Last updated July 2021 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle
A Speciality of Phu Quoc, Bún Kèn is a Tropical Island in a Bowl:
A crunchy, fishy, fruity noodle soup that makes use of Phu Quoc’s abundant ingredients
What is Bún Kèn?
Part salad, part soup, bún kèn is a speciality of Phu Quoc Island, off Vietnam’s southwest coast. Bún kèn is a rich, fishy, crunchy, sweet and sour concoction that makes use of the island’s abundant seafood and tropical fruit. The fish-based broth also contains coconut milk and lemongrass, giving it a thicker consistency, an amber colour, and a distinctive tang. The broth is poured over bún (white rice noodles), on top of which go a variety of fresh herbs, pulverized fish, bean sprouts, and a crunchy mixture of shredded green papaya and cucumber. A little bit of fresh red chilli and a squeeze of lime ties all these flavours together. The result is a tropical island in a bowl: vibrant colours, fruits from the forest, fish from the ocean – clean, crisp, crunching and refreshing. Bún kèn is an underrated dish that deserves a place in the pantheon of Vietnamese noodle soups.
Where to Eat Bún Kèn?
Although bún kèn is available at a number of different places, Út Lượm’s soup house in the centre of Duong Dong, Phu Quoc’s main town, has been serving it since 1980 and the recipe is a family secret. Út Lượn’s location has recently changed to the opposite side of the street from where it original was. The new address is: No.42 on 30 Tháng 4 (30/4) Street, Duong Dong town, Phu Quoc Island [MAP]. However, such is the reputation of Út Lượm’s bún kèn that many copycats have tried to use the same name to lure customers. Several soup houses in Duong Dong claim to be branches of Út Lượm, but in reality Út Lượm is not a chain and only has one location. Note also that the old location of Út Lượm – across the street from the current one – also serves bún kèn, although it’s not part of Út Lượm any more. This all sounds very confusing, but if you want the real one, just head to the location on my map below. Opening hours are 6.00am-12.00 noon. The price for a bowl is 40,000vnd ($2).
MAP: Bún Kèn | Út Lượm Soup House | No.42 30 Tháng 4 (30/4) Street, Duong Dong, Phu Quoc
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Images of Bún Kèn:
*Note: the following images were taken at both the old and the new location of Bún Kèn Út Lượm in Duong Dong town.