As promised on Wednesday – Vietnamese pork noodle bowls! This popular salad-type dish is called bun thit nuong – vermicelli noodles topped with fresh and pickled vegetables, herbs and Vietnamese lemongrass pork, doused generously with nuoc cham sauce. Fresh yet full of flavour.
Vietnamese pork noodle bowls
I find it funny that pho is the dish that’s become the superstar of Vietnamese food when bun thit nuong is tastier to me! I adore the contrast of fresh vegetables and herbs with delicious grilled meats, that it’s light and healthy yet anything but dull.
It’s a big bowl of delicious, and I shared the chicken version many years ago (bun ga nuong). And as soon as I cracked the pork version, I shared in immediately (just last Wednesday!). And I’m back today with the noodle bowls recipe that is made using the lemongrass pork – just like you get on the streets of Vietnam!
PS The photo below is in my own home. Not the streets of Vietnam!
What you need for Vietnamese pork noodle bowls
There’s variations of bun thit nuong all across Vietnam. But they all have noodles, marinated pork, raw vegetables and sauce.
Lemongrass marinated pork
See separate recipe posted earlier this week. Thin slices of pork shoulder are marinated with lemongrass, garlic, lime, fish sauce, soy sauce and sugar which infuses the flesh with a stack of flavour. Meanwhile, a smidge of baking soda is the secret that tenderises economical pork shoulder, which is usually slow cooked, and keeps the thin pork steaks incredibly tender even when cooked over high heat for a lovely char!
The noodles, vegetables & topping
So here’s what I use – typical of Vietnamese restaurants and takeaway places here in Sydney:
Vermicelli rice noodles – the thin rice noodles prepared by soaking in boiling water. Substitute with other white noodles or bean thread noodles / glass noodles (
Pickled carrot and daikon – quick and easy! See below for more.
Nuoc cham sauce – the chilli-garlic-savoury-limey-sauce served with “everything” in Vietnam (and that’s no exaggeration!). See below.
Lettuce – Either soft butter lettuce torn into bite size pieces or crisp lettuce, like iceberg or cos/romaine, shredded
Cucumber and bean sprouts
Herbs – mint and coriander/cilantro. Thai Basil is also lovely!
Peanuts – finely chopped, for sprinkling
Fresh chilli slices – optional
Lime wedges – for optional extra freshness
Vietnamese pickled vegetables
The pickled vegetables (pictured above) are the same as the recipe in the Banh Mi recipe. It’s simple to make – mix then soak for 2 hours. It’s the perfect texture-flavour addition to these bowls – the vegetables still have a great crunch to them but are floppy (nobody wants pokey raw carrot batons sticking out in their noodle bowls!) with a sweet, tangy flavour.
So much more interesting than raw carrots!
Here’s what you need. Just mix, then pickled the vegetables for 2 hours or even overnight.
Nuoc cham sauce for Vietnamese pork noodle bowls
The sauce used for Vietnamese pork noodle bowls is Nuoc Cham. As mentioned above, this is the sauce that’s served with “everything” in Vietnam though there’s variations depending on what it’s used for. Sometimes it’s sweeter, some fishier (when used sparingly for dipping), some milder (when used in an almost soup-like form – like with Vietnamese Meatballs bun cha).
Today’s version is fairly mild, not too fishy, because it’s supposed to be used to douse everything generously. Nobody wants to get to the rice noodles at the bottom of the bowl only to find it’s tasteless!
Here’s what you need to make nuoc cham sauce. Just mix together!
Assembling the pork noodle bowls
Noodles first. Then just pile everything on top! There are no rules, just jam it all in. Abundance is the word that comes to mind with these bowls!
Finish with a good sprinkle of peanuts and fresh chilli if you dare (live life on the edge, I say!). And serve with jugs or bowls of the nuoc cham sauce on the side and douse generously. Remember, this is a mild flavoured nuoc cham, not a fishy one. So you need lots. You’re supposed to use lots!
Getting stuck in
As for the eating part, there really are no rules. Some people (like me) will pick out some of the pork bits first because it’s their favourite part of the bowl. Then mix it up and get stuck in. It will end up looking like a jumbled up mess. A delicious one, at that! And don’t be afraid to keep adding more sauce on an as-need basis, as you continue through your bowls.
DIY spread – great for gatherings!
One last tip! This dish is a great one for gatherings. In fact, the chicken version was for many years my signature for summer BBQ’s. Lay out all the toppings and noodles on a table. Cook the chicken on the BBQ then let everybody put their own bowls together.
One of my favourite formats for entertaining – DIY.
Hope you enjoy! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Vietnamese pork noodle bowls (bun thit nuong)
- 1 batch lemongrass marinated pork (it’s marinated overnight. 8 pieces, serves 4)
- 200g/ 7oz dried vermicelli noodles (Note 1)
- 1 head soft lettuce (like butter lettuce), torn into large bite size pieces (or 4 cups shredded iceberg, cos/romaine)
- 2 cucumbers , halved lengthwise then sliced on the diagonal 3mm / 0.15" thick
- 2 cups bean sprouts
- Handful mint leaves
- Handful cilantro/coriander
- 1/4 cup finely chopped unsalted peanuts
- Sliced red chilli (for garnish – optional)
- Lime wedges (to serve – optional but recommended)
Vietnamese pickled vegetables (Note 2)
- 2 medium carrots , peeled cut into 2-3mm / 1/10″ batons
- 1/2 large white radish (daikon) , peeled, cut the same as carrots
- 1 1/2 cups boiling water
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 4 tsp cooking salt (kosher salt)
- 3/4 cup rice vinegar (sub apple cider vinegar)
Nuoc cham Vietnamese sauce (Note 3):
- 4 1/2 tbsp white sugar
- 4 1/2 tbsp fish sauce (Note 3)
- 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 3 tbsp lime juice
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 birds eye chilli or Thai chilli , deseeded and finely chopped (Note 4)
- 5 cloves garlic , finely chopped
Make pickled vegetables:
- Pickle – In a large bowl, dissolve the salt and sugar in the hot water. Stir in vinegar. Add carrots and daikon – they should just about be covered.
- 2 hours – Leave for 2 hours until slightly floppy. Drain well then use per recipe.
- Nuoc cham sauce – Mix ingredients together. Until sugar is dissolved.
- Vermicelli noodles – Soak in boiling water for 5 minutes (or per packet directions). Drain, rinse under tap water, then cool and drain thoroughly (nobody likes watery noodles!).
- Toppings – Prepare all the other toppings, ready to use.
- Cook pork per the recipe.
- Assemble bowls – Place noodles in a bowl. Top with lettuce, pickled vegetables, cucumber and bean sprouts. Slice pork, place 2 steaks on each bowl. Top with herbs, sprinkle with peanuts and sliced chilli. Add a lime wedge.
- Serve with nuoc cham on the side so everybody can help themselves. Douse generously! Dive in and eat!
Life of Dozer
The most dangerous photo shoots are the ones that take place on the ground – so I can get up real high above it to fit everything in the frame.