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Ngõ Nooks: Bud'mo, a Ukrainian Welcome as Warm as a Shot of Nastoyka

“O sultan, Turkish devil and damned devil’s kith and kin, secretary to Lucifer himself…You will not, you son of a bitch, make subjects of Christian sons; we've no fear of your army, by land and by sea we will battle with thee, f*** your mother.”

That would be the first thing a patron can read upon walking into Bud’mo (pronounced boot-more), a Ukrainian restaurant in Hanoi, provided that they speak the language. The lines hang next to a large painting titled 'Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to the Turkish Sultan.'

'Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to the Turkish Sultan' by Ilya Repin.

I do not speak Ukrainian, but luckily for me, my companion Bohdan Paketa does. When he translated it for me, I learned that not only is he from Ukraine, but Paketa was born in Zaporizhzhya, which makes him a descendant of the warriors who wrote those lines. Paketa and I went to Bud’mo to meet some friends and, more importantly, to sample some Ukrainian cuisine.

The al fresco tables at Bud'mo.

His sister Oksana Yashchenko was already waiting for us. We asked for a bigger table because we were quite a big group. The more the merrier, I thought, and the more dishes we could try as well; Bud’mo has quite a large menu.

Following Yashchenko’s recommendation, we started off with borsch, the Ukrainian signature soup. When it came I was surprised, it was just so…red. Borsch has the color of the Vietnamese tiết canh, a savory blood pudding. After just one spoonful, I was sold. It was a harmonious blend of savory and sour, with just a hint of sweetness. The beetroot, which gives it its color, was so tender it melted in my mouth. “The borsch here tastes just like my mother’s,” Paketa said.

A bright, light soup full of beetroot flavor.

Yashchenko chimed in: “Our mom would say 'you have to eat soup everyday.' She would always make something, but mostly borsch. And the best combination is this: you prepare a sandwich for yourself.” She took a piece of bread, added two thin slices of salo, or cured pork fat, and put some garlic on top. Then she took a bite of her sandwich, followed by a spoonful of borsch.

An impromptu sandwich.

I followed suit. The salo’s saltiness and the garlic’s pungent smell made for an explosion of flavor, then the borsch put out the fire. “This is really traditional Ukrainian food, with bread and salo,” Yashchenko said. Paketa also added that salo made for an excellent drinking snack, with vodka or any other alcohol.

We weren't drinking vodka but instead nastoyka, a Ukrainian spirit. The kind we had was infused with holy grass. I asked what holy grass was and Paketa quipped: “Maybe grass grown in church?” Whatever it was, I enjoyed it a whole lot. The spirit had an earthy taste and burned but did not linger.

Salo and nastoyka, or happiness on a table.

More food came. I had forgotten what I ordered but it didn’t matter because following the Vietnamese’s way, the whole table shared everything. Each dish seemed tastier than the last. Trang Hip, Paketa’s girlfriend, did my job and took pictures because I was too busy stuffing my face.

From left to right: Dumplings with meat, potato pancakes with meat, chicken shashlyk, and crepes with meat. Photos by Trang Hip.

Amidst the revelry, a waiter came in with a tray full of shots. “Oooh, welcoming drinks!” Yashchenko exclaimed. Apparently, Bud’mo usually offered drinks to large groups of patrons. We all took a glass and said “Bud’mo!” — which means “Cheers!”

The complimentary spirit was another type of nastoyka, this one infused with cranberry. A member of our table said it reminded him of the holidays because it tasted like candy liquor. I don’t like sweetness in my alcohol, but I’m not one to reject free drinks.

Bud’mo!

At the end of the night, the bill came to about VND300,000 per person. Bud’mo is a bit more expensive than other eateries in our Ngõ Nooks series, but it is definitely worth it. Just like a birthday cake, Bud’mo is better when shared. And when the beverages are on the table, remember to say the restaurant’s name and you’re well on your way to drinking like a Ukrainian.

The entrance of Bud'mo.

Bud'mo is open from 9am to 10pm.

To sum up:

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

Bud'mo - Ukrainian Cuisine

61 Tô Ngọc Vân, Quảng An Ward, Tây Hồ District, Hanoi

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