I have come so far in my photography, so I wanted to take some of my old recipes and reshoot them. Bun Thang is one of my favorites and one I used to request from my mom all the time. So when I moved to the Bay and started cooking, I knew it was something I had to learn to make.
What is Bun Thang?
Bun Thang is the Vietnamese version of chicken noodle soup. It has a chicken broth, served with vermicelli noodles, and topped with cha lua, Vietnamese coriander, green onions, eggs, and shredded chicken. I also add a small spoon of shrimp paste to give it an extra kick. This part is optional since shrimp paste has such a strong flavor and not everyone likes it.
Making the broth
When I make this dish, I first start with the broth and make the toppings while my broth is cooking. The broth is made of 3 things: 1 whole chicken, 1 onion, and 10 dried shrimp. First, add the chicken to the broth and add in water until it just covers the chicken. Bring the water to a boil and check on it every 15 minutes to make sure you scoop away the impurities. Those are the gross, foamy things that float on the top of the soup. After the water comes to a boil, lower to a simmer and add in the onion and dried shrimp. Let it cook for 30 minutes and then take out the chicken. This step is important because if you leave the chicken in any longer, the meat will over cook. Shred the chicken and add the bones back to the dish to continue cooking. The bones have flavor in them and will continue to add more flavor to the soup.
The toppings are my favorite!
The toppings are my FAVORITE part of this noodle soup. There are 3 main toppings: cha lua, eggs, and shredded chicken. The one I wanted to call out is cha lua. This is another very traditional Vietnamese ingredient. You can buy it pre-made at large Asian grocery stores or banh mi bakeries like Lee’s Sandwiches. Cha Lua is the most common type of sausage in Vietnamese culture and is made from pork wrapped in banana leaves. It has a sweet flavor with a texture that is slightly softer than hard cheese.
Vietnamese coriander is the key to this dish
The key to the unique flavor of Bun Thang is the Vietnamese coriander. You can think of Vietnamese coriander as the Asian version of mint. This herb is the reason I don’t make this dish as much as I want to. It is only found in big Asian grocery stores like 99 Ranch because it is a very very traditional ingredient in Southeast Asia. Every time my mom comes to visit I make sure to ask she bring me some. This is the finishing touch to my noodle soup before serving. I usually add it with minced green onions. In addition to Bun Thang, you can eat it fresh with spring rolls, on salad, or just eat it by itself.
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- Soak the dried shrimp. Submerge the dried shrimp in a bowl of cold water and let it sit for 10 minutes.
- Put the chicken in a large soup pot. Fill the pot with water until it just covers the chicken. Don't put in too much water as it will cause the soup to be too weak. Bring the water to a boil. As the water starts to boil, scoop away the impurities as they float to the surface. After you scoop away all the impurities, add in the onion, salt, and dried shrimp. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.
- As the soup is simmering, cut the cha lua into small strips and set aside.
- Whisk the eggs. Get a large saute pan and pour a thin layer of egg into the pan ~2 eggs per egg pancake). Cook the egg on each side for a minute each. Cut the egg pancakes into small strips and set aside.
- Cut up the Vietnamese coriander and green onions and set aside.
- Shred your chicken. After the soup has been cooking for 30 minutes, take out the chicken and shred up the meat. Put the chicken bones back into the soup. Taste the soup to make sure you added enough seasoning and add more salt if needed. Pour in the chicken stock and let simmer for 2 hours.
- Cook your noodles. Bring water to boil in another pot to cook the vermicelli noodles. Add in the package of vermicelli noodles and cook for 2-3 minutes. Taste the noodles to make sure they are done.
- Putting it all together. Put a handful of noodles into a large bowl. Top the noodles with cha lua, egg, shredded chicken, green onions, and Vietnamese coriander. Add fish sauce and pepper to taste. Finally, ladle some soup over the noodles and toppings.
- For extra flavor, add a small spoonful of shrimp paste to your bowl of noodles.
- Another variation of this dish involves adding pork bone to the broth for extra flavor. That’s how my mom makes it. I personally prefer pure chicken flavor, but wanted to add this as an option in case you wanted to try it.