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Best bún (Vietnamese vermicelli noodle salad)?

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ShinyCake Nov 19, 2010 12:59 PM

I've been craving bún pretty severely lately, and I'd love to know all your favorite restaurants for this delicious salad that helps me pretend that it's still summer. I'm particularly looking for a good place in Minneapolis, as I've moved across the river and put a lot of miles between myself and Ngon.

I'll list all the places I've had it, in order of best to worst. For the record, I only ever get bún with shrimp egg rolls or tofu.

Ngon Vietnamese Bistro. It's been a while, but I remember their bún as being very fresh and the tofu having a delicious glaze on it instead of just being boring fried tofu. One big bummer for this cilantro-hater is that they pre-mix the cilantro and scallions, so asking for no cilantro means no delicious green onions, either. I think this is a very strange practice.

Pho '79 (Energy Park Drive, St. Paul). Also very fresh, with nice crunchy lettuce. The shrimp egg rolls are amazing.

Mai Village. I ate bún for the first time there, so I guess I have a soft spot for it. I haven't been there in years, though. I remember liking that they're liberal with the peanuts and that they saute the tofu in small cubes with onions. And that NO cilantro is standard.

Quang. Good, but nothing special. They do a combination of tofu and mock duck.

Pham's Deli (Midtown Global Market). Good, but nothing special.

Hoa Bien. Haven't been there in years, but I definitely was not a fan. Cilantro instead of mint. Boring, plain fried tofu.

Saigon. I've had it here twice, and it's just not good. Boring tofu. Watery, flavorless brown sauce. Part of the problem may be that they assume if you want tofu you don't want fish sauce, which is probably true for a lot of people, but not for me. My mistake (maybe) was in asking for fish sauce but not telling them to leave out whatever watery brown stuff they normally pour on the tofu bún.

Your turn. :)

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Ngon Vietnamese Bistro
799 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55104

Saigon Restaurant & Bakery
704 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55104

Quang Pastry & Deli
2719 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408

Pho 79 Restaurant
2233 Energy Park Dr Ste 800, Saint Paul, MN 55108

Mai Village
394 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55103

Hoa Bien Vietnamese Restaurant
1129 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55104

Phams Deli
920 E Lake St Ste 153, Minneapolis, MN 55407

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    soupkitten RE: ShinyCake Nov 19, 2010 04:47 PM

    i really like chindian's version of bun salad. very fresh, good dressing. i like that they serve it in a sort of funnel or v shaped bowl rather than on a flatter soup plate or regular bowl-- makes it easier to toss the noodles and distribute the dressing as you go. for me, when ngon is really, really on, at exactly the right time of year/season, ngon's bun is superior-- but overall, i must say that chindian's bun beats ngon for consistency and freshness.

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    ChinDian Cafe
    1500 East Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55414

    4 Replies
    1. re: soupkitten
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      ShinyCake RE: soupkitten Nov 19, 2010 06:25 PM

      I've somehow managed not to hear of ChinDian. Not only does the bún, as you've described it, sound great, but so does a lot of the other stuff on their menu. Thanks for the enlightenment!

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      ChinDian Cafe
      1500 East Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55414

      1. re: ShinyCake
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        soupkitten RE: ShinyCake Nov 20, 2010 11:47 AM

        you are very welcome! and since i'm a bit of a bun salad addict myself, i'm keeping an eye out for your reports on the best ones around town! chindian is a really cute little place that keeps adding interesting items to the menu. i like the malaysian dishes they've been offering the last few times i've visited. hope you'll try the place out (and like it, of course).

      2. re: soupkitten
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        ShinyCake RE: soupkitten Dec 20, 2010 09:25 PM

        Made it to ChinDian tonight, and their bún (with tofu) was delicious. Very fresh. Definitely on the same level as Ngon. Might even be better than Ngon. My friend had the peanut noodles (an appetizer), and they were delicious as well. I'd recommend the ginger tea to warm up. A bit too sweet, but only a bit.

        My friend and I were the only people in the restaurant. I guess no one else was brave enough to come out in the snow. Because we were the only people there, they treated us to some delicious cream cheese wontons for dessert.

        My only complaint about the place is the way I smell right now: like I got dunked in the deep fryer. I'm looking forward to going back and trying other things, but not on a date. Smelling like this is NOT attractive.

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        ChinDian Cafe
        1500 East Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55414

        1. re: ShinyCake
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          faith RE: ShinyCake Dec 21, 2010 10:03 AM

          whoops Shinycake...that fryer smell is not attractive to me either. I don't recall noticing it (and I am very sensitive to odors) when I was there over a year ago. I wonder if their exhaust system in the kitchen needs cleaning. I was reading about all the restaurant fires that have happened around here lately and that many of them start from grease in the exhaust system, that it needs cleaning periodically. Someone should tell them at Chindian. Safety/fire hazard as well as customer turn-off! worth spending some bucks on, I'm sure you have to pay someone to do it right.

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          Chindian Cafe
          1500 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55414

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        kevin47 RE: ShinyCake Nov 19, 2010 05:42 PM

        Had the pork bun for lunch at Mai Village a couple of weeks ago. I've been a defender of that place, but wow, was that a bland dish.

        Does bun traditionally exclude cilantro? I've always thought that, in Vietnamese dishes, when mint is present, so is cilantro. The yin and yang of soap and mouthwash. Delicious.

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        Mai Village
        394 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55103

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          kriminalrat RE: ShinyCake Nov 20, 2010 11:51 AM

          I like Pho Tau Bay....egg roll/pork combo.

          1 Reply
          1. re: kriminalrat
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            MayrMN RE: kriminalrat Nov 20, 2010 06:08 PM

            I've only had Pho Tau Bay and Quang. The difference being that PTB's version was served with hot noodles. I think I preferred the cold noodles...

            Thinking I must get to Ngon one of these days....

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            Pho Tau Bay
            2837 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408

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            coconutty RE: ShinyCake Nov 23, 2010 05:23 PM

            Is the Energy Pk Pho 79 back to being great for their salads? I used to absolutely LOVE their rice noodle salads because they used a ton of fresh herbs -- and still really cheap. Then they started to skimp and altogether leave out some of the fresh herbs to the point where it was not worth it. Noodle-heavy and light on freshness.

            I will have to give them a try again soon -- it has been years.

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            Pho 79 Restaurant
            2233 Energy Park Dr Ste 800, Saint Paul, MN 55108

            3 Replies
            1. re: coconutty
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              ShinyCake RE: coconutty Nov 24, 2010 06:07 AM

              It has probably been about six months since I was there. It's difficult for me to remember details, but I certainly wouldn't have been impressed by wilty lettuce. I may stop there next week (I want to hit up Micawber's and that wine shop next door), and, if I do, I'll report back.

              1. re: coconutty
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                JimGrinsfelder RE: coconutty Nov 24, 2010 06:22 AM

                Last trip to Pho 79 was a sub-par Bahn Mi. Compared to Saigon on University, it seems all Bahn Mi are sub-par. Although the Pho at Pho 79 is good compared to Saigon on University where I had broth that was gray and soapy maybe they accidentally gave me dishwater and figured I wouldn't know the difference.

                I gotta stop in at Chindian. I've been past it a hundred times and I've been hoping for good Vietnamese close to my office. Thanks for the heads-up Soupkitten.

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                Pho 79 Restaurant
                2233 Energy Park Dr Ste 800, Saint Paul, MN 55108

                Chindian Cafe
                1500 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55414

                1. re: coconutty
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                  nas1 RE: coconutty Dec 21, 2010 08:44 AM

                  I haven't been to a huge number of places in town but my favorite so far is Trieu Chou on University. I like the egg roll, tofu and chicken version. I've been to Pho 79 and it was very good also.

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                  Pho 79 Restaurant
                  2233 Energy Park Dr Ste 800, Saint Paul, MN 55108

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                  SpursDynasty RE: ShinyCake Dec 22, 2010 08:30 AM

                  Ngon and it isn't close. Bona in Stadium Village for #2

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                    ashii RE: ShinyCake Dec 23, 2010 02:03 PM

                    Pho 79- i like a marinade on the chicken. Its a guilty pleasure of mine.

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                    Pho 79 Restaurant
                    2233 Energy Park Dr Ste 800, Saint Paul, MN 55108

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                      ShinyCake RE: ShinyCake May 6, 2011 11:53 AM

                      I just had tofu bun from Jasmine Deli, and it was excellent. I really like the pickled carrots, and the cucumber, lettuce, and bean sprouts were are fresh and crunchy. The noodles were maybe a little bit soft, but they didn't stick together at all. Good fish sauce, flavorful tofu (sauteed with onions in a peanut-y brown sauce). The woman behind the counter was very friendly and helpful. I'll definitely be back.

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                      Jasmine Deli
                      2532 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55404

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: ShinyCake
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                        forgottendreamr RE: ShinyCake May 6, 2011 12:50 PM

                        Jasmine Deli is my favorite "go to" for bun chay...they do mock duck and tofu, which I appreciate, and their sauce is flavorful.

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                        Jasmine Deli
                        2532 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55404

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                        Fudist RE: ShinyCake May 6, 2011 06:23 PM

                        Trieu Chau has amazing Bun. I order it with the meatball, fried pork and eggroll.

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                        Trieu Chau Restaurant
                        500 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55103

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                          Haricotsv2 RE: ShinyCake May 6, 2011 09:52 PM

                          I had mock duck bun at Indochine today (1:30 so it wasn't too busy). Delicious!

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