Bun Thang (kinda)
My family is from a rural, Catholic enclave in northern Vietnam (they fled south to Saigon in 1954) so many of the foods I grew up eating are from that region. My accent is northern and the terms I use are generally northern (e.g., gio vs. cha lua for steamed pork cake). I thought the food I ate growing up was typical Vietnamese fare until I asked my mom why I could never find any of the dishes I was craving at Vietnamese restaurants. Most Vietnamese in the U.S. seem to be from the South so the food from that region is better represented.
Bun thang is one of the northern dishes I grew up eating and rarely find in restaurants. In fact, the only place I know of in San Francisco that serves bun thang is Turtle Tower. Their version is pretty good (had it for the first time last week) but it is fairly simple to make if you have the right ingredients. I call mine kinda bun thang because I didn’t have all the right ingredients but did the best I could with the ingredients I had on hand. For a traditional bun thang recipe, visit The Ravenous Couple.
Last week, we were both feeling a little under the weather, it was chilly out and I had enough ingredients to make a recognizable bastardization of bun thang. I had boiled chicken, chicken broth and cilantro chiffonade left over from a batch of khao man gai, Three Ladies brand rice stick noodles and eggs.
First, the eggs. Growing up, I saw my mom do this all the time but had never tried it myself. I scrambled 3 eggs with a couple slugs of nuoc mam and fried a thin layer in a small non-stick pan. I flipped it when it looked ready. Next time, I will try to make it a little thinner.
The broth normally has some mam tom in it, but I didn’t have any at the time (now I do). Instead, I used some Thai shrimp paste (it didn’t dissolve very well) and dressed it up with a few more glugs of nuoc mam. Assemble pre-boiled noodles and everything else in a soup bowl, pour hot broth over it and you’ve got dinner!
A more authentic version would have had gio / cha lua (Vietnamese steamed pork cake), some lime and rau ram (Vietnamese coriander)…but it was good enough for me. I figured it out and don’t have to ask my dad to make the same dishes over and over when I see him. My mom used to get a little annoyed when I requested the same 2-3 simple dishes from her vast repertoire and my dad is probably no different.