There is something to be said for a 5000VND (USD 32c, AUD 42c) lunch. With prices escalating by the minute in this increasingly wealthy capital, not only is it a meal for a song but it is also quick (all the better for getting home for those 40 winks), easy (only one item on the ‘me and you’, so no need to even order!!) and bloody entertaining.
At least, it is where I usually scoff down Bun Dau. The direct translation is noodles tofu. An ensuing word of caution for the uninitiated: this dish is traditionally served with an evil sauce called Mam Tom nothing like your sweet Mama or your best mate, Tom! It’s a pungent, fishy, purply concoction, one of the main ingredients of which I’m convinced fuels my motorbike. Essentially, it is a fermented shrimp sauce (also eaten with another of the capital’s favourites, Fido) but more on that later.
My advice to you is; of course, by all means give it a go – once! Then opt for the Nuoc Mam, a much more palatable mixture of fish sauce, water, lime juice, chilli and sugar, beaten with the ends of your good old chopsticks.
Dipping sauces are bloody important, but on to the main fare. Bun Dau is chunky, scissor cut pads of noodles, deep fried blocks of tofu, forests of herbs and angled wedges of cool cucumber served on petal edged plastic plates. It’s a ripper. Get it in Ngo Phat Loc, be entertained by the gnarly Bun Cha tart selling next door, and then wash it down with a coffee at Café Nang around the corner. It’s a sure fire lunch punch. We get there often.
Alternatively, plastic stool it with one of a hundred basket women, weaving bean curd through the heat and shade of lunchtime Hanoi. It’s dirt cheap.
Vegetarians beware! The oil can sometimes be what Nana called pork dripping! I think that’s why it tastes so bloody naughty!)
Bun Dau Mam Tom, Ngo Phat Loc (just around the corner from Cafe Nang)