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Friday, February 12, 2010

Bún Măng Gà (Vietnamese Bamboo Shoot and Chicken Noodle Soup)

I woke up this morning, fed my kids oatmeal, then pulled out a can of paint and started to touch up all the cracks and doodlings on the walls left behind by my two darlings.  Next I vacuumed the entire house then climbed a ladder to wipe off the cake  of dust  that had collected our ceiling fans.    Suddently I realized that Vietnamese New Year was lurking around the corner.  

Tết in Viet Nam

This year, Vietnamese New Year falls on February 14, 2010. It will soon be the Year of the Tiger. A few weeks before the New Year, every family in Viet Nam would spend countless hours in prepration to welcome the new year.  As the saying goes, "cleanliness is next to godliness" so every one cleans to prepare for the arrival of Spring. It's superstitious and customary that cleaning your house will get rid the bad fortune and  usher in the good.  In addition, everyone tries to get as many new things from clothes to furnitures to pots and pans for their homes.  I remembered that my mom would take me to the tailor and had  at least 4 new outfits made for me to wear  for the week of New Year; the Tet celeberation lasts for 7 days.  Some traditional food served during Tet are:  banh trung, banh tet, dua mon  va cu kieu, thit kho trung, bun mang vit, etc. Food is prepared ahead so that the kitchen God (Ong Tao) can rest on New Year. 

One of my fondest memories during these festivities is the anticipation of finding out how red the watermelon would be. Red as you may know is considered to very lucky. So opening the brightest, reddest watermelon is a great sign of luck and fortune to come in the new year.    This event takes place at midnight on the eve of the New Year.  The joy of this occasion fills the air with excitement and evokes enthusiasm, laughter, and warm wishes as it is the most popular and anticipated event of the year.

Flower Market, Việt  Nam

As soon as I finished cleaning the house, it was time to cook.  Bun Mang Vit sounded appetizing. So I scoured the fridge and found a whole chicken.  I found a bag of dried bamboo in the pantry.  Now, I had all the main ingredients to make a pot of Bun Mang Ga in this case instead of  Bun Mang Vit. The recipe is as below. The bowl of delicious, comforting, steamy noodle soup filling the kitchen air with its scent of chicken, dried bamboo shoot, pan-fried shallots, green scallion, and pepper vaporized my long and exhausting day. It satisfied our bellies and reminded me of how fortunate I am. Enjoy and have a posperous, happy, and healthy new year!!!
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RECIPE: Bún Măng Gà
1 whole chicken
1/2 bag of dried bamboo shoot
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons of salt
16 cups of  water
6-8 cloves of garlic (tép tỏi), peeled
2 inches chunk yellow rock sugar a.k.a lump sugar (đường phèn)
3-4 slices ginger
12 green onion, cut the upper white and some of green part to yield 4 inch lengths. Thinly sliced the rest of the green part
1 bag of fine dried rice noodles, boiled about 10 minutes until tender, drained, rinsed with cold water, and well drained
2 or 3 red chili peppers, for garnish noodle and soup 1 small bunch of rau răm (Vietnamese coriander), for garnish noodle and soup
1 small bunch of ngò gai (culantro), for garnish noodle and soup
1 small bunch of cilantro, finely chopped, for garnish noodle and soup
Fried shallots, for garnish noodle and soup
Limes, cut into wedges, for garnish noodle and soup
Bean Sprout, rinsed and drained, optional
Ginger, finely chopped (for dipping sauce)
Prepare Dried Bamboo Shoot - Rinse the bamboo shoot well under water. Soak it in water overnight.  Rinse it again. Cut the bamboo and or hand shred it long narrow pieces, about 11/2 inches long.  Put it in a pot of water and boil it for about 45 minutes or until it's chewy tender.  It's okay if it's not tender because you will cook it further with the chiken.  Drain, rinse, and set aside to cool.

Prepare Chicken and Broth -  Add water, chicken, slices of ginger and garlic in a large pot.   Cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes or until chicken is tender.  Remove chicken and let it  cool a bit.  Remove chicken meat from the chicken bone and slice into thin slices. Set the chicken aside.   
Bring the broth back to boil.  Add salt, fish sauce, rock sugar, bamboo shoot and chicken bone back in the broth and continue cooking.  Bring the broth back to boil and then immediately lower the heat to a gentle boil. Cook for another 30 minutes. Skim and discard the scum and garlic.  Taste and if necessary, adjust salt or fish sauce for savory depth. 

When you're ready to eat, add the white part of green onion in the broth and cook for about 30 seconds to just soften but retain its bright color.

Prepare Ginger Fish Sauce Dip - Add chopped ginger to fish sauce dip
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Presentation of Bún Măng Gà
Place some vermicelli noodles in a soup bowl.
Arrange slices of chicken on top of noodle, following boiling broth with bamboo shoot (arrange bamboo shoot around the slices of chicken).
Top with fried shallots,culantro (ngò gai ), cirlantro, Vietnaemse coriander (rau răm), scallion and sprinkle some black pepper. 
Serve with lime wedges, red chili peppers and ginger fish sauce dip.

***If you use duck, trim off excess fat and skin from the duck.  Put some oil in a frying pan and fry it at medium high heat until evenly browned all over.  Remove the duck.   Add duck to the water pot.  Continue step: Prepare Chicken and Broth.


  1. Hi Chi,

    Have you tried making bun mang ga with fresh bamboo shoots rather than the dried kind? I don't like the chewiness of the dried bamboo and since all Asian stores sell fresh bamboo, I wanted to get you take on it. By the way, your recipes that I've tried get rave reviews. Thank you for posting!

  2. I use fresh bamboo shoots for certain dishs but for Bun Mang Ga, I actually prefer using dried bamboo shoots as I like the texture and the smell of it.

  3. I love your site. You have all the foods I love to eat. I made this yesterday and it turned out great. Although I really love the strong flavors of the dried bamboo. I might just boil the dried bamboo with the broth to get a stronger bamboo taste next time. Planning on trying most of your recipes!

  4. It's better if you boil the dried bamboo just half way, then rinse it and continue boiling it with the broth. Cooking the dried bamboo with the broth might produce too strong of a flavor and the broth won't be as clear.