Order a menu item called “bún” in a Vietnamese restaurant and you might be surprised when you receive a large bowl of noodles, meat and pickled vegetables - but trust me, it’s a nice surprise.
Bún, pronounced like “boon,” is the Vietnamese word for white Vermicelli rice noodles. In a more general sense, it refers to the delightful salad of cool noodles, charred meat, pickled vegetables and little treats like grilled shrimp and spring rolls.
Saigon Café, a local, 15-year-old mini-chain of Southeast Asian restaurants, serves an excellent version of this dish called bún tôm thịt nướng chả giò. Labeled B1 on the menu for easy ordering, Saigon Café’s classic bún makes for a hearty, but not heavy, one-dish meal. The charred pork is salty, sweet and fragrant; it smells and tastes like it just came off the grill.
Good bún is a study in contrasts: cool salad topped with warm pork and shrimp; crunchy vegetables, both pickled and fresh, on a bed of cool, pliable Vermicelli. The different textures and temperatures make this traditional dish exciting, and Saigon Café’s large portions ensure that it’s a filling meal, though it won’t weigh you down. At just $9.75, it’s light on the wallet, as well.
Saigon Café, multiple metro Atlanta locations, 770-368-0633, saigoncafeusa.com.