Sunday, 30 March 2008

Bun Cha in HCMC

I went for a walk this evening and after about an hour's walking I came across a very unusual sight in HCM. It was a Bun Cha restaurant! In Hanoi Bun Cha was my favourite food, so how could I not go in? In Hanoi Bun Cha restaurants are the dirtiest in town because it is barbecued pork in a soup with rice noodles and a big bowl of herbs and salad. So the charcoal gets everywhere and Hanoi people throw all their rubbish on the floor and then it gets swept up at the end of mealtime, which makes the places look a bit messy, but, of course doesn't affect the taste of the food. They are not only the most delicious places but also one of the cheapest. Bun Cha generally costs 10,000 Dong, or 60 cents US, 30p Brit. If you have a couple of equally delicious but very filling Nem or spring rolls then it may be 15,000 VND altogether.

This place had shiny silver tables, no sign whatsoever of charcoal dust or rubbish strewn floor. It had waitresses in uniforms and everything was sparkling clean and spotless.

So in I go "Bun Cha va Hai Nem" (bun cha and two spring rolls) I say. They were amazed at my perfect Hanoian accent... (well they didn't laugh too loud, anyway). It arrived at the table fairly quickly and I put in some garlic, a little chilli and looked through the herbs for the coriander/cilantro, but none there, only the normal herbs you get in HCM food, which was disappointing. Bun Cha needs coriander. I began eating, but the chilli, even though I only put two small pieces in, was extremely fiery, and I began coughing. "Mot Chai Coca." (a bottle of Coke) I said and waited for it to arrive. After a few minutes and asking where it was, I got a glass of iced tea and was told in English, your coffee is coming soon. Oh well, so much for my perfect Vietnamese accent! I don't think I have ever managed to ask for Coke and got them to understand. I need to do more work on my pronunciation... But at least it was better than a few days ago at a different restaurant when I asked for "mot chai bia" (bottle of beer) and was brought a spoon, which made everyone in the restaurant piss themselves when I took her over to the beer and showed her what I wanted. The bill for a coffee, the Bun Cha and two spring rolls? 48,000!

It never pays to eat in a clean restaurant, always look for the grubbier ones, it's always easier on your wallet.

It is another week til I get my first wage paid into my bank account, which took three weeks to open, endless form filling and lots of patience. My passport was needed for each of the six visits, even though they photocopied it several times on the first visit, but it's now ready to accept the money and I have an ATM card all ready to go...


Trinh Thach said...

next time when you try to order coke, ask for "coca cola"... they will probably understand that.

Nevada Sam said...

With 60 cents a meal, did you ever leave a $5 tip to freak them out?

How do you know the food is OK or do you just take your chances? Are some dishes safer to eat?

ManinVietnam said...

I'll try the coca cola thing but will probably get a plate or something...

People rarely tip here in VN so no I haven't tried the $5 tip. I just think they'd think I was a show off flashing all my money around.

I rarely get diarrhea here. The few times I have it has been after eating at tourist restaurants. Here the food is usually prepared fresh and heated up well so isn't a problem. Also your stomach gets used to it.

The diet here is far less processed and much better for your health than at home, so I don't worry too much about eating anywhere. My blood pressure in the UK was high, but as soon as I came here it reduced and has stayed down. It is a low salt and lower fat diet here I think, especially if you eat local food and avoid the Western restaurants and that also helps your wallet too.

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Sara said...

Congratulations on your bank account, it must be like getting a Barclay one! they couldnt be bothered with us. Talk about too much effort. So Lloyds it is!

Glad you are back online and chatting. Lovely pictures of the new place.

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