It is often said one must not leave Hanoi without eating a bowl of bun cha, and I'd contend that after eating it you'll forever crave it. Forget about pho- sure, its become wildly popular and trendy in Perth -but for those in the know the porky goodness of bun cha is where its at. However this is a far rarer dish than pho. No where near us seems to do it, and after desperate cravings pushed Alissa into serious online research we discovered Little Lang Nuong in Girrawheen made a version of this delicious dish.
Living in Bateman, Alissa and I would rarely have any reason to travel any further north than Osborne Park, so Girrawheen was a somewhat unknown region of Perth suburbia. Turns out, the main shopping precinct of Girrawheen is something of a Little Vietnam, filled with heaps of Vietnamese restaurants and grocers.
For a restaurant buried deep in suburbia Little Lang Nuong had a surprisingly modern interior, with cool bubble seats along the right wall. This was nicer looking that the decidedly utilitarian interior of places like Tra Vinh in Northbridge. The restaurant specialise in grilled meats, and their menu also includes Cha Ca (grilled fish) and Nem Lui (marinated pork skewers). Of course, we were here for the bun cha so stuck to our plan, along with an entree of spring rolls and a passionfruit pulp drink.
I love the drinks at Vietnamese restaurants as they seem to come up with inventive beverages with flavours like soursop and sour plum that provide both a tart and sweet hit. After taking a sip of the drink, Alissa said, 'ooh, you will like this'. Sure enough, this was very much to my liking being refreshingly sweet and sour. This was a perfect drink for a hot summer day.
The wait for our meal was a tad bit long considering we were one of only two tables of diners in the restaurant, however Alissa and I didn't mind. Our entree of spring rolls were good, similar but better to the kind served at Lido. It would have been nice if they were served with a nice Vietnamese dipping sauce, but we thankfully had the bun cha to dip it into.
Little Land Nuong have three different options for their bun cha - one with nem cua be (the spring roll) for $12, with pork (also $12) or with both ($14). For me you can't do bun cha without either of the two, so we had both. When the plate arrived we were happy to see it presented in the customary DIY assembly style and not dumbed down into a westernised pre-assembled version. As a plus over the version we ate in Vietnam, it was good to know the herbs and vegies would be fresh, clean and not reused for other customers.
The pork came both barbecued and in the burger patty form as expected. The patties were probably not as good as what we had at Bun Cha Dac Kim as it did not taste as flame grilled or as porky, however the grilled slices of pork were excellent - sweet, tender and having a lovely barbecued flavour. I think the fattier pieces at Bun Cha Dac Kim were better, but this was of comparable quality.
The nem cua be was also very good, with the crispy outer wrapping being as delicious as we remembered in Hanoi. Alissa liked this better than what we had at Dac Kim, but I remember the version in Hanoi having more filling, and in a more generous serve to satisfy my greed for nem cua be. Still, it was very satisfying to taste these again in Australia.
The Verdict: Excellent
Alissa felt that it was as good as what we had in Hanoi, however I felt that Bun Cha Dac Kim did it better. For the most part the differences between the two are minor, with the only criticism I would make of Little Lang Nuong being that I felt the broth/dipping sauce was saltier and less sweet than the Dac Kim version. However, this was not a deal breaker and Alissa and I are so happy to have found a bun cha place in Perth to tide us over until the next visit to Vietnam. With Cha Ca and other delights on their menu the return drive to the northern suburbs will be well worth it, and cannot be too soon.
Edit 21/3/14: we came back to Little Lang Nuong a few weeks later so my parents could try the Bun Cha, and this time it was even better than the first time. I've raised the verdict to Excellent reflect this. Having also eaten Bun Cha at a few other places in Perth, I'm prepared to call it - this is the best Bun Cha in Perth.