Hanoi Chicken and Vermicelli Noodle Soup

Bún Thang Hà Nội

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THIS VERMICELLI SOUP IS AS POPULAR AS PHO IN THE STREETS OF HANOI AND, LIKE PHO, IT CAN BE EATEN FOR BREAKFAST, LUNCH OR DINNER. I HAVE NEVER FOUND THIS DISH ANYWHERE ELSE IN VIETNAM, SO BE SURE TO TRY A BOWL OF THE LOCAL SPECIALITY IF YOU EVER FIND YOURSELF IN HANOI. IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE IT AT HOME, PLEASE ADD THE SHRIMP PASTE. I KNOW THAT SHRIMP PASTE CAN BE TOO INTENSE FOR SOME PEOPLE’S PALATES (AND NOSES), BUT I ASSURE YOU THAT WHEN DISSOLVED INTO THE BROTH, YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO SMELL IT, AND IT WILL TRULY ADD ANOTHER DIMENSION TO YOUR SOUP.

Ingredients

  • 2 litres (70 fl oz/8 cups) chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons garlic oil
  • 100 g ( oz) boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 100 g ( oz) pork fillet, trimmed
  • 250 g (9 oz) dried rice vermicelli noodles
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 100 g ( oz) pork terrine, sliced into thin strips (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons sliced spring onion (scallion)
  • 1 large handful coriander (cilantro) leaves
  • 1 large handful mint leaves
  • 1 large handful Vietnamese mint leaves
  • 90 g ( oz/1 cup) bean sprouts
  • shrimp paste, to taste (optional)
  • 1 bird’s eye chilli, thinly sliced
  • fish sauce, for dipping

Method

In a large saucepan, combine the chicken stock, sugar, fish sauce, garlic oil and 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to the boil, then add the chicken and pork. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken and pork, cool, then cut into 1 cm (½ inch) slices. Reserve the chicken stock.

Put the rice vermicelli in a saucepan of boiling water and bring back to the boil. Cook for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave in the water for 5 minutes. Drain the noodles, rinse under cold water, and set aside.

Place a non-stick frying pan over medium–low heat. Combine the eggs and ½ teaspoon of the oil in a bowl, then pour about a quarter of the beaten egg into the pan to form a thin layer over the base. Cook for 1 minute, or until the egg sheet will slide off the pan, then turn it over and cook for a further 30 seconds. Remove and place on a chopping board. Repeat this process until all the egg mixture is cooked; you should end up with three or four egg sheets. Stack the egg sheets on top of each other as they are cooked, then roll them together into a tight roll and slice thinly.

Divide the vermicelli among serving bowls. On top of the vermicelli, arrange even amounts of pork terrine (if using), followed by egg strips, then the chicken and pork. Pour enough hot stock into each bowl to cover the noodles. Garnish with spring onions and coriander, adding a pinch of freshly ground black pepper to each bowl.

Serve with a platter of mint, Vietnamese mint and bean sprouts, to add to the soup as desired. For a more intense flavour, add about ¼ teaspoon of shrimp paste to each bowl, stirring to dissolve the paste. Serve with a small bowl of sliced chilli and fish sauce for dipping.

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