Oh! Bun cha
Hanoi street food gets local buzz following viral Instagram post of Obama eating it in Vietnam
Bun cha has gone from a Hanoi street food speciality to international buzz-worthy cuisine, thanks to one Instagram post.
On Monday, social media went crazy when US celebrity TV chef Anthony Bourdain posted a photo of his meal with US President Barack Obama, who was touring Hanoi, Vietnam, at the Bun Cha Huong Lien eatery.
Bourdain tweeted: "Total cost of bun cha dinner with the President: $6.00. I picked up the check."
He added: "Low plastic stool, cheap but delicious noodles, cold Hanoi beer."
It was the sheer casualness of the picture that captivated so many.
"Cool" was a common adjective used to describe Bourdain's powwow with Mr Obama.
THE 'POTUS EFFECT': (Above) Mr Barack Obama having a meal of bun cha with celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain in Hanoi, in a picture that has gone viral. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/ANTHONYBOURDAIN
They were eating bun cha, a popular Hanoi dish of white rice noodles, herbs and grilled pork, and the picture had a ripple effect - at least for Uncle Ho Tuckshop at 100 Pasir Panjang Road.
Ms Jackie Ho, a co-owner of the restaurant who is in her late 40s, said they usually sell about 200 bowls of bun cha at $12.90 each daily.
She told TNP: "Bun cha is in fact our house special and it is popular with customers."
But since the Obama-Bourdain picture went viral, that number has gone up by "more than 50 per cent".
She added: "We even had people calling us to reserve bowls for them, in case we run out by evening."
To the uninitiated, bun cha is not pronounced as it is spelt.
Ms Ho said people have been coming in all week and mispronouncing it. ("It's boon cha.")
Uncle Ho's Hanoi-born chef Le Van Tuan, 38, said bun cha must have a broth that is balanced - sweet, sour and salty.
He said: "The herbs are important too. We use the coca leaf and a Vietnamese mint that we import."
You must also eat it with garlic and pickles in the broth.
Also, the broth is not for drinking. It is actually a dipping sauce for the rice noodles.
Chef Le stressed that there is only one version: with pork.
"Only pork can make bun cha," he said.
Chef Le has eaten at Bun Cha Huong Lien, where Mr Obama and Bourdain's famous meal took place.
He said: "It's a very famous shop with at least 20 years' history. It only sells bun cha."
The Obama effect isn't felt by all Vietnamese restaurants though, as bun cha is not as readily available in Singapore.
SAY IT RIGHT: Bun cha is pronounced 'boon cha', and consists of white rice noodles, herbs and grilled pork. PHOTOS: GAVIN FOO, INSTAGRAM/ANTHONYBOURDAIN
TNP called a few Vietnamese restaurants and only two sell it.
Popular chain Wrap & Roll is one of those, but it has not seen an increase in sales of the dish.
Ms Jacinta Lee, marketing manager of MSJ Gourmet Group which operates Wrap & Roll, said: "We have not yet seen a rise in orders as people are still wondering exactly what dish it is, as the awareness on Vietnamese cuisine is still quite low."
But that may change soon.
Ms Lee, 28, said that from Saturday, they will start serving an Obama set meal ($12.90) consisting of "Bun Cha Hanoi in its original Hanoi presentation with Vietnamese beer".
This is available till June 19 at Wrap & Roll's ION Orchard, Star Vista and Changi City Point outlets only.
We even had people calling us to reserve bowls (of bun cha) for them, in case we run out by evening.
- Ms Jackie Ho, co-owner of Uncle Ho Tuckshop