I feel like upon speaking about Vietnamese food and rice noodles, everyone would mention ‘phở’. But the world of Vietnamese culinary culture offers us so much more ways of devouring many types of different noodles. Here we learn a new way to enjoy them.
If ‘phở’ is known for a bowl of flat rice noodles with beef or chicken broth, ‘bún chả’ is round rice noodles served with a bowl of dipping sauce with grilled pork, and greens. This is exactly the recipe you need to recreate one of the most iconic street food dishes in Hanoi. These famous caramelised pork meatballs from the stress of Hanoi. Traditional Vietnamese food, made at home! This is an easy Vietnamese recipe that anyone can make that’s full of flavour.
Making of the Meat Ball
Instead of breadcrumbs, we use rice “flour” here, making this meatball gluten-free. The rice flour plays an important role here as it helps to bind the ingredients together to form a meatball like the use of a breadcrumb. What if I can’t find rice flour? If you do not have rice flour you can simply grind rice from your pantry. Each cup of rice will give you around 1 1/3 cup of rice flour. You can blend it straight with your machine, but we like to give a little toast to it before grinding them.
Usually, pork belly is used in the meatball, however, to make it simple for making them at home we use minced meat that contains 50% of fats and lean meat. This portion of minced meat allows the meatball to stay juicy. When you are ready with all the ingredients, mix them well in a bowl or a blender. Leave it aside allowing it to be marinated before forming into the shape of balls. The more you marinate, the more flavorful they will end up.
Heat just a little oil over medium-high heat and sear the patties till they get brown all over. Since they are small and flat, they just take 2-3 minutes per side to get golden brown all over. Cook the pork belly till it gets brown all over. This also happens pretty fast. Plate them out.
Choosing your noodles
As mentioned previously there are all kinds of noodles in Vietnamese food, from the phó (flat rice noodle) that we know to the hủ tiếu (tapioca rice stick) and bún (round rice noodle) that we use for this recipe. While it may seem hard to get the noodle in the supermarket, however, if I tell you bún is also the thick bee hoon we have in the Chinese fish noodle. Where it is available in all supermarkets and wet markets. How to cook them? Simply soak in boiling water for a couple of minutes, then drain.
Having the Right Greens
Fresh vegetables and herbs are an essential part of Vietnamese food, and you’ll get large bowls served alongside almost every meal. Sweet basil, 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, and even asparagus. Most fresh vegetables will work great in this!
The Soul of Bun Cha – Nuoc Cham
Bun Cha Hanoi’s dipping sauce has a slightly sweeter taste. Because of the mild version, the grilled meats sit in the sauce in Bun Cha Hanoi, and the sauce is often referred to as broth. You will often see granules of delicious fat floating on top of the broth. I have many times picked up the bowl and slurped the meaty, sweet, sour, spicy goodness of the broth.
How do you enjoy Bún Chá?
Bun Cha Hanoi is served with grilled pork meatballs, vermicelli noodles, fresh herbs and lettuce and dipping sauce. The dipping sauce usually contains thinly sliced carrots and green papaya to provide more crunch. You can also add bird’s eye chilli to the dipping sauce for some heat. The grilled pork meatballs are put directly in the lime fish sauce dipping (nuoc cham) when served. From this point, there are two ways to eat it.
- The first way to enjoy this dish, also the way most Hanoians eat it, is to use chopsticks to pick up some noodles and dip them into the sauce, then eat with meatballs and herbs.
- The second way is to add vermicelli noodles, lettuce and herbs to a serving bowl, spoon over the dipping sauce with meatballs into the bowl, and then eat.
Regardless of the way you choose to eat it, one bite will bring so many flavours, aromas and textures to your tastebuds. We hope you enjoy this recipe as we do.
Bun Cha | Vietnamese Meatball with Rice Noodles
250 – 300 g/8 – 10 oz pork mince (ground pork)
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp white sugar
2 tbsp rice flour
1 tbsp sambal okleh
1 clove of garlic, minced
Pinch of white pepper and salt
1 1/2 tbsp oil, for cooking
- Nuoc Cham (Dressing)
3 tbsp white sugar
3 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp lime juice
1/3 cup water
1 bird eye chilli, seeded and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
100 g / 3.5 oz vermicelli noodles, dried
Few lettuce leaves, folded or shredded
A handful of coriander/cilantro sprigs, mint and basil leaves
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.
- Assemble Bowl
- Place noodles in a bowl. Top with a handful of your choice of greens. Place meatballs on top. Spoon over a generous amount of sauce (it’s supposed to be like a soup broth) or you can enjoy the sauce in a dipping bowl, eat and be happy!