Bun Rieu at Bo De Trai

94 Hopkins St, Footscray
Phone: 9689 9909

Back when I was living in Sai Gon, my housemate was a pescetarian/vegaquarian/whatchamacallit-fish-n-vegies-eater. Which isn’t all that hard to maintain in Viet Nam, but it does take a little vigilance, especially when it comes to soups. Never know when one of those sneaky pyjama ladies will slip a chicken carcass in that pot.

But I jest. In fact, it’s actually quite common to find vegetarian food in Sai Gon, if not all the time, then at least twice a month, on the first and fifteenth of each lunar month, when some Buddhists observe meat-free days. I quite liked these days – there was a bun mang vit (duck and bamboo shoot soup noodles) joint near my work which would serve awesome bun cha gio chay (rice vermicelli with vegetarian spring rolls) twice a month. For other times of the month, there was always the place near my gym that was run by a little old Buddhist nun, who spoke a surprisingly good amount of English. The braised pressed tofu balls there were amazing.

Anyway, I’d been meaning to try Bo de Trai since I moved to Footscray. It’s a vegetarian restaurant of the Buddhist variety. That means there’s lots of mock meat going on there. It’s run by a few little middle-aged Vietnamese ladies, who are warm and friendly. They remind me of my aunts.

I went on my own for lunch, and had the bun rieu, which is a crab and tomato based soup noodle. I wasn’t sure what to expect, because the crab and fermented shrimp paste are quite strong components of the flavour of bun rieu. When it arrived at  the table, I was impressed. It looked pretty great!

Sure, instead of the cha lua there were slices of tofu, but that’s to be expected. What would usually be loosely clumped balls of processed fish and crab meat was replaced by some sort of crumbly steamed egg. Texturally, it totally worked. And while it didn’t really taste like a proper bun rieu, it was still quite tasty.
My main complaint about the dish was that the noodles were overcooked, and must have been broken before they were cooked, because they were quite short. I like to slurp my soup noodles, and with noodles that short, there wasn’t really much slurping going on.

My other complaint about the place, and this applies pretty generally across most vegetarian restaurants, was the clientele. I wish I had brought my headphones with me, so I could block out the one girl at the table next to mine pontificating about her motivations for being vegetarian, and trying to generally show off how much she knows about various meat substitutes like seitan and Quorn. If only you could enjoy good vegetarian food without having to listen to the rants of militant vegetarians!

So not to be too hypocritical, I’ll end my rant there. As you can see, I really liked this bowl of noodles. Bo de Trai is definitely worth visiting.

Bo de Trai on Urbanspoon

6 Replies to “Bun Rieu at Bo De Trai”

  1. heya, I prefer the hot soup here, but friends swear by the bun rieu. I believe the "some sort of crumbly steamed egg" is gluten. 🙂

  2. I just went to vegie bar w my vegan colleague. *scrounges into fridge for more snacks*

    Think I've been to bo de trai before, it was … interesting food. Haven't thought about a revisit though..

  3. Ugh I hate vegie bar. Probably for irrational reasons. It's probably the epitome of the place I avoid because of the people who go there. That, and the Hokkien noodles I had there about six years ago was the worst Hokkien noodle I've ever eaten, and I'm not shy about eating in food courts.

    1. Vegie Bar on Brunsick st:

      Staff very unfriendly, walked past between the bar and kitchen where there is no clearly visible no customers beyond this point signs and is a close access point to the courtyard and one of the staff yelled at me like I was a naughty child in primary school. Found the whole ordeal very embarrasing and considering the long waits for seating all our friends and I decided to give the food a miss.
      What a jerk.

  4. I used to work at Vegie Bar!

    Still have not been to Bo De Trai – bad bad Footscray resident. Looking forward to it soon.

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