Introducing Bun Cha, the famous caramelised pork meatballs from the streets of Hanoi. Traditional Vietnamese food – made at home!
This is an easy Vietnamese recipe that anyone can make that’s fresh and full of flavour. Load it up with your vegetables of choice!
Bun Cha – traditional Vietnamese street food!
Any self respecting foodie visiting a new country will be armed with a list of “Must Try Foods!!“. And for visitors of Vietnam, Bun Cha should be right up there, alongside Pho, fresh rice paper rolls, and Banh Mi, to name a few favourites.
During the RecipeTin Family foodie trip to Vietnam a few months ago, it was one of the first foods we hunted down. A top-priority!
These are photos of a Bun Cha speciality place in Hanoi that we visited. The Bun Cha was as great as we expected, and I’m happy to report the stools held up for the whole meal. (Flimsy plastic stools are the norm everywhere, and we were seriously concerned every time we planted our butts down on them)
What is Bun Cha?
Bun Cha is a traditional Vietnamese pork dish that’s a speciality of Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. Seasoned pork patties (I call them squished meatballs) and caramelised pork belly slices are served in a broth alongside rice noodles, fresh vegetables and herbs.
How to eat Bun Cha – The idea is to use the broth for dunking the noodles, vegetables and herbs. So you dunk, slurp noodles, bite into juicy pork, try to cram in a few sprigs of herbs – and that moment when you succeed, when you get a mouthful with a bit of everything…
THAT my friends, is a big, fat mouthful that epitomises all that is great about Vietnamese food. That perfect balance of fresh, savoury, sweet, herb, citrus, tender noodles, and that juicy caramelised pork….. YES!!!
About this Bun Cha recipe
This Bun Cha recipe I’m sharing today is a simple home version that’s a style more familiar to those of us outside of Vietnam. On point with flavour, but presented differently.
To make this a simple dinner recipe, I’ve skipped the pork belly and made noodle bowls with the sauce for spooning over, rather than serving it “soup” style. This Noodle Bowl way of serving Vietnamese food is increasingly popular here in Sydney, especially with the work lunch crowd.
How to make Vietnamese Meatballs
You’ll love how you won’t need to take a trip to an Asian store for this! You’ll also love how versatile this recipe actually is.
The Vietnamese (squished) meatballs are just made with pork, garlic, sugar, fish sauce*, salt, pepper and scallions/green onions. Fish sauce is the key seasoning here, and the touch of sugar that makes the surface beautifully caramelised.
The Vietnamese Sauce is a version of Nuoc Cham, a version of which is served with “everything” in Vietnamese cuisine (and that’s no exaggeration).
The sauce for Bun Cha is made with fish sauce*, rice wine vinegar, lime juice, sugar, garlic and chilli (hot or not hot, or even skip it). It’s diluted with water to make it more like a soup broth. In a nod to the authentic way Bun Cha is served, the idea with this recipe is to use lots of sauce. You need it, to slurp up the noodles!
* I know there are people who aren’t a fan of fish sauce. But fish sauce is as Vietnamese as Banh Mi, so I really do urge you to use it if you can. This recipe is in no way “fishy” tasting like some Vietnamese foods. It’s just a savoury seasoning that has more depth of flavour than soy sauce.
To complete the bowl, these Vietnamese Meatballs are served traditional Bun Cha style with noodles, fresh vegetables and herbs.
The noodles are rice vermicelli noodles, found “everywhere” nowadays in Australia. Simply soak in boiling water for a couple of minutes, then drain.
Fresh vegetables and herbs are an essential part of Vietnamese food, and you’ll get large bowls served alongside almost every meal. Bean sprouts, mint and coriander/cilantro are the most common, as well as pickled vegetables.
But this is the sort of recipe that’s terrifically versatile that will work well with many types of vegetables. Shredded cabbage or lettuce, or other leafy greens. Finely sliced cucumber, green beans, red radish, cherry tomatoes, even asparagus. Most fresh vegetables will work great in this!
In today’s recipe, I’ve also provided a quick Asian pickled vegetables recipe which is ideal to serve with this Bun Cha recipe. But pickling is optional.
The length of the list of ingredients is actually quite deceptive because there’s a handful of repeat ingredients. So don’t be turned off just because this isn’t a 5 ingredient recipe. 🙂
It’s worth it, I promise. If you love Vietnamese food (and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t!), this one will really hit the spot! – Nagi x
Bun Cha – Vietnamese Meatballs
Watch how to make it
Bun Cha - Vietnamese Meatballs
- 250 - 300 g/8 - 10 oz pork mince (ground pork)(Note 1)
- 1 tbsp fish sauce (Note 2)
- 2 tsp white sugar
- 1/3 cup finely chopped green onions / scallions
- 1 clove garlic , minced
- Pinch of white pepper and salt
- 2 tsp lemongrass paste or fresh finely chopped , optional (Note 4)
- 1.5 tbsp oil , for cooking
Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese Dressing / Sauce - Note 2):
- 3 tbsp white sugar
- 3 tbsp fish sauce (Note 2)
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 1/3 cup (85 ml) water
- 1 birds eye chilli , seeded and finely chopped (Note 3)
- 3 cloves garlic , finely chopped
Serving (Note 4):
- 100 g / 3.5 oz vermicelli noodles , dried
- Big handful beansprouts
- Few lettuce leaves , folded or shredded
- Julienned carrot and white radish (daikon), optional quick pickle (Note 5)
- Handful of coriander/cilantro sprigs , mint
- Sliced red chilli , lime wedges (optional)
- Sauce: Mix ingredients. Set aside 10 minutes+.
- Noodles: Pour over boiling water and soak per packet directions. Drain, set aside.
- Mix all ingredients except oil until combined.
- Shape into 6 mini hamburger patties with your hands.
- Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add patties and cook for 2 1/2 minutes or until golden. Flip, cook 2 minutes then remove.
- Place noodles in bowl. Top with a handful of beansprouts, wedge in lettuce, carrots and radish in.
- Place meatballs on top, top with coriander and mint.
- Spoon over a generous amount of Sauce (it's supposed to be like a soup broth), eat and be happy!
8. Adapted from a few Vietnamese cookbooks, including My Vietnamese Kitchen by Uyen Luu and Hanoi Street Food by Luk This and Tom Vandenberghe.
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