Between The Astronomer and I, we probably ate close to fifty bowls of bun thit nuong—rice vermicelli noodles topped with grilled pork, pickled vegetables and nuoc mam—during our year in Vietnam. While I’ve always loved this dish, I learned to appreciate it even more in Saigon thanks to the hot and sticky weather. When the temperature is soaring and my knees are sweating, a noodle dish without a scalding hot broth does wonders for the psyche.
Our final bowls of bun thit nuong in the city were carefully crafted by the one, the only—Lunch Lady. Although we’ve eaten lots of her noodle offerings, we never tried her bun thit nuong because she only makes this dish on Sundays—a day I steer clear of the AsiaLIFE office. But since our days in town were winding down, and we thought it would be a pity to leave Saigon without trying each and every one of the Lunch Lady’s offerings, we made our way to the shady spot under the tree one Sunday afternoon.
I ordered one bowl with the “the works,” while The Astronomer went for two of the same. Each bowl of cool noodles came smothered in scallion oil and adorned with freshly fried cha gio (cut into small pieces using scissors, of course), pickled carrots and daikon, crushed peanuts, crispy scallions and generous hunks of grilled pork. Nouc mam was served in a small bowl on the side.
What’s unique about the Lunch Lady’s version of bun thit nuong is the addition of mit luoc—boiled green jackfruit. The jackfruit tasted a bit sour, and a lot bland. Even mixed in with some nuoc mam and noodles, I didn’t think the jackfruit added anything to the already solid bowl of bun thit nuong. I prefer my boiled jackfruit in goi (salad) form. Goi mit is bomb. Tia Nguyen has a sweet looking recipe for a jackfruit salad here.