Inside Bún Chả Hương Liên, The Humble Hanoi Joint Loved By Obama & Anthony Bourdain!

Discover why this unpretentious gem, now dubbed the 'Obama bun cha,' beckons both locals and global food enthusiasts.

by Mallika Khurana
Inside Bún Chả Hương Liên, The Humble Hanoi Joint Loved By Obama & Anthony Bourdain!

In the labyrinthine streets of Hanoi’s bustling French Quarter, amidst the symphony of motorbikes and the tantalising aromas of street-side grills, there exists a humble gastronomic haven—a place where flavours dance and history lingers in every savoury bite. This unassuming eatery, Bún Chả Hương Liên, holds within its unadorned walls a tale that resonates far beyond its unassuming facade. It’s a story woven from a chance encounter between culinary royalty and global leadership.

Unravelling The Tale Of Bún Chả Hương Liên

This unpretentious establishment was just another noodle shop until a fateful visit by two notable figures: former US President Barack Obama and the late culinary maestro Anthony Bourdain. Before their arrival, the restaurant was a modest spot, a hole-in-the-wall serving up traditional Bún Chả, a delightful ensemble of rice noodles adorned with grilled pork and pickled veggies. But the night these two luminaries graced its blue plastic stools, history was made. Suddenly, Bún Chả Hương Liên was thrust into the spotlight.

Anthony Bourdain, known for his love of authentic cuisines, chose this joint for its unadulterated flavours. Little did the owners know that, along with a group of journalists, they’d be hosting the President of the United States. 

What’s unique is that the exact table and chairs where Obama and Bourdain sat are now enshrined in a mini-museum. They are encased in floor-to-ceiling glass, commemorating that historic meal. Despite no grand sign or flashy facade, the restaurant flourishes. It draws people in by word of mouth and its newfound fame.

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From Presidential Palates To Yours

The Combo Obama is a culinary homage to that iconic dinner. It comprises a fried seafood roll, the signature Bún Chả, and a refreshing bia hà nội. This dish delivers a harmonious medley of rustic flavours—smoky pork, savoury meat patties, fragrant herbs, and crisp salad leaves—all in one delectable bowl.

And here’s a behind-the-scenes tidbit: Bourdain, already in Vietnam for his show, “Parts Unknown,” orchestrated this rendezvous with the President. According to Vietcetera, while the setup may have seemed staged, the essence of the restaurant’s offerings remained authentic. Interestingly, Bourdain footed the bill, ensuring the evening stayed genuine.

So, why should Bún Chả Hương Liên be on your Hanoi itinerary? It’s more than a place to indulge in phenomenal Vietnamese cuisine. Whether you’re a foodie seeking authentic flavours or a traveller chasing tales of remarkable encounters, this humble spot offers an experience unlike any other in Hanoi.

Where: 24 Le Van Huu, Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi
When: 8 am – 10 pm

Cover Image Courtesy: Bún Chả Hương Liên/Facebook

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