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Famous alley shop in Hanoi’s Old Quarter thrives

23-year-old bun cha shop on 74 Hang Quat (Hanoi), open daily from 10 am to 2 pm, sells only 500 servings a day

In an alley 10 minutes from Hoan Kiem Lake, this is a go-to spot for many locals and tourists.

“Before the pandemic, I served dozens of foreigners. Some had to compliment me after their first bite and they invited others to try,” owner Dao Thi Mai Lan said.

The shop located in a small, deep alleyway has been a "living and business area" of about a dozen households, most of which are Lan's siblings. The store next to her also serves spring rolls and beverages to serve diners.

The shop prepares 400 to 500 servings every day. If it is Tet, a holiday or the weekends, they serve only from 10 AM to 3 PM.

At 6 AM, Lan’s family and staff wash and slice the fresh pork, then marinate and shape them into patties. 

"In the past, my parents-in-law have been dealing in pork for many years, so they have a secret to choosing good meat. Delicious, fresh and clean meat is what determines the quality of bun cha. As for marinating, I only use simple ingredients like fish sauce, salt, main noodles, and sugar," said Lan.

Around 7 AM, the coal stove turns red, and the two main cooks continuously grill over a hundred racks of sliced pork and patties.

The sliced pork belly and minced pork patties are grilled twice to first par-cook the meat, then to give it some char and a smoky, fatty flavor.

The famous "bun cha alley" in Hanoi's old quarter.
The narrow alley requires cooks to tuck in when there is a motorcycle.
Lan (in back) and her sister-in-law (middle) work at the shop.
At 7 AM, the marinated sliced pork belly and minced pork patties are grilled.
The meat is re-grilled on the hot coals after being ordered.
Grilled sliced pork is made from part-lean, part-fatty meat, so it's tender, juicy and less greasy. It is grilled to golden brown on both sides, slightly charred and smoky.
The dipping sauce is made from fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, water, minced fresh garlic and chili.

The rice vermicelli noodles are handmade so they are softer and bouncier.
For years the shop has maintained the price of 40,000 VND per serving of bun cha with a plate of vermicelli, a bowl of sauce filled with grilled pork and a plate of fresh vegetables. Diners can order spring rolls and drinks nearby.
Spring rolls are 10,000 VND/roll.
"Sometimes I have to wait for 10-15 minutes but the delicious grilled pork and attentive sellers make up for it,” a regular customer shared.
Dozens of take-out sets.

Quang Minh

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