Tucked away in a little corner near Hang Da Market in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, is a little noodle shop known far and wide as “Bun Bo Nam Bo”. Let’s break apart these luscious words which construct the tastiest of dishes.
“Bun Bo” simply means beef noodle. “Bun” being the round rice noodle and “Bo” meaning beef. This, however, is not be confused with the equally delightful “pho bo” which many would call beef noodle soup. The ubiquitous “pho” is made with a delightfully fragrant beef broth and, of course, sliced beef and the flat rice noodles.
“Bun Bo” is something different. Now this can get confusing because there are types of “bun bo” which are also soups – “Bun Bo Hue” – the variety also made from a beef broth.
But “bun bo nam bo” is different from “bun bo hue” because “bun bo nam bo” does not use beef broth – using instead a sauce. More on that later.
What does “nam bo” literally mean? “Nam bo” literally means the sphere of the south – so it’s the type of “bun bo” you would get in the southern part of Vietnam.
Obviously, if you make “bun bo” in the south, you aren’t going to add the word “nam bo” to it because you already know that you are in the south. Which is essence makes “bun bo nam do Hanoi” a unique moniker. I can’t exactly speak to the authenticity of this dish as it compares to its actual southern companion, all I know is that “bun bo nam bo Hanoi” is magnificent.
I’ve been meaning to re-create it for a long time in my own kitchen because I really miss it and I finally did so. The results were spectacular.
What you need:
round rice noodles
Thinly sliced beef – (I used an Asian marinade on some tenderloin and used the broiler to cook it. It was tender and juicy)
Toppings: Thai basil (delectable!), chopped peanuts, bean sprouts, crispy fried onions, chopped green onions
The Sauce: (I used my Vietnamese friend’s home recipe for the bun bo sauce – though the added lime juice was my own addition.)
- Vietnamese fish sauce diluted in water (I used about 1/2 cup fish sauce and added about 2 cups of water – this was plenty of sauce for 4-6 servings)
- A head of garlic – chopped finely
- Chili sauce – use Sriachi is excellent for this – authentic VN chili sauce taste
- Lime juice
(play around with the quantities until you have a tasty sauce that is suitably spicy to your taste. Add a little ground black pepper if you like!)
Assembly: Super easy. Put the noodles in the bowl, add beef and all the toppings you want, pour several spoonfuls of sauce over top so some excess collects on the bottom of the bowl. Mix and eat with chopsticks.
Here it is half gone! Enjoy!