Hà Nội Style Rice Vermicelli and Grilled Pork-Bún Chả Hà Nội

Vietnamese food

This is one of  Northern Vietnam most famous street dishes. Bun cha basically is rice vermicelli with slivers and patties of charcoal-grilled pork. I haven’t eaten this dish at its Northern famous spot “Bún Hàng Mành” but per my brother in-law who was born and grown up in the Northern area, stated the Northern People do not like sweet  as the Southern Vietnamese. He also told the marinade consist of garlic, shallot, and five-spices powder.  I did not use five-spices powder though.

Fatty and fresh pork is needed to make good pork patties.  If you grind your own pork, make sure keep the pork cold like in making pork sausage and do not grind it too fine ( I like the ratio of 1/2 coarse/medium size and 1/2 fine/smallest size).  However the real fresh pork will produce a shiny reddish coat if being grilled on hot charcoal.  Some use food color, caramel or dark soy sauce to imitate that color.  Sliced pork and pork patties can be grilled in a metal basket or on bamboo/metal skewers or pan seared. but pork patties can be grilled directed on the grill like hamburger meat.

We only need a small portion of a green papaya for this recipe.  You can omit it or use the rest to make a papaya salad or stew with broth to make a soup like squash.   A yellow firm papaya can be used too.

Serve 6-8
1 lb pork shoulder butt (Boston butt)  or belly,cut into 1/4 in thick and 1 in. wide slices
1 lb ground pork
2 Tbs fish sauce
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion
1/4 cup minced shallot (small asian shallots)
2 Tbs minced garlic
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1/2 cup minced yellow onion
1 large head of lettuce: red, or butter, leaves detached and washed
1/2 cucumber, julienned or thinly sliced in moon or semi-moon shape.
1/2 lb bean sprout, washed
A couple handful of Vietnamese herbs: cilantro, basil, perilla, mint, etc, washed
3/4 lb. fine dried rice vermicelli (same size as angel hair noodles)

Papaya and carrot pickles
A small piece of green papaya and carrot
White vinegar, sugar and water (with the ratio 1:1:4 volume )

Dipping Sauce
1 cup water
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 Tbs lime juice
2 garlic clove, finely minced
1-2 red hot chilli, seeded or not, coarsely chopped
Extra minced garlic, thinly sliced red chili, and lime wedges for serving (optional)

  1. Combine fish sauce, sugar, green onion, shallot, garlic, salt,black pepper, and oil in a bowl. Stir to blend well and divide it into two equal portions in two bowls.   Add sliced pork in one bowl and ground pork, onions to other, stir to coat the meat evenly with marinade.  Shape ground pork into 2-in. wide and 1/2 in. thick patties.  Set aside at least 30 minutes to 2 hours or overnight in the fridge
  2. Make dipping sauce:  mix all ingredients together. Set aside until serve.  
  3. Peel papaya skin, cut in halves lengthwise.  Remove the seeds and white stringy inside.  Cut a small chunk into thinly slices about 1/16 inch thick about 1/2 cup.  Peel and thinly slice carrot. Put them in a bowl and cover with vinegar, sugar and water per the ratio 1:1:4 volume. Set aside.
  4. Cook vermicelli:  boil water in a large pot.  Add vermicelli, stir, bring it back to boil.  Turn the heat off, and cover about 5 minutes.  Check until they are soft but still have some bites.  May need to wait a few more minutes longer.  Rinse with cold water, drain.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking together. 
  5. Preheat the grill to medium high. Grill pork slices  until cook through and slightly charred 2-4  minutes each side. Grill pork patties until firm up and cook through about 4-6 minutes each side. Transfer cooked pork to a platter. 
  6. Place vermicelli, herbs and veggies and meat in separate platters in the middle of the table.  Divide the dipping sauce in 4-6 medium bowls and add a few slices of pickled green papaya and carrot.  
  7. Each guest will have their own dipping bowl.  To eat, place a few slices of  pork and pork patties into the dipping sauce and let them marinade for a few minutes.  Then place a small amount of  vermicelli and veggies into the bowl. Use chopsticks and pick up a mixture of vermicelli, veggie and meat, alternate with papaya/carrot.  Each guest may have put vermicelli, veggies in a different bowl; then add meat, pickles and drizzle some of their sauce on top.  Another way to enjoy the dish is using a lettuce leaf  as a wrapper to make a roll and fill it with herbs, vermicelle, meat then dip into the sauce.

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