Cheap & Good

Cheap & Good: Authentic taste of Vietnam in Orchard Road

The pork patties of Little Hanoi's bun cha dish are freshly grilled.
The pork patties of Little Hanoi's bun cha dish are freshly grilled.PHOTO: LE SEN

Say Vietnamese cuisine and most people immediately think of pho (rice noodles soup) or banh mi (baguette sandwich).

My favourite Vietnamese dish, however, is bun cha, or grilled pork with rice noodles - the dish that chef Anthony Bourdain famously introduced to former United States president Barack Obama during his trip to Hanoi in 2016.

This dish is not widely available in Singapore, though, and I have had to satiate my craving for it only during my sporadic holidays to Vietnam.

I was therefore surprised and excited when I finally found a good version of it here - and even happier that it is conveniently located in Orchard Road.

It is at Little Hanoi, a stall in the Shaw Centre basement foodcourt.

Usually, I try to avoid foodcourts that are air-conditioned because the prices are not only marked up, but the offerings also often taste manufactured or watered down.

Fortunately, this one appeared to buck the trend.

  • LITTLE HANOI

  • B1-05 Food Republic, Shaw House, 350 Orchard Road; open: 9am to 10pm daily

    Rating: 3.5 stars

Going by the Vietnamese I heard spoken among the staff there and seeing how the stall attracted one of the longest queues in the place, I was certain that I would be in for authentic Vietnamese cooking.

It was easy to miss the bun cha dish at first because it was not listed on the main menu board on the back wall.

Instead, a photograph of the dish was pasted on an A4-sized piece of paper on the counter top.

I eagerly ordered a portion ($7.90) and waited almost 10 minutes for it to be ready.

Although my stomach was growling by the time it was ready, I was happy to see that the two pork patties in my bowl were freshly grilled and steaming hot.

That was certainly better than how I have seen it served in some places - with the patties left sitting out and cold.

Little Hanoi's version of the dish came with deep-fried spring rolls, which were crispy and full of pork and mushroom flavours.

The raw vegetables and fresh rice noodles at the bottom of the bowl acted as the perfect counterbalance to the heaviness of the meats.

I dipped the dry noodles into the sweet and savoury broth of fish sauce, vinegar and sugar served on the side and enjoyed how light and refreshing it made the entire meal.

For a little while, it almost felt like I was in Vietnam.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 18, 2018, with the headline 'Authentic taste of Vietnam'. Print Edition | Subscribe