A well-made bun cha is highly under-rated. You hear people professing their love for the perfect Pho, with its fragrant broth and restorative qualities, but I am firmly of the belief that bun is the superior dish. Everytime I order pho, I regret it. Too large a portion, not enough noodles and so much broth creating steam that rises and coats your face with a fine film of sweat. Granted, a bowl of Pho has its place in the depths of winter, but now that the days are longer and the sky just that little bit bluer, my thoughts turn to bun.
The basis for bun cha is cold vermicelli noodles, a bright and zingy dipping sauce that I inevitably end up pouring over everything, a standard topping of grilled pork, with lettuce and pickled carrots giving a sour crunchy aspect. My favourite version is one that incudes piping hot spring rolls, neatly snipped into bite sized pieces. Sao Mai’s version hits all the high notes, my only disappointment was the inclusion of Thai basil, preferring to find bursts of mint through my bun cha.
A tall sweet glass of lychee drink, filled with the round bouncy orbs of the tinned variety added just sweetness that I wasn’t craving a dessert at the end.
If it is truly Pho you’re after, below is the menu. For the record, the photo of Duncan’s Pho, came out all poor even by my standards.
Sao Mai is a pretty under-rated gem in the East Village. Service was a bit slow and scattered, but I’m happy to over look that for a great bun cha.
No official website as I could find, but here is the entry for Menu Pages