Super Local Bún chả

I’ve been trying to stay away from actually eating on the street or in alleys. I’ve lucked out by finding really local food in traditional shops, but I know that there is food out there that I’m missing out on because I’m playing it safe. Through some research I found this hidden gem that serves bún chả and nem cua bể. I wish I could tell you the name of the place and the address, but I don’t have that info. It’s a no-name place in an alley with low plastic tables and very low plastic chairs. I’ll give you a location at the bottom of the post.

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Bún chả is grilled pork belly and meatballs in a sweetish broth served with rice noodles. The thing about this place is that they use wooden sticks to grill their meat instead of screens or metal skewers. This may not sound like a big deal, but it is. The sticks are well burnt and well seasoned. The sticks full of meat are right on top of the charcoal and the flames flare with every drip of fat. The wonderful char comes through with every bite. I’ve had some good bún chả, but this is, by far, the best.

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The only other thing this place has on the menu is nem cua bể (pork, crab spring roll). This particular nem was also the best I’ve had so far. It came out steaming hot with a crispy skin and a good amount of crab meat. I dipped the nem in the bún chả broth and….wow! I guess when you only do two things, there’s a good chance you’ll do it right.

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If you’re in Hanoi and you want to have the best bún chả and nem cua bể in the city, find this place. It’s very local. Everyone but us were locals, so I had to use my very limited Vietnamese and pointing skills to order. Two orders of bún chả, nem cua bể, and botlled water set us back 70,000 VND ($3.08 USD) total. You can’t beat that.

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Bún Chả and Nem Cua Bể Alley
Look for The Wolfhound Irish Bar
4 Lương Ngọc Quyến
Hàng Buồm, Hoàn Kiếm
Hà Nội
The restaurant is in the alley to the right of The Wolfhound Irish Bar.

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Phở Cuốn Hương Mai

There so much good food in Hanoi that I didn’t know where to start. Luckily, there are tons of places around where I’m staying. I did research on so many places, created my own food map, and have so much info on all things Vietnamese food. That being said, because of shoddy mobile data, I ended up in a place I didn’t have any idea about that was near a place I actually had on my map. Fortunately, it all worked out for the best.

Phở Cuốn Hương Mai was a great introduction to Vietnamese food that I had never tried before. Most Vietnamese places I’ve been to in America have your normal pho and banh mi with some dishes that may or may not be Vietnamese. We ended up ordering phở cuốn which are rice rolls filled with fresh cilantro, mint, cucumber, and thin, seared beef. So good, so light, and so fresh. One order consisted of nine rolls. Three of us shared, but I could have eaten all of them myself. They give you a bowl of fish sauce with vinegar to dip that is a tad sweet, and it just makes the whole thing perfect.

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Since we had to share the phở cuốn, we had to order more food because we were starving. We also got beef noodles, Phở chiên trứng. Again, so good! Wok-fried beef combined with a leafy, green vegetable I don’t know the name of, tomato and onion on top of fried noodles (think the noodles that come in the pack of ramen you buy at the grocery store). The noodles came out steaming hot, but that didn’t keep us from going right at it and burning our mouths a little. Did I mention we were starving? The beef was slightly thicker than in the phở cuốn, but it had a similar flavor. The green veggie wasn’t too soft. It still had a bit of a bite to it. Another great dish.

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Even though I didn’t know much about this place, my research of the other phở cuốn restaurants in the area said that they all have fried corn. It’s kind of a thing in the places in this particular area. So, of course, we had to try it. Ngô chiên is corn dusted with something and fried. It’s quite simple, but addicting. It’s hard to stop eating. It wasn’t mushy at all. Each kernel was crispy. It would be nice in place of popcorn while you’re watching a movie.

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Phở Cuốn Hương Mai is really close to our apartment, so we will be going back for sure. It’s spacious, clean, and bright with fantastic food.

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Phở Cuốn Hương Mai
25 Ngũ Xã, Trúc Bạch,
Ba Đình, Hà Nội