This morning I disappeared up a crack in the wall for duck.
And when the crack opened up into a courtyard jolly with family atmosphere, I knew I was on track for a pleasant Sunday. My fellow patrons assured me that the motorbike was safe where I'd parked it, they edged around the communal table to make room for me, asked me where I was from and, once content that I was comfortable, continued their good-natured banter. Everybody had woken up on the right side of the bed.
For my viewing pleasure, half ducks were neatly stacked on a metal tray alongside the shredded flesh of the one on the go, which was being portioned generously into each new customer's bowl. Fresh white vermicelli noodles (bun) are 'done' two ways here, depending on one's preference: blanched and separated momentarily in hot water or served as they are. If opting for the former, then the other ingredients are placed atop the hot noodles before soup is ladled over the top. The latter option sees the soup and other ingredients come in another bowl so that these customers can then dunk their own noodles into the soup. Each to their own but I went for the one bowl option.
The other ingredients start obviously with the luscious pinky-brown duck meat. A scattering of green spring onion tips and several slices of bamboo (mang) finish out the bowl. A side plate of Asian basil (hung que), leaves plucked in, adds a complex but necessary dimension to this dish. When my bowl is before me, my eating companions start nudging utensils and condiments my way, their warm welcome continuing.
I know through experience that the Vietnamese really are at their most hospitable around food but there seemed to be something else at play this morning, something about that particular mix of patrons or the way the lady proprietor (duck dealing for nearly 20 years) smiled and effortlessly dealt with everyone. Of course, it goes without saying that the bun ngan (duck noodle soup) did not disappoint. I went onwards to coffee and then deeper into the day wondering what made that simple breakfast special.
Hard to put the finger on.
Two bowls of bun ngan - 40,000VND (USD$2.10, AUD$2.40)
Xuan Giang Bun Ngan
2 Duong Thanh Nien