Ask anybody (in the west) about Vietnamese cuisine and they will 9/10 times either mention Phở, Bánh mì and sometimes Gỏi cuốn (rice paper rolls). Barely anyone ever mentions Bun Cha (Bún Chả). It’s not as mainstream as some other Vietnamese dishes, even after Obama and Anothny Bourdain enjoyed a bowl. I’m here to change that and encourage you to try some Bun Cha ASAP, in my opinion, it’s Vietnam’s most underrated dish.
Bun Cha originated in Hanoi and is one of the North’s most popular dishes.
It’s not hard to find a stall in the city, if the smell of flame-grilled meat doesn’t get your attention then the clouds of smoke from the charcoal grills filling the air will.
Although this is a popular meal in the North it’s not as easy to come by in the South, mostly due to the fact they have Bún thịt nướng down South. Same same, but extremely different. Bún thịt nướng is served with grilled pork, rice vermicelli, herbs (generally mint and coriander), cucumber and pickled daikon and carrot with Nước chấm on the side. Also extremely delicious, but I think Bun Cha is way better.
Watch the Video for Bun Cha here:
Bun Cha is made up of seasoned pork meatballs and crispy pork slices served in a sweet and tangy broth with pickled carrot and papaya ( I, unfortunately, couldn’t find green papaya so went without – do not try and use ripe orange papaya, it will not work). Served with a plate of fresh vegetables, herbs and chewy rice noodles!
How to eat Bun Cha
Eating Bun Cha is super fun and a little messy. Place some rice noodles in a bowl, rip some lettuce leaves and herbs up and place on top of the noodles. Add some meatballs, pork slices and the pickled veg. Spoon over some of the sweet and tangy broth. Use chopsticks and pick up a bite of everything and slurp it down. This is everything Vietnamese cuisine is about in one bite! Fresh, savoury, tangy, sweet and all different kinds of textures.
Please note that most of the herbs used in Bun Cha in Vietnam are going to be different to what you can find elsewhere but as long as you have fresh lettuce leaves, bean sprouts, coriander and mint/perilla leaves you’ll get the real experience and taste.
In Vietnam Bun Cha is usually served with a side of Chả giò (spring rolls). These are completely different to springs rolls you’ll find elsewhere in the world and a super flaky due to being wrapped in rice paper. If you have the chance to eat Bun Cha in Vietnam you MUST order a side of these, they go perfectly dipped into the sweet and tangy broth. If you’re feeling up to it then defiantly make some, you will not regret it!
Get ready to have your taste buds explode.
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- 2 shallots
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tsp pepper
- 250 grams pork mince
- 250 grams pork fillet/belly
- 5 spring onions minced
- 2 carrots thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- bean sprouts
- lettuce leaves
- herbs – coriander, mint, basil etc
- 1 packet rice vermicelli
In a mortar and pestle pound the shallots with salt, sugar, fish sauce, oyster sauce and pepper. Thinly slice the pork and add to a mixing bowl. Add the mince to a separate mixing bowl.
Distribute the marinade between the sliced and minced pork. Add the chopped spring onions to the mince and mix through. Cover and leave to marinate for at least an hour but ideally overnight.
Cook rice vermicelli according to packet instructions, leave to sit for at least an hour before serving so they become sticky and chewy. Do NOT place in the fridge otherwise, they will become hard.
Mix together sugar, water and vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and add sliced carrot and papaya (if using). Leave to sit until ready to use.
To make the soup/broth add vinegar, water, sugar and fish sauce to a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Stir to dissolve sugar, keep warm whilst meat is cooking.
Form the mince into mini meatballs. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and add olive oil. Cook the meatballs for 4 minutes each side. Cook the pork slices for 2 minutes each side or until crispy and browned.
Add meatballs and pork slices to a bowl, add pickled carrot/papaya and ladle in some soup.
Serve with a plate of fresh veggies, herbs, rice vermicelli and an empty bowl* on the side.
*bowl is used to mix everything together and eat from
Calories will vary slightly depending on brands used
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