Bun Cha Nem Cua Be

The sweet smoky smell wafting through the air is one of my favourites, the unmistakable aroma of char grilled marinated meat. It warms me inside and makes me salivate, cooked over coals this one is going to be a winner, whatever it may be. The ultimate winner will be my belly.

Perched on a small chair 1 foot from the ground and less so from the brazier the man running the coals looks like he has been doing this for a while.


There are thin slivers of marinated pork sandwiched inside a foldable mesh screen in preparation for grilling. Some patties currently sizzle over the coals, red hot and resplendent causing wafts of delectable smoke to rise as the meat releases it’s juice marinate. The wafting smoke is drawn into the street by pedestal fan, it seems the enticing smell street side was no mistake.

Before I sit down I know Bun cha is on the menu, the limited menu on the wall confirming my guess. Bun Cha is a delicious compound dish with each component playing its own part in creating a hugely popular and delicious meal.

Sweet soup comes warm, skerricks of marinated fatty pork and succulent patties fresh from the coals float inside, black flecks of char float on the surface. The carrot and turnip pickle lurking In the bowls bottom add another note to the sweet soup. As the charred meats impart their smoky essence to the soup I begin to dunk the rice noodles and fresh leaves into this warm broth, I swill them around to coat everything in this flavour medley. Directing a collection of noodles, leaves, and meat to my mouth with chopsticks I hope this is not the time when my poorly practised fingers lose their grip on the bamboo shards. This time I’m ok, the table and chairs higher than the kerb side eateries meaning less of my legs exposed to this eventual, inevitable splatter.

Could this be the worlds most balanced BBQ meal?

Amongst the leaves I spy coriander, mint, something resembling, and thankfully aren’t, nettles, some tendrils, lettuce and what I assume to be rice paddy herbs.


The nem cua is the part of this dish I’ve overlooked until now, the crab spring rolls, are hot crisp and delicious. Their crab, rice noodle, carrot and wood ear mushroom filling is delicious, especially when dunked in the flavoursome broth, no Bun cha meal is complete without them, a bite between mouthfuls of steeped noodles has my toes tapping.

As always there are condiments to amend your meal, I love the sweet chilli and garlic pickle and add a little of that to my broth, It’s salty enough so I don’t need fish sauce and don’t fancy the tang of more lime today.