While phở is Hanoi’s most iconic noodle soup, there are many others worthy of your attention. One such example is bún thang (pronounced “boon taang”), a rice vermicelli noodle soup known for being light yet filling and savory. In the Vietnamese capital, you’ll find nearly a dozen restaurants hawking this noodle soup. Our favorite is this over 20-year-old standby near the scenic Hoàn Kiếm Lake, where bowls start at just VND50,000, or roughly two dollars.
Often considered to be a medicinal dish—that is, a chicken noodle soup-esque dish that one enjoys to ward off a cold or other minor ailment—bún thang is made with a light, black pepper-seasoned chicken broth. It’s sometimes associated with Tết, or Vietnamese Lunar New Year, due to its connotation of health and prosperity.
The name, which translates to “ladder noodle” or “stair noodle,” speaks to its cumulative nature: the soup is crowned with a diverse array of protein including shredded chicken, cold cut meat or Vietnamese ham, and threads of scrambled egg. Herbs include Vietnamese coriander, scallion, and cilantro. All the toppings are thinly sliced and placed on top of the noodles.
Often paired with bún thang is savory chicken sticky rice, or xôi gà, which offers a heartier bite to go alongside the broth. Another Hanoian specialty, the dish is made by topping steamed glutinous rice with shredded chicken as well as lạp xưởng, the Vietnamese rendition of the Chinese sweet pork sausage lap cheong.