Bún Chả Giò Quê – The story (and the controversy) over a name
When Quê was first open for business in 2017, everything was very authentic. In the spirit of being a startup (lol!), the idea was to bring authentic Vietnamese food in higher quality, i.e. better meat, nicer fish sauce, homemade fried spring rolls, good beef etc to test as an MVP. The name of the dish was printed clearly in the menu, Bun Thit Nuong Cha Gio. There was no IPA symbols because the founder was obviously in overwhelming mode over the truck load of work starting the business, so no time to figure out how to type that properly in Vietnamese. Maybe her pc did not have Unifont. That or she totally forgot she should write it in proper Vietnamese which was more likely to be the case (lol). We didn’t pay too much attention about the lengthy name of the dish and how difficult it was for the local customers not too well-conversed with Viet dishes. The founder named it Grilled Pork/Grilled Beef Noodle/Rice in the English menu and most (not all) customers were happy to call them that way.
When the first top blogger came, during the cooking, in the attempt to impress the famous blogger (lol!), the lady owner accidently found out the use of the glazing sauce on meat. That was the turning point. After that, she got more creative and more bold to experiment and make more changes to the (then) existing ways of cooking the dishes. As a matter of fact, we don’t have to follow anything. This is a private-owned business, if the founder or customers don’t like something, it’s time to change or make improvement. If it’s not there, create it if there is a need for it. That’s Que’s philosophy and how we operate. It doesn’t have to be precisely “authentic” in some ways. It just had to be good food, Vietnamese style and taste while still sticking to the ABC of Vietnamese cuisine. After all, it’s hard to define Authenticity because at some points in the past, some people created these sets of rules and over time people just follow. Besides, food is an interesting business. If you are willing to listen, customers are more than willing to tell you what and how they like to eat. Eighty to eighty five percent of customers here are regulars, of course you bet, we take it seriously when it comes to listening to customers :).
This was also when we realized customers had problem pronouncing the whole name Bun Thit Nuong Cha Gio. Customers here, especially those come often are really the sweetest. They always tried really hard to pronounce the whole Vietnamese name. So we told them they could call it Bun Cha as short name. We ladies have solutions for everything! Bún refers to the fact that it is a noodle dish, Chả refers to the fried spring roll, which are the 2 original main items inside the dish. The menu started to have an category item called Bún Chả Quê so not to confuse with Bún Chả Hà Nội. It also helped to fit the name nicely into the category in the menu.
For a long time, we used both long and short names for practical reason, shorter for category menu, longer for where else with enough space. Now, with the introduction of Salmon, the part Thịt Nướng (grilled meat, most of the time refer to Pork in traditional Bun Thit Nuong Cha Gio) in the name doesn’t make sense anymore because Salmon is Cá (fish), not Thịt (meat). It makes more sense and neat to call it xxx Bún Chả where xxx refers to the main protein used. Quê now has Pork, Beef, Salmon, and a so-called Vegan option. Chả giò (Fried Spring Roll) is a recommended option in this dish, and always there. More options might be coming soon too!
So that’s the story of the name Bún Chả (Giò) Quê. You are still very welcome to call it Bún Thịt Nướng Chả Giò if you could when order the pork version, which is the closet among the 4 to being original and/or authentic in this category. But, it’s still not “authentic”/original/exact like what you can find at a typical Vietnamese restaurant. There is a good chance if we call these dishes Bún Thịt Nướng Chả Giò xxx, more and more of the traditionalists would start to question us why they are not the same as how they sell it in Hanoi/HCMC like this-and-that customers reviewed on Google etc. In short, Bún Chả (Giò) Quê is Bún Thịt Nướng Chả Giò – improved or inspired, it is not Bún Chả Ha Noi. We had some regulars who made the trip to Vietnam to verify our version and came back pretty, err, not as expected. Call good food good food, not authentic. Being authentic does not exactly mean good either.
Therefore, come to Quê with the expectation of trying something new, slightly different, but fun and very yummy 😉 .
Bún – /Boon/
Chả – /jia/
Quê – / kwe/