Food File: Bun Moc
Bun moc (bún mọc) is one of the lesser-known Vietnamese noodle soups. And like a lot of lesser-known dishes, I had never even heard of it until Darling Man ordered a bowl for me.
There’s a bit of a story behind my discovery of bun moc, a story that starts at the tourist-centric Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City.
After years of avoiding Ben Thanh Market and telling anyone who’d listen to do the same, I thought I’d better go back there and see if it was as horrible as I remembered.
Darling Man, Miss M and I launched a breakfast mission, arriving at Ben Thanh market a bit after 9am on a Sunday. We avoided the pushy vendors in the front section and entered through a side door, right where the food stalls are. I thought we’d avoid the pushiness altogether because we’d catch the tail end of the breakfast rush and all the vendors would be busy serving and clearing.
No such luck.
Most of the food stalls had no customers and we were prime meat. As I trailed behind Darling Man, who was looking for some local specialties (undefined specialties that he’d know when he saw a sign, he said), we were pounced on by every single vendor we passed. Dog-eared plastic menus were waved in our faces, things were yelled at us in English and Vietnamese and Miss M was poked and prodded, much to her un-delight.
It took me a while to realise what else was off about the stalls. There were no one-dish specialists as is the case in most markets around Vietnam. People were offering restaurant-like ranges of foods, and most stalls had very similar offerings.
But we sat somewhere and ordered a small bowl of something non-memorable and ate while the stallholder, her mother and a bunch of other vendors watched our every move, making personal comments about our family and our eating habits. The food was bland, the service was really annoying and the counter was sticky. As is the case in tourist places all around the world, these vendors had no interest in generating repeat business.
We moved on. Straight to the nearest exit. We walked grumpily here and there while I complained about the pushy vendors in a very complainy way. (I plead pregnancy hormones.)
And then Darling Man told me there was a “famous” soup place a block away from the market.
I stopped complaining. And within a few minutes I was sitting in front of a bowl of bún mọc.
All around me locals were slurping down similar bowls. Unlike the others, I didn’t add any pungent purple mắm tôm (fermented prawn paste) to my soup. Instead, I enjoyed my noodles with some fresh herbs, shredded banana flower and a squeeze of lime.
Floating in the bun moc pork broth were slices of sweetish cinnamon-scented Vietnamese sausage, some pork and crab balls and giò sống, which is translated as pork paste. It was delicious in a mild non-offensive way and the atmosphere was a world apart from the nearby Ben Thanh Market.
So I am sticking with my warning for visitors and locals to steer clear of the Ben Thanh Market. If you’re in the general vicinity and can fit a bowl of noodle soup in, make your way to Thanh Mai (14 Truong Dinh, D1) for a bowl of bun moc instead.
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7 years ago