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Authentic Bun Cha in bay area?

tbot Jul 25, 2006 12:53 AM

I've always been a big fan of Bun Cha Giao Thit (grilled pork with rice vermicelli and fried rolls), but after recently travelling to Vietnam I've discovered it's served a bit differently (big suprise) there.

The char grilled pork is served in a warm tangy broth rather than on top of the noodles with a fish sauce on the side. Noodles and a garden of leafy veggies and sprouts are served on the side to add to the meat and broth. I found the VN version to be much tastier and more complexly flavored.

some pics of what I'm talking about on the wonderful noodlepie blog...


I'm wondering if anyone familiar with the authentic preperation knows if it is available in the bay area?


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  1. o
    Offal Lover RE: tbot Jul 25, 2006 01:19 AM

    There are two places i know off. Loi's on Irving and Hy ky sp? in the Tendorloin. Not as good as VN of course, but closer to what you're looking for. There have been numerous posts and even a chowdown at the latter restaurant. Other chowhound might help us with the correct restaurant name.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Offal Lover
      Euonymous RE: Offal Lover Jul 25, 2006 02:27 AM

      I think you mean Hung KY. I haven't had the bun cha giao thit you're looking for but the banh kuon were really good.

      According to the chowdown report the pork for the bun cha giao thit was presented in broth.

      Here's one thread on the chowdown: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...


      1. re: Euonymous
        chaddict RE: Euonymous Jul 25, 2006 02:34 AM

        Hung Ky's bun cha ROCKS!!! Served in a bowl separately with that lovely broth. Yum!

        1. re: Euonymous
          coolcamden RE: Euonymous Aug 16, 2006 02:59 AM

          There are 2 places you can get authentic bun cha in the South Bay... Minh in Milpitas, and Da('c Phu'c in San Jose.

          1. re: coolcamden
            Alice Patis RE: coolcamden Aug 16, 2006 03:26 PM

            Dac Phuc, really? The kind with pork patties, not pork meat? If so, that seals it in my mind that Dac Phuc is northern vietnamese, no wonder I like the pho there so much.

            1. re: Alice Patis
              coolcamden RE: Alice Patis Aug 21, 2006 11:30 PM

              Da('c Phu'c IS Northern Vietnamese. Actually, the original owner was from South Vietnam, like most of us who have immigrated here, but his ancestries were from the North. He then sold the restaurant 2+ years ago to another family who are actually from the South. But the pho recipe was carried through to the new owners.

            2. re: coolcamden
              5 and Dime Eater RE: coolcamden Aug 29, 2007 11:30 AM

              Dac Phuc

              Dac Phuc Restaurant
              198 W Santa Clara St, San Jose, CA 95113

          2. re: Offal Lover
            pane RE: Offal Lover Jul 25, 2006 09:58 PM

            I love Loi's with a burning passion, but I've only seen the standard US meat-on-top style there. Their bun is excellent--the char on the meat is unbelievable, and the meat itself fresh. If you get there early enough, you may see the owner walking through the restaurant with live chickens to prepare for the dinner hour.

            1. re: pane
              iOrderTheLamb RE: pane Aug 4, 2006 05:07 AM

              You can indeed find bun cha of the type discussed at Loi's: it's on the menu as "Bun Cha Ha Noi". Quite tasty.

          3. d
            david kaplan RE: tbot Jul 25, 2006 03:43 AM

            At Bodega Bistro, in the Tenderloin, bun cha comes with grilled pork and pork sausage pieces in the tangy broth that I always assumed was based on fish sauce. Noodles, picked carrots & daikon, and a pile of herbs come on the side, along with lettuce leaves for wrapping.

            1 Reply
            1. re: david kaplan
              fine wino RE: david kaplan Jul 25, 2006 04:32 PM

              The bun cha at Bodega is delectable. The pork is so tender and a little fatty and the broth is so good, I'd eat it like soup.

            2. t
              tbot RE: tbot Jul 25, 2006 03:10 PM

              Great, can't wait to try it out! thanks.

              1. Robert Lauriston RE: tbot Jul 25, 2006 04:17 PM

                Binh Minh Quan in Oakland serves many dishes including bun in that assemble-it-yourself fashion.

                1. j
                  jalapenogrl RE: tbot Jul 25, 2006 06:44 PM

                  Saigon in San Mateo has a decent version. The fish sauce is on the side but the veggies are under the noodles.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jalapenogrl
                    The Chowhound Team RE: jalapenogrl Aug 3, 2006 09:05 PM

                    There are two "Saigon" restaurants in San Mateo:

                    Pho Little Saigon at 2978 S Norfolk St
                    Saigon City Restaurant at 418 E 3rd Ave

                    we're looking this up for "Digest". Can you help?

                  2. Alice Patis RE: tbot Aug 15, 2006 10:28 PM

                    Bumping this topic up because I was confused by something and today I think I'm a little less confused after going to Nha Toi in San Jose which specializes in northern vietnamese.

                    In my memory, bun cha in Hanoi (and as seen in the noodlepie blog linked by the OP) is different from the bun cha I've encountered in the Bay Area (and I'm not even talking about bun thit nuong which is the familiar noodle bowl). As secribed in the OP, bun cha in Hanoi are formed patties of ground pork, and the broth it's served in IS more like a broth, it's salty not sweet. Bun cha I've seen in the Bay Area (Pho Thien Long, Asia Moon, and a couple other places I don't remember) were pieces of grilled pork meat, not patties, and served in a sweet-ish nuoc cham dressing.

                    But today, I was chatting with the owners of Nha Toi in San Jose and they explained they serve Bun Cha the patties, in broth, not nuoc cham (though the broth has fish sauce). They said the reason I've seen grilled pork meat in sweet nuoc cham in the Bay Area being called Bun Cha is because that's what people like or expect here because bun thit nuong is so prevalent. It's become so that the owners of Nha Toi don't even call their Bun Cha "Bun Cha Hanoi", they call it "Bun Cha Nha Toi" which I think is kind of funny that they had to change the name of the dish because the dish has changed.

                    So I'm not sure which of the recommendations above are really bun cha patties the way it's served in Hanoi and which are just the americanized bun cha with the meat. Not saying the patties version is superior to the meat version, but it's good to know you can find the patties version at Nha Toi.

                    Now I have no idea how good Nha Toi's version is, you'll have to wait until after our lunch there tomorrow to find out. Nha Toi is on 480 E. William St. (btw 10th and 11th streets) in San Jose.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Alice Patis
                      chaddict RE: Alice Patis Aug 15, 2006 11:23 PM

                      Hung Ky were the patties, I believe.

                      1. re: Alice Patis
                        P. Punko RE: Alice Patis May 5, 2007 03:26 PM

                        Nha Toi's is super tasty- the charcoal flavor in the meat is really enhanced by the broth. They give you so many noodles they are impossible to eat. English was dicey the one time we went to Nha Toi, and we had some problems in communication, but that dish was AWESOME.

                        1. re: Alice Patis
                          Ei Katsumata RE: Alice Patis Jul 3, 2007 09:23 PM

                          The bun cha I had on the street in Hanoi was mostly pork meat (only one patty if I recall correctly). Loi's uses both meat and patties, as does Bodega Bistro. Both of these places serve it with a huge serving of veggies, slightly different at each place. I believe both are served with mint, basil, perilla (shiso), cilantro, and lots of lettuce (Loi's uses romaine, and BB's uses what I believe is butter lettuce).

                          This is a great thread. I'll have to do a Bay Area bun cha tour this summer!

                          1. re: Ei Katsumata
                            Melanie Wong RE: Ei Katsumata Jul 6, 2007 06:38 PM

                            Terrific idea! Please do post, and we'll follow in your wake.

                        2. Alice Patis RE: tbot Aug 21, 2006 04:31 PM

                          Just posting a short update for completeness sake to say that the Bun Cha at Nha Toi was not wholly authentic Hanoi street-style of Bun Cha.

                          The bowl had only 2 small grilled pork patties (actually meatballs, not patties), buried under pieces of grilled pork meat, and the "broth" tasted like it was just sweet nuoc cham dressing, not broth with fish sauce. The greens accompanying it though, were authentic: shredded curls of water spinach stems, rice noodles, purple shiso, mint. Though it should've been hung cay (a spicy peppermint) instead of spearmint. Ok so the greens weren't 100% authentic but it's hard to find a place that served hung cay instead of the the regular spearmint.

                          Here is the photo of Nha Toi's Bun Cha, courtesy of Carb Lover:

                          1. d
                            dolcetto RE: tbot Aug 21, 2006 07:22 PM

                            The bun the OP is describing sounds an awful lot like Bun Cha Hanoi, a different animal from regular Bun Cha Thit Neo. Bodega Bistro has a great version - only on the regular menu, not the lunch menu also which features the regular South Vietnamese style Grilled Pork. Turtle Tower a few doors away does a decent job as well.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: dolcetto
                              lipko RE: dolcetto Aug 26, 2006 06:26 PM

                              I'd agree that Bodega's basic ingredients are really of high quality. Their grilled pork is excellent. But to me the most important thing is the flavor of the broth, and that's why I prefer Turtle Tower. Their patties are very tasty, but their grilled pork is of lower quality or just too dry.

                            2. l
                              lipko RE: tbot Aug 26, 2006 06:36 AM

                              Bodega bistro, as someone already pointed out has a pretty decent Bun Cha. BUT the best one in the bay area IMHO must be Turtle Tower on 631 Larkin, SF which is half a block away from Bodega.(http://www.sfstation.com/turtle-tower...


                              They have excellent Pho thinks my Vietnamese wife, but I only care about Bun, and as soon as I discovered the Hanoi version that is the only thing I eat.

                              Vung Tao in SJ is certainly a great place for Vietnamese food, and their Bun Cha Hanoi is very solid.

                              The thing with Turtle Tower is the sauce they use for the pork, it is sooo good.

                              Disclaimer: I'm a white boy born in Israel, so what the hell do I know...

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: lipko
                                ChowFun_derek RE: lipko Aug 26, 2006 03:07 PM

                                Is your wife one of the Vietnamese "boat people" that Israel saved and brought back to Israel? It certainly improved the food there..a nice "repayment" for a truly humanitarian act....
                                I'm putting Turtle Tower on my lunch rotation this week.....did you ACTUALLY say PORK!!! I want the pho AND the Bun...there's going to be leftovers I know...lucky me!

                                1. re: ChowFun_derek
                                  lipko RE: ChowFun_derek Aug 26, 2006 03:49 PM

                                  Nah, met my wife in the bay area.

                                  As for Turtle Tower's Pho quality , it was documented couple years ago in the Chronicle http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...

                              2. DezzerSF RE: tbot May 2, 2007 02:53 PM

                                I ordered this today at Cam Huong on 725 International in Oakland. It's #14 on the menu and called "Bun Ha Noi". In a small bowl was grilled pork, shrimp, and pork sausage pieces in a slightly oily broth, not nuoc mam. It came with mint, julienned pickled daikon and carrots, vermicelli noodles, and fresh romaine lettuce leaves to wrap everything with. I was a bit surprised by the preparation as I'm used to a big bowl with everything in it. But I really enjoyed it and found it a great deal at $6.50.

                                1. s
                                  sylphi RE: tbot May 3, 2007 03:30 PM

                                  I too have been looking for it. I was sad when the Pacific (I'm thinking of the name translated from Chinese) in the Tenderloin closed. That was great. I know Turtle Tower in the Tenderloin was already mentioned. It was okay (my family is from Vietnam) not great. They also have it at Yummy Yummy on Irving St. Not that great either but better than Turtle Tower.

                                  1. nicedragonboy RE: tbot May 4, 2007 11:04 AM

                                    Lotta folks I know like Pho Ao Sen in Oakland, near Lake Merritt.

                                    1. Ruth Lafler RE: tbot Jul 6, 2007 09:08 PM

                                      Oddly enough (because it's kinda nouvelle Vietnamese), I had a similar version at Xyclo the other day. It was "bun cha Hanoi" on the menu, and it came with the pork in a bowl with a soupy sauce, and the noodles, lettuce, etc. on the plate. There were a couple of shrimp with the pork, but no fried rolls. My only complaint is that Xyclo doesn't serve nearly as many greens with its dishes as the better "authentic" Vietnamese places.

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