The things snails and seafood do to bun

VietNamNet Bridge – With its long history of rice cultivation, Viet Nam cuisine features an endless variety of rice-noodle dishes. Apart from pho, which is made with flat rice noodles, there is the bun which are fresh thin and round. Bun dishes, mostly soups, can be found all over the country. But each region has distinct versions of bun, giving food lovers a variety of mouth-watering options.


The things snails and seafood do to bun

Pungent: Bun mam is popular in many western provinces of Viet Nam and the taste varies in different areas as people use different varieties of fish that are available in their surroundings. The basic bowl of bun mam comprises rice noodles, broth, shrimp and herbs. –Photo thethaovanhoa.vn


In the north, for instance, one of the most popular dishes is the bun oc, a rice noodle soup with fresh water snails.

It is said that residents of Ha Noi’s Quang An Village would pick up snails from nearby West Lake to serve with bun. The season for snails was the arrival of spring rains, so bun oc was only available at this time of the year.

The beginning of the year was also the time when devotees thronged the Tay Ho shrine and the worshippers would drop in to have a bowl of Bun oc after saying their prayers. Bun oc thus became a specialty of this area.

“When I was small, I often helped my grandmother cook bun oc, a specialty of West Lake people,” said Masterchef Viet Nam judge Pham Tuan Hai.

“I still remember that in the old days, my grandmother would add dam bong, rice wine residue, to create a pleasantly sour taste for the broth. This is an indispensable ingredient for bun oc for the West Lake people,” Hai said.

The broth of bun oc decides the quality of the dish, as it does for all other bun dishes. For bun oc, tomatoes and rice wine residue are added to the boiling snail broth. The meat of the snail is removed from its shell only when the dish is ready to be served.

After learning the skills from her mother, Thanh Nga has been offering bun oc in the West Lake area for more than 50 years now.

“Things have changed significantly around me, but the way this dish is cooked remains the same.

“To make a proper bowl of bun oc with the right flavours, the cook must choose the right snails and seasoning for the broth, as well as fresh rice noodles. Choosing the right ingredients will make up 50 per cent of the success of the dish,” Nga said.


The things snails and seafood do to bun

No longer seasonal: Bun oc now is served all year round and can be found in restaurants, food stalls as well as the wicker baskets of local vendors. –VNS Photo Hong Van


There is also a cold version of bun oc, in which ingredients are set out separately: a plate of rice noodles, a dipping bowl of broth with some boiled snails. The highlight of this dish is the light sour taste of the dipping broth and the crunchiness of the snails. The broth for the cold bun oc is just the water in which snails are boiled, with rice wine residue and other seasonings added.

Bun oc is no longer a seasonal dish. It is offered all year round and can be found in restaurants, food stalls as well as the wicker baskets of local vendors.

There are those who add fried tofu, green banana, pork ribs, crab meat or fried pork fat to the dish, depending on customers’ choice.


The things snails and seafood do to bun

No longer seasonal: Bun oc now is served all year round and can be found in restaurants, food stalls as well as the wicker baskets of local vendors. –VNS Photo Hong Van


Minced secret

Central Viet Nam is a region for gourmets to enjoy a large variety of seafood dishes. One of these, one not to be missed, is the bun cha ca.

Bun with fish is not rare in Viet Nam. Hai Phong, Thai Binh and Ha Noi have their own bun ca  specialities, but bun cha ca in Da Nang is more special for the fish used.

In the central city, unlike in the other places, the dish is served either with steamed fish or fried minced fish with dill and pepper. Da Nang cooks have their own “secret” for ways to get their crunchy and tasty fish.

To make a good broth, the cook simmers fish bones and pork bones for hours. The big pan of broth is put on the burning fire to keep it hot. When the dish is ordered, the cook takes some bun in a bowl, pour boiling broth on it, and tops it with slices of minced fish and chopped scallion.

Pleasant, pungent

The south of Viet Nam, with its abundance of rivers and streams, is known as the kingdom of fish and shrimp. In the days when seafood was abundant and there was no refrigeration, residents converted fish and shrimp into an alternative product called mam. The sauce made with the salted fermented fish is now a national staple, added to just about every dish, either while cooking or as a dipping sauce.

Bun mam is said to have been brought to Viet Nam by ethnic Khmer people living in Soc Trang Province, according to Le Thi Ngoc Diep, a culinary expert who teaches at the HCM City University of Social Sciences and Humanities.

“From 1990s, locals started adding different kinds of seasoning to original bun mam to reduce the strong smell of fermented fish used,” said Diep.


The things snails and seafood do to bun

Extra special: Rice noodles with fish is not rare in Viet Nam, but bun cha ca in Da Nang stands out from the rest. –Photo danangz.vn


Bun mam is popular in many western provinces and the taste varies in different areas as people use the fish available in their area. The basic bowl of bun mam comprises fresh rice noodle, broth, shrimps and herbs.

“About 20 kinds of herbs and vegetables are used in this dish. Depending on the availability, locals use different herbs during different periods of year,” said Diep.

Bun mam’s broth is famous for its strong taste. By itself, mam does not have a pleasant taste, but it considerably boosts the dish’s taste when combined with other flavours and added to the broth.

First introduced in Soc Trang a long time ago, bun mam is now popular in HCM City, Can Tho and even Ha Noi.

 

Bún ốc is served at:

Hà Nội

70 Mai Hắc Đế Street

1 Hòe Nhai Street

202 Đội Cấn Street

6 Hàng Chai Street

12 Nguyễn Cao Street

57D Hai Bà Trưng Street

Bún chả cá is served at:

Đà Nẵng

109 Nguyễn Chí Thanh Street

113/3 Nguyễn Chí Thanh Street

63 Lê Hồng Phong Street

87 Lê Hồng Phong Street

152 Quang Trung Street

242 Hoàng Diệu Street

Bún mắm is served at:

HCM City

465 Điện Biên Phủ Street

109 Nguyễn Văn Lương Street

131 Xô Viết Nghệ Tĩnh Street

100 Tô Ngọc Vân Street



 

VNS

Hong Van

EN VietNamNet

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