Bun bo (Beef noodle soup) at the very far end of the alleyway which makes for the local market.
Like most of the stallholders here, she sets her table up in front of her opened house. In this case that's next to the Banh khot seller. Her young son is clearly visible in the small living space behind the stall. I take a plastic seat stall front, order my soup and wait as her son skillfully manipulates a bewildering arsenal of weaponry to help save the planet from a group of evil doers wont on creating a blonde utopia upon his TV screen. Jerry finally eats electronic lead and my soup arrives.
That slab of spam centrestage is a tasty, pepper filled giant. In fact it's the best thing about this rendition of Bun bo. The thinly sliced beef looks wan and is a trifle chewy. The thick bun (vermicelli noodles) are fresh, as is normal and expected in Saigon, but the soup is sadly lacklustre. There's little depth of any kind and we're deep in watery territory here. This stall doesn't seem to be the most popular on the market. In fact it's empty. One of the two Bun rieu sellers further up the market win the 'most popular with the punters' prize. However, you will find pleasant service and a quiet seat here. You'll need 7,000VD for a bowl of the beefy stuff.
The name itself gives this dish away, Bun Bo Hue comes from the central region of Hue. More precisely, the real deal (apparently) comes from Gia Hoi. The key is the broth. It has a sweet tang to it and ladled in among the liquid are fatty pork slivers, rare beef, chopped spring onions, two kinds of spamsticks and fairly thick fresh bun (noodles). There's also a side dish of beansprouts, saw tooth herb and peculiar to Bun Bo Hue is the stripped end of a banana. (I say the 'end' as I wasn't sure what it was, so I asked the guy next me who said it was the 'banana end'. I'm inclined to believe we're talking green banana here, although my man insisted it wasn't... hmmm??) Anyhow... chuck a bit of what you fancy into your broth/saucy noodle bowl combo and get stuck in.