Hanoi has many different noodle dishes on offer such as Bun Thang, Bun Oc and Bun Cha. All of them are characterised by their special broth. Saigon rice noodles are larger, greasier and usually served with a side of fresh herbs, salad leaves and bean sprouts. They are similar to the famous noodle dish from Hue, Bun Bo Hue. Although these rice noodle dishes have distinctive features from other provinces, Bun Da Nang has its own unmistakable “soul”.
Da nang and the streets of noodles
With such diversity of social and geographical conditions, gastronomic culture in Da Nang has become enriched over time and has its own, unique identity.
Noodles are a case in point. Read on to discover how such a simple ingredient can be used in so many divergent ways… Many traditional Vietnamese noodle dishes have been recreated in Da Nang with more diverse, complex and developed flavors. The "artist" like chefs who have created noodle dishes for customers over several decades have gradually perfected the formula of their noodle dishes to near-perfect levels. Thus, each noodle dish carries an individual essence that culinary enthusiasts discover. Once tried it will never be forgotten and will be forever craved!
The soul of the dish comes from the spirit of the land and its people. Let me introduce you to one particular rice noodle dish made with special fish sauce, a specialty in Da Nang. The spirit is in the fish sauce, it has a delicious smell although it is not to everyone’s taste! In order to neutralize the salty taste that comes from the fish sauce there needs to be a delicate balance of lemon, pepper and garlic.
Ever heard of “Mam Nem”? Even though it’s such a simple thing and easy to find, nevertheless it’s a valuable product made from fresh Rice fish from the sea. Da Nang people are addicted to it, even those with high blood pressure have it whenever they have a chance, if only just a little. They enjoy it and constantly make compliments about it. If one thinks honestly about the people of Quang Da, who produce Mam Nem, their personality and sometimes the way they communicate can make them seem uncomfortable or unfriendly, but in truth they are kind. Their characters and the affection they show are produced from the land they come from and in the product they create.
Although the reputation of “bun mam nem” does not reach across the borders of Da Nang, it is a highly valued specialty of the Da Nang people and a gift for visitors. A simple but delicious dish that can be created from just rice noodles, “mam nem” and a little oil to create a truly local taste. However, many noodle restaurants, typically in the area of Tran Ke Xuong, have “branded” their products by using many different kinds of main ingredient: roast pork, boiled meat, ear, nose or spring rolls. It is a combination of a few simple ingredients, but not easy to resist when served with “mam nem”. “Bun mam nem” is so simple, yet bewitching.
Moving to something more complicated, I want to mention beef noodle Da Nang style. In my opinion this delicious beef noodle dish meets many requirements such as the size of rice noodle. The rice noodles used mustn’t be too tough, soft or dry. They are also dissimilar to the noodles in Hue or the South and must be of medium size. The Broth is the complex and most important aspect of Bun Bo! It decides the taste of Bun Bo, whether it will be delicious or not. It’s also a traditional secret of Da Nang’s largest noodle restaurant. At these noodle restaurants, guests queue up to take empty seats, motorcycles crowd the sidewalk and cars struggle to find a place to park. One of my friends in Ha Noi told me that “Shortly after landing at Da Nang airport, I just want to reach a familiar Bun restaurant to satisfy my cravings”. Everyone wishes they had the formula to make the delicious broth but they are kept highly secret by the few who know. I can however give you some advice about the places that you can visit to enjoy the scrumptious noodle dish which will awaken the culinary enthusiasts’ gastronomic pleasure: Bun Huong at Dong Da st, Bun Dieu at Tran Tong st, Bun Huong at Trun Nu Vuong st, Bun Nguyen at Hoang Dieu st…
Interestingly, Hue is the hometown of beef noodle soup, but passing over the Hai Van pass to Da Nang, beef noodle soup seems to be more interesting, more charming. In Da Nang you get slender noodles, sweet broth and patties made from ground meat put into the boiling broth. This is the reason why broth has a sweet and natural taste opposed to the steamed sliced fish cakes of bun bo Hue. The main ingredients of the noodle bowl can be beef, ribs, legs and tail. However, gourmets often do not order a bowl mixed, instead, they order one or two types to completely enjoy them: undercooked beef in broth is soft and sweet; slices are soft; near crispy, fatty pork. Tail noodles may be considered premium because of limited quantity.
Another interesting variation is red onions in rice noodle Da Nang style. Many visitor come to Da Nang craving this additive. Red onion is normally pungent, but when mixed with salt, sugar and vinegar it becomes sweet and sour to taste; aromatic, it makes noodle dishes more delicious.
Although some may think that Bun bo Hue tastes the same as Da Nang beef noodle, upon tasting they will never confuse it with bun bo Hue again. Not only are they different in taste and processing, but Bun Bo Da Nang is an integral part of the culinary culture of the people here. “Bun bo” can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, afternoon or late night outings. There are many beef noodle shops across the city streets: street vendors have a few stools or you can choose a spacious brand name restaurant.
Another noodle which may be easy to find anywhere in Vietnam, but has a unique Da Nang taste is fried fish noodle. It’s completely different from the many styles of fish noodle belonging to other beach cities such as Quy Nhon, Nha Trang…The first attractive thing about the dish is the fried fish maybe “cá mối”, tuna, “cá nhồng” … finely ground, then steamed and fried. The most famous fried fish noodle restaurants in Danang are Ba Phien, Ba Lan at Le Hong Phong St, Ba Dao, Ong Ta at Nguyen Chi Thanh St…they always use homemade fish cakes made daily, so that it’s always fresh and deliciously tasty. The second attractive thing is the broth which is cooked with bones to generate a naturally sweet “bun cha ca” broth, but also has an added variety of vegetables such as pumpkin, cabbage, dried bamboo shoots, pineapple, tomato … This clever combination brings a cool fresh taste and bright color to the fried fish noodle. This broth can also be used to create dishes with fresh fish-such as tuna or mackerel. There is always a bottle of crushed garlic chili that customers can add to their own taste to make the dish more delicious. There is also shrimp paste, which can be added to a bowl of noodles, providing a wonderful smell and flavor; however many tourists will skip it preferring the sweet taste of the vegetables. In addition there is a plate of lemon and onion salt to add more sourness. Finally, a plate of herbs and salad leaves is always served with fried fish noodles, or fish noodle. A bowl of fried fish noodle is often described as “Four Seasons”: it is a harmony of color, taste and emotion… belonging to each of the four seasons – different time, different space.
The final noodle dish I want to talk about can be found in the village of Da Thanh’s Bun. It’s a barbecued noodle which is different from the others because its soup is a quite sophisticated formula made from soy, pork liver, minced pork and peanuts. Instead of using sweet and sour sauce, this broth is aromatic, greasy and has a better blend of ingredients: noodles, vegetables, pickles, barbecue. It’s also used in “bánh xèo” (pancakes) and “nem lui” (pork rolls), so three dishes are often sold together. Many restaurants are renowned for the trio as Bà Dưỡng, Lipton, Miền Trung (Hoang Dieu St) or some restaurants on Hoang Dieu St and Yen Bai St.
Source: Furama Resort Danang