Bun Thang - Local Guide

Duc - October 29, 2018

While in other dishes there are a few types of materials which are considered to be "critical", in Bun Thang, all spices and ingredients contribute to its own quality. Even one missed spice can create a damage. Generally, it is estimated to have up to 20 ingredients to make this dish.

Visiting Hanoi, it is such a shame if you don't enjoy this noodle soup! Bun Thang is one of the traditional dishes that represent the elegance of Hanoi cuisine.

Apart from its mouth-watering taste, the presentation of Bun Thang is like a beautiful work of art, whose colors symbolize 5 basic elements that form the whole universe in the Chinese's beliefs (metal, wood, water, fire and earth), to bring the balance of beauty.

Bun Thang Vietnamese Bun Thang

The name of this colorful noodle soup has an interesting origin. The word “thang” diverts from “thang thuốc”, which means a unit of Chinese herbal medicine, because this dish is made of little amounts of many ingredients, just as a pack of Chinese herbal medicine would be.

Bun thang consists of:

  • Rice vermicelli noodles,
  • Broth made from chicken, dried shrimps and dried shitake mushrooms
  • A number of toppings including shredded chicken, thin pork sausage (gio lua) strips, thin strips of egg crepes, shrimp floss and aromatic herbs.

Bun Thang

Typical ingredients of Bun Thang

Bun Thang

Shrimp sause - a must-have seasoning in Bun Thang

Vietnamese people created Bun Thang to eat after Tet holiday (Lunar New Year) to use up all the leftover food. This dish also expresses the ingenuity, frugality of Hanoi old women

The broth of Bun Thang

As all traditional noodle soup, the heart of the dish lies in the broth. The clear hot broth is stewed from chicken bones and shrimps with the cook constantly skimming it.

A well-cooked broth is clear, fragrant and has just a little bit of lingering sweet taste of shrimps and dried shiitake mushroom

Those three ingredients create a broth with so many layers of flavors: light, savory and sweet. I can’t find a word to describe; it’s just sophisticated and comforting.

Bun Thang

Making the broth

When water reaches its boiling point, the cook turn off the burner and then add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, vinegar and chicken to the pot. Let the chicken sit in there for a couple of minutes before bring it to a boil. This step helps eliminating the poultry smell and reducing the amount of foam.

When the chicken is fully cooked, it wiil be transfered to an ice bath to make it easier to cut into strips.

The toppings of Bun Thang

Bun thang contains toppings with different flavors and texture, which makes the dish interesting and fun to eat.

Also, the making of the toppings is very enjoyable and satisfying. When it comes to cutting everything into thin strips, it's like you are making noodles out of them.

Bun Thang

Scrambled eggs are sliced evenly into thin strips

All the toppings are equally important, but if I had to pick, the shrimp floss would be the most important one

After chopping the shrimps roughly, the cook toast the shrimp pieces in a non-stick pan so that they lost moisture, and firmed up. Their flavor concentrated and intensified. Making the shrimp floss made the kitchen smell amazing.

Bun Thang

Shrimp floss for bun thang

Now it's time to put everything together!!!

Fill a bowl with rice vermicelli noodles, then add all the toppings and chopped herbs. Arrange the toppings as in the image below.

Bun Thang

Congratulations, you have successfully made a delicious bowl of Bun thang!

Taste the broth again and adjust seasoning if needed. Ladle the hot soup over the noodles. If you can eat fermented shrimp paste, you can add a very small amount of it to your noodle bowl.

For those who cannot stand the strong and pungent aroma of shrimp paste, you can skip this.

Nowadays, Bun Thang is no longer eaten only in Tet Holiday. It has become a favourite breakfast of Hanoians all year round.

Although you can find Bun thang in almost every place in Vietnam, it is one of the most popular yet hidden fares in Hanoi. Enjoying a bowl of Bun thang at a street vendor in Hanoi where there is limited space and you will be surprised as many people can still fit in the two storey old house behind the stall and it is going to be an interesting experience in this unique capital city.

Some Vietnamese people even make small adjustments to the traditional recipe of Bun Thang to give it a different taste. Some enjoy it with salted eggs while some add thin strips of carrots to make the dish more colorful.

Bun Thang

Traditional Bun Thang is the best Bun Thang!

Whatever changes they make, for me, personally, the conventional recipe brings out the truly taste of Hanoi. I still remember the first time my grandma made Bun Thang. The moment I set food in our house, a pleasant aroma wafted out of the kitchen, Grandma was filling each colorful bowl of Bun Thang with chicken broth. The softness of the strips, the pungent smell of shrimp paste, the juiciness of shiitake mushrooms, all created a wonderful taste of such delicacy!

5 recommended places to enjoy Bun Thang

1, Bún Thang Hàng Hòm (Bún Thang Thuận Lý)

  • Opening hours: 6:30 - 21:30

  • Prices: 20.000 - 33.000 vnd, cheaper than the average cost of other restaurants in French Quarter
  • A wide range of dishes for you: Bún Thang, miến (bean thread noodle), xôi gà (Sticky rice and chicken), etc

2. Bún Thang Bà Đức - 48 Cầu Gỗ

  • Bún Thang Bà Đức  – 48 Cầu Gỗ street, Hoàn Kiếm district
  • Opening hours:  07:00 - 23:00
  • Prices: 30.000đ - 55.000 vnd
  • Situated in a small alley in French Quarter, the restaurant is a bit difficult to find
  • Offers a wide range of dishes

3. Bún Thang Hạ Hồi

  • Opening hours: 06:00 - 23:00
  • Prices: 25.000đ - 55.000 vnd
  • Offers a wide range of dishes

4. Bún Thang Hàng Hành - 29 Hàng Hành street, Hoàn Kiếm district

  • Opening hours: 06:00 - 21:30
  • Prices: 20.000đ - 33.000 vnd
  • Offers a wide range of dishes

5. Bún Thang Ngọc Tuyền - 58 Đào Tấn street, Ba Đình district

  • Opening hours: 08:00 - 22:30
  • Prices: 35.000đ - 66.000 vnd
  • Offers a wide range of dishes