Bun Ram: the best soup in Vietnam

On our trip from central to south Vietnam, we decided to travel to Quy Nhon first and foremost for the food and we were not disappointed. Day or night, Quy Nhon has no shortage of good eats. But the culinary highlight of our stay was definitely bún rạm, Vietnamese crab vermicelli soup.

Originally, we had planned to go to Vietnam’s coffee capital, Buon Ma Thuot, located in the mountainous central highlands region. But our plans fell through, as these things sometimes do, and we started looking for a new destination to fill the gap in our itinerary. For this, we had just three criteria: 1) easy to get to from Hoi An, 2) nice beaches, and 3) amazing food. Quy Nhon ticked all the boxes.

Vietnamese Thung Chai basket boats on a beach at Bai Xep
Bai Xep is just one of the secluded beaches you can visit on a daytrip from Quy Nhon City

Relaxing in Quy Nhon

If you’re looking for a relaxed, oceanside getaway, Quy Nhon is just the place. It’s a small city with a population of just under 500,000 people (as of 2019). For instance, it’s one of those towns where you might get long stares and/or wide grins from neighbors who are unused to foreign faces. You have to communicate with a healthy helping from gestures. And you get approving glances when you joyfully polish off a plate of food that you can’t even pronounce the name of.

Even so, as one of Vietnam’s up-and-coming destinations, Quy Nhon has a more than adequate tourist infrastructure. We found a sprinkling of nice guesthouses to choose from, there’s always at least one person who speaks (some) English, and it’s easy to rent a scooter to get around the area.

Lounge chairs at Quy Nhon city beach at sundown
Scenic Quy Nhon sits on a long curving bay surrounded by rolling green mountains

If you want to go to where the people are, the city has two main gathering points. First, just before sundown, people flock to the long promenade to take selfies, play football, jog on the sand, or enjoy a drink at a beachside lounge. If you get hungry, myriad restaurants across the street from the promenade serve fresh fish, crabs, or snails, as well as cold beer, fruit shakes and other snacks. After dark, the main avenue Nguyen Tat Thanh comes to life with people doing their shopping and eating.

Motorbikes at night on Quy Nhon street

Visiting Banh It, the Cham Towers

Beyond the beaches, Quy Nhon and the surrounding mountains are dotted with intricately carved brick towers built by the Champa civilization, which had its heyday in the 9th century AD. One morning after breakfast, we got on our motorbike and rode 20 km to Thap Banh It.

The ruins of the Cham temple Banh It outside Quy Nhon.

From the parking lot entrance, a long staircase goes steeply up a high hill. It was a hot, muggy day when we went. We took our time climbing up the stairs and walking around the 4 towers, one of which has a temple to the Hindu god Shiva. But climbing the stairs is well worth it, as the best part was the panoramic view over the surrounding countryside. And we had the entire site to ourselves.

Cham tower Banh it close
The Cham archeological site, Banh It, just outside Quy Nhon, sits on a hill overlooking the countryside.

Eating Bun Ram in Quy Nhon

I admit it. At first, I was skeptical about going to Quy Nhon. For instance, it seemed too quiet, a bit lacking in excitement. But then, Chris sent me a link to a YouTube video in which a Vietnamese travel vlogger eats his way around the food paradise of Quy Nhon. Every single dish the dude ate looked more enticing than the last. I was sold.

Exterior of Bun Ram My Hanh restaurant in Quy Nhon with family leaving the restaurant
A steady stream of customers visit Bun Ram My Hanh for its famous crab noodle soup.

Bún Rạm Mỹ Hạnh was at the top of our list of places to eat. It’s one of Quy Nhon’s most well-known eateries, famous throughout the province for its bun ram (crab) and bun tom (shrimp) soups. From the YouTube video, we learned that the bun ram sells out fast, so we made sure to get there before 9 am. In any case, the restaurant is only open until noon. 

Two bowls of rice noodles topped with salad and herbs and a plate of crackers
The crab noodle soup is served with crackers, fresh herbs, rice noodles and peanuts.

We sat down and ordered two bun ram. First, we got two big bowls piled high with vermicelli noodles, vegetables, herbs, and a sprinkle of peanuts. Second, the steaming hot crab soup arrived in a separate bowl.

A bowl with crab meat soup Bun Ram
The basis for Bun Ram is an unbelievably delicious soup made with crab meat

You can add as much or as little crab soup to the bowl of noodles as you like. We poured all the crab soup into our two bowls of noodles and mixed everything together.

Two bowls of Bun Ram noodles with herbs and crab meat soup
It tastes even better than it looks.

Without a doubt, the bun ram was heavenly. The soft noodles and fresh herbs complemented the spicy broth and abundant crab meat perfectly. We also polished off the crunchy rice crackers that are served as a side dish.

Interior of My Hanh restaurant with diners eating
The restaurant is only open in the mornings and always crowded, so come early.

Eating Bun Ram in Quy Nhon

Bellies full, we headed to nearby District 1 Coffee. The friendly owner and barista Cong told us that his is the first specialty coffee shop in Quy Nhon. In aesthetics and in name, District 1 borrows liberally from the trendy cafes of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Cong also happens to make an excellent cappuccino, which was quite welcome after a few days of drinking mostly ca phe sua, Vietnamese Robusta with condensed milk. You can read our interview with Cong here.

The crab noodle soup at Bún Rạm Mỹ Hạnh was definitely one of the top 3 meals we had on this last trip to Vietnam. Our mouths still water at the memory. If you travel for the food like we do, be sure to make the trip to Quy Nhon for the bun ram. You won’t regret it.

About Bún Rạm Mỹ Hạnh in Quy Nhon

Walk in, sit at a table, point to your preferred bowl (small or large) and enjoy. The restaurant is only open until noonish. 

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