I spent years experimenting with different bun cha restaurants in Hanoi until I finally settled on a reliable favourite. In Saigon the last thing I wanted was some poncey southern interpretation of this classic northern dish. Fortunately, I mentioned my dilemma to a Hanoian I bumped into in Saigon. She pointed me in the direction of a busy restaurant called Quan Ho Tay at 20B Tran Cao Van. As with nearly all the best restaurants I have tried in Vietnam, aesthetics are an afterthought. Metal tables, cheap plastic jars filled with condiments and the ice in my drink comes from a huge rectangular block, bought in bulk and hacked at occasionally to procure ice cubes.
Bun cha munchers normally order a sidedish of spring rolls (Cha gio in the south, Nem in the north. Same thing, bit bigger in the north, different name. Confusing). These are filled with a dash of crabmeat, minced pork, garlic, herbs, mushrooms, translucent noodles and seasoning. You dip them in the same fish sauce with the pork balls in. Quan Ho Tay's are pretty good, a sound crunch, but not packed with the sea crab chunks of freshness I look for in a spring roll. But, hey I'm not complaining, I'm just happy to know where I can get a Bun cha fix in this city.