My knowledge of the Vietnamese language is about on par with my grandma’s English, so this gives us lots of opportunities to learn from each other. She watches Viet news and Korean dramas which have a surprising amount of English in them. The latest term I explained to her was “poker face” hah! I asked her what bún thang means and she said “as a kid I used to sit around and wonder how ‘oranges’ got their name–nobody knows.” As if I was crazy for asking. Luckily, mom noticed the word thang was used when mentioning Northern Vietnamese and Chinese medicine (thuốc Bắc), usually given as a mixed bag of dried herbs. I believe thang means “prescription” which in this Vietnamese medicinal context is usually a mixture. This recipe has a mixture of three different toppings not including the herb mixture, but you can commonly find variations with even five or more toppings.
Finicky Soup From The North
This chicken-based noodle soup originates from Hanoi, in the northern region of Vietnam. Although this delicious soup is comparatively basic in preparation and flavor, it has a rep for being fancy and fussy in its own ways.
This soup uses the same noodles you see,but Grandma says you’re supposed to put Vietnamese coriander (rau răm) underneath the noodles which makes no practical sense to me. Surprise extra veg element?
Some folks also get particular about making all the toppings being cut to the same size matchsticks.
And of course the ‘right’ way to cook it is to use a kind of chicken you can’t even get here. Not unless you raise chickens, or have the hookup with folks who do.
Chickens Must Be 6.05 to 6.27 Months Old
What’s the deal with this chicken requirement? It’s called gà mái dầu and it refers to a hen of a very specific age. Okay, I don’t know the exact age they’re supposed to be but the prized ones are old enough to have only laid eggs for about a week. Older chickens will have tougher meat, while ones that haven’t laid eggs yet are too young.
The closest thing we have to this here is gà chạy, or gà đi bộ, which is free-range chicken.