Visit the little noodle shop featured in Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown

Visit the little noodle shop featured in Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown

Bún Chả Hương Liên was just an ordinary, small time noodle shop in Hanoi until it blew up after being featured in Anthony Bourdain’s CNN travel show, Parts Unknown, on April 2015. The show’s guest, former US President Barack Obama, made it twice as interesting. Of course viewers of Parts Unknown are already familiar with Bourdain’s adventurous and exotic taste, often exploring street food and go-to restaurants of the common local folks. But nobody imagined a foreign president to be able to casually dine and share a few cold Hanoi beers with Bourdain in Veitnam.

Bún Chả Hương Liên was like any other noodle shop in Vietnam’s capital – they have low plastic stools for seating, presence of cigarette smoke mixing with the smell of grilled meat, and cheap but delicious food. A month after the visit, Bún Chả Hương Liên would never be the same.

Bún Chả Hương Liên Anthony Bourdain and Barack Obama in Hanoi, Vietnam for Parts Unknown 2015

The hole-in-the wall restaurant only had 10 reviewers on TripAdvisor but is now reaching nearly 500 with mostly positive feedback. The Bún Chả, shared by Bourdain and Obama, obviously became their most sought after dish. It was eventually rebranded, marketing the dish as Bún Chả Obama and the entire meal set now predictably called the Combo Obama.

The easily missed, three-story establishment is now a cornerstone shop in Hanoi, offering authentic and delicious Northern Vietnamese cuisine at an affordable price. Drop by early or prepare to wait in line if you plan to visit Bún Chả Hương Liên as the place is now jam-packed most days with locals and tourists flocking the place.

Bún Chả Hương Liên Anthony Bourdain and Barack Obama in Hanoi, Vietnam for Parts Unknown 2015

(Also read: Sorrow at the Vietnamese noodle shop where Bourdain dined with Obama)

 

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Top 5 Vietnamese dishes that are highly rated by foreigners

Top 5 Vietnamese dishes that are highly rated by foreigners

The S-shaped country of Vietnam is divided into three regions: North, Central, and South – all distinct from each other not only in their landscape, but also in their culinary culture. Tourists visiting the different regions of Vietnam are blessed with the local specialties and their diverse flavors. No matter where you set foot in the country, you are guaranteed to enjoy the unique and delectable Vietnamese cuisine. 

The increasing number of tourists going to Vietnam has helped spread the culinary and food culture of Vietnam to the world. Foreign journals also conduct surveys to find the most popular food in the country. Regardless of the selection criteria and ratings of different magazines, the following Vietnamese dishes always make it to the top five in the hearts of international travelers.

Let’s find out what they are!

Noodle soup or Phở

If you ask any foreigner about Vietnamese food, you will most likely get Pho as a top recommendation. For most locals, nothing is better than having breakfast with a delicious bowl of pho! The secret ingredient that truly makes this popular street food a winner lies in its tasty broth. 

In an updated article from CNN Travel, Pho ranked 28 in “The world’s 50 best foods.” Not only that, an article by Suzy Strutner that was published in HuffPost called it a “bowl of heaven.”

Vietnamese dishes, beef pho noodle soup in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City

Sandwiches or Bánh mì kẹp

Vietnamese sandwiches are enjoyed by many visitors, especially American tourists. Why is this seemingly ordinary dish so popular?

Vietnamese bread is popular with many international tourists. There is even a book about Vietnamese bread: The Banh mi Handbook, widely read by international folks. 

Condé Nast Traveler, a US travel magazine, rated Banh Mi as one of the 12 most attractive street foods in the world. They ordered their grilled bread and meat at District 1 – Ho Chi Minh City, on the sidewalk of Nguyen Trai Street. The National Geographic magazine also selected Nha Trang sidewalk Banh mi in a similar list.

Vietnamese dishes, banh mi sandwhich in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City

Bún chả

Bun cha is another popular street food in Vietnam. Even former US President Barack Obama on a trip to Vietnam also enjoyed this special dish!

Bun cha is a cold noodle soup that locals love to eat during the summer. It is served with grilled pork, vermicelli pasta, fresh vegetables, and a broth that is based on sugar, vinegar and fish sauce. The Vietnamese dish is thought to have originated from Hanoi so it may be difficult to find the unique taste of Bun cha in other parts of the country.

Vietnamese dishes, bun cha, vermicelli pasta, noodle soup in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City

Chả cá Lã Vọng

This is another famous dish that should not be missed when going to Hanoi. It was brought to international attention when Patricia Schultz listed No. 14 Cha Ca street in her book, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die.

Cha ca La Vong is a dish made from sliced fish cooked together with yellow onions and dill. Peanuts, fragrant herbs, and a sprinkle of shrimp sauce is added to complete the taste of this Hanoi specialty.

Vietnamese dishes, Cha ca La Vong in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City

Bún riêu cua

Bun riue cua is a variety of the traditional Vietnamese meat rice vermicelli soup. It is served with a tangy tomato broth coupled with pounded crab meat, noodles, deep fried tofu, and congealed blood. Shrimp paste and fresh vegetables are offered on the side.

The dish is very simple and easy to serve making it popular in sidewalk food stalls. The combination of rice vermicelli, light brown crab meat, golden fried green herbs, and red tomato soup in a bowl looks so attractive. The taste doesn’t disappoint either! It is really an all around delectable dish.

Vietnamese dishes, Vermicelli crab, bun rieu cua, in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City

Of course, the list only covered the top 5 most popular Vietnamese dishes but the country obviously has more hidden gems than the aforementioned. Vietnamese food culture is becoming more popular especially in the social age. It is one of the most sought after cuisines in the world.  Truly, Vietnamese food has become a tourist attraction on its own.

 

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Coffee drinks you’ll fall in love with in Vietnam

Coffee drinks you’ll fall in love with in Vietnam

History of Vietnamese coffee

Coffee was not as rampant as it is today in Vietnam until it was introduced by the French in the 19th century. Today, Vietnam is known to be one of the biggest exporters of Robusta coffee beans. The French colonists may have introduced the coffee culture in Vietnam but the latter have turned it into something of their own.

Here’s a list of must-try coffee when visiting Vietnam:

1. Traditional Vietnamese drip coffee. This is made by pressing the ground coffee tightly at the bottom of a metal filter (phin) placed on top of a cup. Hot water is poured onto the filter, making its way to the ground coffee and slowly dripping down to the cup.

tradition vietnam drip coffee

2. Vietnamese Iced Coffee. Also known as cà phê đá, is simply the same as the traditional black drip coffee but is transferred to a glass full of ice perfect during the hot summer. A common variant of this is the addition of two to three tablespoons of condensed milk which according to history, was the result of limited availability of fresh milk in the area during the 19th century.

(R) condensed milk at the bottom of traditional drip coffee; (L) stirred coffee and condensed milk with ice

3. Vietnamese Egg Coffee. A raw egg yolk is added to a traditional strong Vietnam drip coffee, mixed with condensed milk for flavor. Don’t let the egg stop you from trying out this tasty coffee drink! The combination is unusual but plenty of travelers who tried the Vietnamese Egg Coffee fell in love with it.  You can usually find this type of coffee in the North of Vietnam so be sure to give this a try when visiting Hanoi.

You can get the familiar espresso in cafes around the globe but Vietnamese coffee has a different world of their own so make sure to try it out when visiting the country!