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.
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.