One of the first things I do when I am back in Ho Chi Minh City after a long trip is have a bowl of bun ca (rice vermicelli with fish) at a small restaurant on Nguyen Thien Thuat Street.
It is a small restaurant that serves only breakfast until 11 a.m., and it is clear it enjoys considerable regular patronage. The restaurant has a family-run look about it, with a calendar featuring the child of the owner gracing one of its walls.
Vietnam’s Mekong Delta is famous for its fish, vegetable and fruits, as well as some of the healthiest dishes that are made from these staples.
This noodle soup with fish is a very good example. There is no oil or sugar which usually dominates the taste of the dish so the fresh ingredients have a chance to express themselves.
It is one of the best bun ca I have had, not just in Ho Chi Minh City, but the whole of Vietnam in general – very fresh, light and flavorful.
Different from bun ca Nha Trang (vermicelli soup served with fried fish pie and fried fish slice), bun ca Rach Gia is much fresher. It evokes for me the time when farmers arrived first and made the soup by just boiling the fish and adding some herbs, shrimps and rice vermicelli. Nothing fried or marinated.
BUN CA RACH GIA
|Number 29, Lot C, Nguyen Thien Thuat Apartment, 253 Nguyen Thien Thuat Street, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City|
The dish looks appetizing as well, the white rice noodles and white pieces of ca loc (a famous fish found in the Mekong Delta), the rau ram herb, basil leaves and two small shrimps. Everyone at the restaurant is prone to pay full attention to enjoying their breakfast and there is very little animated conversation.
The cook who started the restaurant is a young, pleasant woman who grew up in Kien Giang and moved to HCMC 10 years ago.
If I am a bit late and the broth has almost finished, it is a bit salty and she would notice that and bring a small bowl of hot water to restore the taste of the dish.
Looking at the quick, strong, relaxing and smiling young cook, I understand why the dish is fresh and pleasant. The food cooked by someone tells a lot about the person.
Her service, accompanied by a sweet smile, is just one more reason to frequent her establishment. I always get out of the restaurant with the feeling that the day is off to a good start.