If you’re planning a trip to Hanoi and are looking for a special dish to try, consider bun ngan (Muscovy duck noodle soup)! It’s a dish that can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and allegedly originated in Hanoi.
Have you ever heard about Muscovy duck? It’s reared in many Northern areas, with the two most common types being ngan Sen, which has white feathers and black spots, and ngan Re, the one with white feathers only. Compared to duck and chicken, Muscovy duck is bigger with thin skin, less fat, firmer and leaner meat.
|The broth is ultra-rich as it’s simmered for hours with duck bones and meat. Photos: Thuy An
Muscovy duck is one of the foods that some people love, while others just don’t get. It has a bold, deep flavor, and a strong musky scent that might be considered off-putting to some people. That’s the reason why when prepping Muscovy duck, it’s important to rub both the inside and outside with a bit of salt, ginger, and white wine to remove its characteristic odor.
Compared to Southern and Central Vietnam, the Northern region, particularly Hanoi, boasts a wide variety of dishes using Muscovy duck, from noodle dish to hot pot and stir-fry. Recently, ngan chay toi (pan-fried Muscovy duck with garlic) is a newly-invented Muscovy duck dish that many people, especially garlic lovers, are infatuated with. This spice is a flavor powerhouse that complements really well the strong flavor of Muscovy duck, giving it a chance to shine.
While there are many Muscovy dishes in Hanoi, the most common one that you’ll see people eating all the time is bun ngan. And one of the best places to enjoy this dish is Bun Ngan Nhan or Mr. Nhan’s bun ngan. Bun ngan here has an incredibly rich, naturally sweet broth that has been simmered from duck meat and bones for hours. The owner, after chopping the meat off the bones for each serving, always throws the bones back into a boiling pot of broth. Imagine how rich and deep the broth becomes as it’s constantly brewed with bones and meat! Without a doubt, the broth is the highlight of this dish here, as many customers have to acclaim that they have never tried any broth that is as flavorful as the one at Bun Ngan Nhan.
|A bowl of bun ngan consists of dried bamboo shoots, moc, slices of duck meat, and fresh cilantro
It’s topped with sautéed dried bamboo shoots, thin slices of Muscovy duck, a big piece of duck blood curd, moc, cilantro, and green onions. The dried bamboo shoots are soft and soak in all of the flavorful broth. Moc, small balls made from a combination of pork paste, chopped wood-ear mushroom, and ground pork, is well-seasoned and has a nice aroma. The duck meat is firm yet still tender. And a bowl of noodles here has so much meat that you’ll feel like there is no end to the meat! The duck blood curd is a nice addition as well. But if you find it too intimidating to eat, you can always order a bowl without it.
Bun Ngan Nhan also sells mien ngan (Muscovy duck vermicelli). Everything is basically the same, but instead of rice noodles, you’ll get vermicelli which has a thin, chewy texture. The normal bowl of bun ngan is priced at VND40,000 ($1.74), but you can upgrade to a bigger bowl with more meat for VND50,000 ($2.18). Some locals love to order the bones that are used to make the broth, too, since they mention that the meat that’s still stuck on the bones is incredibly soft and rich in flavor.
|Locals love savoring the duck bones, as the meat stuck on the bones are tender and have soaked in all the flavorful broth
You can choose to sit inside the restaurant or in the courtyard. But if you decide to sit inside, you’ll have to order a drink. But that isn’t the case if you sit outdoor.
Also, prepare to have a unique experience when eating at this shop! Bun Ngan Nhan is termed “Bun Ngan Chui” by the locals. Chui is a Vietnamese word that means “to swear” in English. Apparently, Ms. Nhan, the owner, is quite sensitive and doesn’t tolerate even the slightest inaccurate orders or delays from customers. So, expect to hear her swearing a lot while standing in the long queue waiting for your turn to order.
Despite all the swearing from the owner, this place is always full of people no matter what time of the day it is. It has also in business for more than 10 years, and its popularity doesn’t seem to be waning anytime soon. The locals love the generous portions of meat, the rich and delectable broth, as well as the flavorful duck meat and pork ball. So do give this dish a try if you happen to be in Hanoi!
Address: 11 Trung Yen Lane, Hang Bac Ward, Hoan Kiem District
Operating hours: 6:30 am – 1:30 pm
Price: VND30,000 – 50,000 (USD$1.31 – 2.18)