Saigoneer

Back Eat & Drink » Hanoi Ngõ Nooks » Ngõ Nooks: On Hàng Bài, Golden Bún Cá Thái Bình in a Hole in the Wall

Ngõ Nooks: On Hàng Bài, Golden Bún Cá Thái Bình in a Hole in the Wall

When a friend of mine returned home after living abroad last year, he longed for a bowl of bún cá. I suggested the classic Hanoi dish, with satisfyingly oily deep-fried fish, but he had other ideas — a fresh feast originally from Thai Binh, located almost 100 kilometers from the capital.

We ventured to a narrow, lively alleyway close to Tràng Tiền Plaza. The restaurant is in a dimly lit room in a crumbling old colonial house. I noticed bowls of pickled bamboo shoots on the tables which, it turns out, are prepared specifically to go with the bún cá they serve. That point alone marks a clear departure from the dish’s Hanoian cousin.

When my bowl arrived, I saw how the broth barely covered the bún in my bowl. The noodles were also thicker — more akin to those served with bún bò giò heo — and the soup had a distinctive taste formed from fish stock and a hint of sour tomato. But what really topped it off was the meaty chunks of richly hued snakehead fish.

The fish held firm between my chopsticks yet, as soon as it entered my mouth, its tender flakes fell apart gorgeously. Later, I was told that these plump and juicy pieces were carefully picked from prime cuts and, to achieve their burnt orange color, they were braised in a rich mix of turmeric and cashew powder.

Feasting merely on fish and noodles can be a tad heavy; thankfully they are served with steamed seasonal vegetables such as morning glory, celery or water mimosa (rau rút) to add freshness. And if that wasn't enough, the aforementioned tangy bamboo shoots easily balance out the heartiness of the bowl.

If I had come by a little later in the day, closer to noon, they would have been serving pork rinds with each meal. These crunchy, fatty, deep-fried snacks are a favorite among office workers who regularly swing by.

The restaurant’s owner was born in Thái Bình City but moved to Hanoi years ago. She tried and failed to sell general household goods before eventually offering customers her hometown’s celebrated noodle soup. Initially, only those familiar with the dish came by, but word gradually spread, and these days her restaurant is always brimming at meal times.  

If you come by motorbike and are unsure of where to park in the tiny lane, keep heading straight past the shop and you’ll see a big yard used by the community there. Parking is free. Bún Cá Thái Bình opens from 7am to 8pm daily.

To sum up:

Taste: 4/5
Price: 5/5
Atmosphere: 4/5
Friendliness: 5/5
Location: 4/5

 Tạ absolutely loves food and dreams of selling noodles. 

Bun Ca Thai Binh

21D, Hàng Bài Street, Hoàn Kiếm

Print
icon

Related Articles

Khoi Pham

in Saigon Hẻm Gems

Hẻm Gems: Conquering the Giant Bánh Canh Ghẹ Muối Ớt Xanh of D10

My uncle used to say that you haven't had real crab until you have to cook and dismantle one. For this week’s Hẻm Gem, Saigoneer takes you on a trip to do just that, relishing real crabs by break...

Linh Pham

in Hanoi Ngõ Nooks

Ngõ Nooks: At Ốc Cô Nhung, an Affordable Five-Course Banquet of Snails and Snacks

If there is a restaurant in Hanoi that embodies the proverb “good wine needs no bush,” it’s Ốc cô Nhung. Though in this case, instead of wine, it is snails.

in Hanoi Ngõ Nooks

Ngõ Nooks: Cháo Sườn Proves Sometimes the Simplest Snacks Are the Most Satisfying

Hanoi’s summer days are unforgiving. On the most intense days, a bullish sun forms thick layers of heat between cement roads and tall, oppressive buildings. Yet here I was, standing in the epicenter o...

in Hanoi Ngõ Nooks

Ngõ Nooks: Three Generations of Noodles on the Pavement at Bún Riêu Hồng Phúc

Connecting Hòe Nhai and Hàng Đậu, Hồng Phúc is one of the shortest alleys in Hanoi. However, this small alley is a paradise for people who love bún, especially if one is craving a meticulously prepare...

in Hanoi Ngõ Nooks

Ngõ Nooks: Hearty Banh Mi From a New-Fashioned Hanoi Co-Operative

Hop Tac Xa Thit Xien is more than just a bánh mì eatery – it’s a place to rekindle your childhood nostalgia and absorb the style of the street.

in Hanoi Ngõ Nooks

Ngõ Nooks: Nourishment for the Soul at Canh Bun Nguyen Sieu

Eating canh bún is akin to going for a walk on a clear day as sunset melts over the city; it costs almost nothing yet nourishes the soul.

Partner Content

in Partner Content

Achieving Social-Emotional Development at International School Saigon Pearl

Why do children go to school? Cultivating knowledge and skills necessary for an independent, working life is important, but that is only part of the story. The social-emotional learning that takes pla...