flavours are big hitting, with different ingredients to other, more familiar Thai curry pastes – turmeric, coriander root and curry powder, as well as ground red chillies, galangal, lemongrass, shrimp paste and garlic to create an orangey, brown curry sauce. The curry powder adds a whole new dimension compared to other popular Thai curries. It’s deeper, with a more earthy, spicy flavour.

Khao soi pickled mustard & onions

Khao soi pickled mustard & onions

Two more additions make Khao soi such a welcome variation to other Thai curries – Crispy fried noodles and pickled mustard with slivers of raw red onion.

Khao soi is served with egg noodles swimming in the coconut gravy. On top of that is a nest of deep fried egg noodles adding an extra textural dimension and a lot of crunch.  A side plate of pickled mustard also comes with the curry bowl. Watching locals eat khao soi it’s apparent that there’s no right or wrong way to eat it – some mix everything together and coat the crispy noodles in gravy. Some add the pickled mustard and onions into the gravy, others leave them out completely.

Khao soi crispy noodles

Khao soi crispy noodles

A slice of lime is served on the side to add extra tartness and cut through the fat of the meat and coconut cream.

It’s thought the dish is historically Muslim, as such chicken and beef are commonplace, but pork is also available – The chicken is often served as drumsticks and the meat falls away off the bone.

Khao soi is served all over Chiang Mai and is the local signature meal, a must eat when visiting. There are lots of specialty restaurants that only sell khao soi – After doing some internet research, we visited Khao Soi Samer Jai (twice) which also has stalls selling another local dish, gaeng heng lay as well as lots of other northern dishes. We also ate khao soi from a street cart on Moon Muang soi six near to the wet market which is popular with cookery school tours. It was also quite good, perhaps the broth was slightly thinner.

There is also a Laos khao soi, which apparently is quite different however we’re yet to try it.

expect to pay between 30-50Baht for a bowl.

Some useful words

Neung – one
Sawng – two
Muu/moo – pork
Gai – chicken
Noo-ah – Beef
Tow rai? – how much? 

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Malaysian street food : Mee siam (Siamese style noodle salad)

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During our trip to Melaka we were really keen to try as much as possible of the Nyonya, or Peranakan food we could get our hands on. Melaka is a fantastic city in general for eating, and whiling days away doing little –  we will definitely be going back.

Mee siam, or Siamese noodles is a one dish meal of fried vermicelli noodles, served quite dry and with a spicy but slightly sour sauce that coats the noodles.

The noodles are topped with a variety of additions including any combination of chicken, spring onions (scallions, salad onions) beansprouts, boiled egg shredded cucumber, sliced omelette, fish cake, tofu and fresh sambal.

Mee siam

Mee siam

We really enjoyed the sour spicy kick of the noodles with just enough gravy to lubricate without making it sloppy. It was almost like a fresh, noodle salad. According to some interest research there is also a variation in Singapore where a more wet gravy is preferred.

Mee siam is served with calamansi lime, a small sharp lime around the size of an avocado stone which usually has green unripe skin which develops to an orange colour.

Baba low, outside of the main central area has great mee siam at around five Ringgit. They also serve popiah, laksa lemak and pai tee.

Phrases worth knowing 

Satu – One
Dua – Two
Tiga – Three
Hello  – Hello
Apa kabar – are you well/ how are you?
salamat pagi – good morning
Salamt tingal – goodbye
sila (see luh) – please
Terima kasih –  Thank you (people will often respond with ‘sama sama’ which means’ you’re welcome)
berapa harga – how much?
tidak pedas – no chilli
bungkus – Take away
Tidak – No
Ya – yes
Maaf – sorry

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