When I arrived at Bun Cha Hang Manh at 8:45 AM, a woman was using metal tongs to pluck cha gio from three bubbling woks and place them on trays.
Easily over 500 cha gio (fried imperial rolls) were stacked on aluminum trays and set on blue plastic kiddie stools. I asked for one order of cha gio and one order of bun cha. A woman sorting greens off to the side said, “No buy. Eleven,” and pointed to the wall-hanging clock. Thwarted.
After doing my tourist duties, checking out Ho Chi Minh’s Presidential Palace, House on Stilts, and Museum, I returned to Bun Cha Hang Manh by taxi at 10:50, in a blinding rainstorm.
The same woman was frying cha gio in one wok, lot leaf-wrapped pork patties in the other two woks. Even though it wasn’t quite 11, one of the women took pity on me and led me upstairs, to a small room with six tables.
Each table was already set with plates of rice vermicelli, mint, sprouts and greens, a bowl of marinated green papaya slices, bowls of fish sauce, chopped garlic and sliced orange chilies.
I ordered bun cha and cha gio, the only two dishes available. The cha gio were crispy outside, juicy inside, filled with glass noodles, pork, crab, wood-ear mushrooms and onions. Each roll was two inches in diameter and unbelievably delicious. And this wasn’t even the restaurant’s specialty.
Bun Cha is the dish the restaurant’s named after; Hang Manh is the street. Bun [pronounced BOON] cha is a bowl of charcoal-grilled strips of tender pork belly, little pork patties and the pork patties wrapped in lot leaves. The meat was all fantastically juicy, since the porcine heap sat in a dark broth.
For the whole meal, easily a pound and a half of fresh, flavorful food, I was charged a paltry 30000 Dong, less than $2. Wow!