Bún Cá, or Fish Noodle Soup in Hanoi, Vietnam

Bún Cá, or Fish Noodle Soup 

by Bún Cá Chấm An Viên in Hanoi, Vietnam

I was recently in Vietnam and wanted to have one of my favorite dishes for lunch. I was searching for bun cha - a dish made of barbecued pork and served with rice noodles.

I was walking around the Old Quarter near Hoan Kiem Lake and thought I had found a bun cha restaurant. I ordered by indicating what I wanted from the menu, but was surprised that the dish wasn't what I expected. Instead of ordering bun cha, I had ordered bun ca. I had misread the sign on the restaurant!

Instead of barbecued pork with noodles, I found myself sitting in front of a delicious bowl of Vietnamese fish noodle soup.

a bowl of Bún Cá, or Fish Noodle Soup in Hanoi, Vietnam with lots of fresh healthy vegetables
a bowl of Bún Cá, or Fish Noodle Soup in Hanoi, Vietnam

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Bun ca is a classic and healthy Hanoi-style Vietnamese noodle soup. The broth is savory, flavorful, and slightly sour, and is stuffed full of vegetables and herbs. The most significant ingredient, of course, is the fish, which came in the form of both fried fish and fish cakes to add a filling heartiness to the soup.

The broth is served over a generous portion of vermicelli rice noodles, and is served in a bowl with soft, stewed tomatoes and a huge heaping portion of fish eggs on top (which I found to add a great richness when mixed into the soup).

The only thing I wasn't crazy about were the fish intestines that were served in the dish, but they could easily be avoided or picked out. If you can speak Vietnamese, I'm sure you could ask for your meal to come without it. Perhaps it adds a bunch of flavor, but I've just never been huge on organs or intestines in my food. It's just a personal thing, I guess.

healthy Vietnamese fish noodle soup
healthy Vietnamese fish noodle soup

If the two types of fish in the soup weren't enough, my meal also came with a small plate of deep-fried crispy fish to dip into the broth or eat on the side. The crispy fish was amazing!

crispy fried fish in Hanoi, Vietnam served with noodle soup
crispy fried fish in Hanoi, Vietnam served with noodle soup

Sometimes, an unexpected surprised can be a great thing! I went into the meal expecting a plate of bun cha, and at first, I was disappointed not to be having one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes. However, I ended up really enjoying my bun ca.

If I had gotten what I had intended to order, I'm sure I would have loved it. But my mix-up gave me the chance to try something new that I never had before.

A little serendipity can be a wonderful thing.

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A large serving of bún cá with a side of crispy fish will cost only 50,000 VND (about $2).

Where to get it

Bún Cá Chấm An Viên is located in Hanoi's Old Quarter, just a short walk from Hoan Kiem Lake and Beer Street.