If you have only one meal. If you have only one hour to spare in HCMC. Please. Go. See. The. Lunch. Lady. Holy. Moly. This was the most delicious soup I’ve ever had! I first heard of The Lunch Lady from Anthony Bourdain’s show No Reservations. She has definitely gained popularity after the fact, hence the foreigner friendly banner above her shop. The Lunch Lady serves a different soup every day of the week and only uses the freshest ingredients from the local market. We were lucky to make it for lunch on a Friday.
Everything is made from scratch. Here you can see the chunks of pineapple she uses in the broth for both flavor and the enzymes help tenderize the meat.
Directly next to her stall is another shop making fresh spring rolls or Goi Cuon.
We definitely got in on some of that…So good, so fresh! And the homemade dipping sauce was delicious too.
And without further ado….The Soup. Today we had Bun Bo Hue. Originating in Hue (a city in central Vietnam), this was a mildly spicy soup with a distinct flavor of lemongrass. Typically the stock is made from beef and/or pork bones, with pig’s feet, beef shank, pig’s blood and shrimp paste and there is a sausage/ham made from pork paste steamed in a banana leaf. The rice noodles are round and a little thicker than noodles used in pho. This soup changed my world. Could she adopt me? I have always loved Vietnamese cuisine…well okay, my minimal knowledge of it led me to believe that pho was the homerun dish. But this? I can’t even describe….so complex….it was exactly how Bourdain said it “..it is the soup among soups…it’s all about the stock…this is the broth that the god’s would have suckled on” and “like all truely great soups, it soon becomes center of the universe…you pass through an event horizon of pleasure, moments ticked off in mouthfuls, everything else ceases to exist.” Yes. This just happened.
As if the soup isn’t good enough on its own, some garnishes to bring it to another level – lime, peppers, chili oil, basil and shredded banana blossom.
Bun Go Hue is my new favorite Vietnamese soup. All this for under $1 each (she does charge another $0.50 for foreigners but I’m ok with that). Pho who? I’m wondering if I can ever find it again. I’m wondering if anything else in my life will ever be better than this.
For those who are also wanting a life changing moment, The Lunch Lady is located in District 1 at 23 Hoang Sa. Her shop is not easily visible from the main road. You will have to go down a short alley and you will spot her shop in the center of an open area under a big tree. Hoang Sa is a very long road and there are two very different areas so when telling your cab driver make sure you show them this map or get your cross streets straight. Since she only sells her soups at lunch and often sells out, I recommend going early so you can have some time to find the place.
The Lunch Lady | 23 Hoang Sa, HCM City