One of the most notable things in Hanoi is that the capital sells different versions of rice noodles (bún.) And Bun Thang is among its culinary delights with simple but diverse ingredients. Being a traditional dish of old Hanoi families, especially during Tet (Lunar New Year,) Bun Thang carries several elements of the unique elegance of Hanoi.
What does the word “thang” mean?
The method of making Bun Thang is absolutely one of a kind. Formerly, women took the advantage of leftovers from the Lunar New Year Holiday to create a totally new delicious dish. The origin of the name Bun Thang can be explained in two different ways. The first explanation is that the word “thang” (ladder) specifies multiple components in just one bowl of the dish. The other one is that the word “thang” is originated from a Chinese word meaning the soup.
A bowl of Bun Thang requires TWENTY INGREDIENTS
Making Bun Thang involves a sophisticated process from preparation to cooking. There are around twenty ingredients needed to make the Hanoi specialty. First, the noodles should be snowy-white and silky while chicken meat must be tore into small and soft pieces. Besides, steamed pork roll (giò lụa/chả lụa) is carefully selected so that each slice of the roll is thin but elastic. Shrimps should taste sweet and not too fishy. Radish is dried and then mixed with sugar, fish sauce and other spices. Other ingredients include mushrooms, onions and chopped vegetables.
Preparing for egg strips seems to be among the most sophisticated steps. To make the egg have enough thinness, a little white wine should be added right before the egg is whipped. After that, pour a little animal fat around the inner pan surface, and when the egg is poured into it, remember to rotate the pan quickly and evenly. The fried egg is then cut into thin and smooth strips.
As for the noodles, they should be put into boiling water first, then taken out and placed into a bowl. To prepare “thang” (ladder), each of the ingredients is arranged neatly into the bowl. Old Hanoi people often use a “ladder” tool – a wooden frame, which is divided into 5 equal holes for five main ingredients including egg strips, sliced pork rolls, lean chicken, chicken skin and radish. All the ingredients are skilfully presented in the bowl like a five-colored flower.
“Observing Bun Thang gives us a feeling of seeing the clear landscape in which the colors are placed close together rather than mixed” (Vu Bang)
The inner soul of Bun Thang
The broth of Bun Thang should be made from chicken rather than pork or beef. Chicken bones, together with grilled onion, ginger, and a scoop of shrimps are boiled for at least an hour before being filtered to get the real “clear” broth. A good pot of broth must be pure and sweet with the taste of shrimps and mushrooms. It would be a mistake if we do not mention the most special part of Bun Thang – Tinh dau Ca cuong (Lethocerus indices’ essence) which helps to wake up the special aroma of Bun Thang.
All of these make a perfect Hanoi-styled Bun Thang !
However sophisticated, Bun thang is just as ordinary as other types of noodles. Where is the best place to enjoy Bun thang? At home! Bun Thang is usually eaten in Tet or family reunion holidays. Alternatively, you can look for some restaurants in Hanoi as recommended below:
5 Hang Trong, Hoan Kiem District.
11 Ha Hoi, Tran Hung Dao, Hoan Kiem District.
11 Hang Hom, Hang Gai, Hoan Kiem District.
144 D2 Giang Vo, Ba Dinh District.
Let’s enjoy a bowl of Bun Thang and you will feel the taste of Hanoi elegance! 😉