Bun Cha Recipe – Vietnamese Grilled Pork

If you can only eat one dish in Hanoi, make sure it’s the bun cha. The smokiness of the slightly charred grilled pork is always so intoxicating. Needless to say, moreish too.

I’ve had two very good bun cha at Bun Cha 34 and Bun Cha Huong Lien (made famous by former US President Barack Obama). The latter is my favourite of the two as it serves up delicious meat skewers and fried crab/seafood rolls too besides the signature bun cha. If you’re visiting Hanoi anytime soon, do include them in your to-eat list. It’s a food experience not to be missed. ??

In Singapore, the most authentic (or at least the closest) bun cha you can get is at Uncle Ho Tuckshop at Pasir Panjang Road which is a pretty decent choice when the craving kicks in.

Not long ago, I was acquainted with a Vietnamese foodie who shared with me the tips to making a good bun cha. The most important step is actually the making of the caramel sauce which is used to marinate the meats. While you can also use honey as a substitute (which I often do when I make my own glaze sauce for roasting chicken) for convenience sake, the outcome is definitely different and not as fragrant as using homemade caramel.

Bun Cha Recipe

And this was how I presented my homemade version of bun cha. Just like how it is presented in bun cha restaurants in Hanoi. With vegetables, herbs, rice vermicelli, garlic and chillies on the side.

Bun Cha Recipe

The meats (both sliced pork & minced meat patties) are dunked in nuoc cham (made with fish sauce) and served with pickled green papaya.

Bun Cha Recipe

You can then add the garlic and chillies to the sauce. And dip the vegetables, herbs and vermicelli in it and eat the whole thing like a noodle soup. It’s a pity I can’t use the charcoal grill in my apartment so that fragrant smokiness is a little lacking. If you do have one, please make full use of it. ?

Bun Cha Recipe
  • 200g rice vermicelli, soaked in water till fully constituted & cooked in boiling water
  • pickled sliced green papaya
  • bunch of herbs (basil, coriander & mint)
  • salad leaves
  • sliced chillies
  • sliced garlic
  • sunflower oil or cooking spray for greasing the grill pan
For the meat:
  • 300g pork shoulder, sliced
  • 300g minced pork
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled & minced
  • 4 shallots, peeled & minced
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 6 tbsp hot water
For the dipping sauce (nuoc cham):
  • 800ml water
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp calamansi lime juice
  • 2 tbsp + 2 tsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
To prepare the caramel sauce for the meat, melt sugar in a non-stick frying pan on low heat. Heat till the sugar mixture turns medium brown. Add hot water and continue to cook till you get a syrupy consistency. Transfer the caramel sauce to a small bowl and set aside to cool slightly.
Add half of the garlic, shallots, fish sauce, oyster sauce and caramel sauce (from Step 1) to the pork shoulder and the remaining half to the minced pork. Stir both meats thoroughly and leave in fridge to marinate for at least 2 hours.
Mix all ingredients for the dipping sauce and set aside till ready to use.
With moist hands, pick up a round of minced meat mixture and shape into a patty. Transfer onto a clean dry plate. Repeat till the meat mixture is used up.
Grease the grill pan and heat it up. Arrange the minced meat patties on the grill pan in one single layer and grill them on both sides till cooked through and slightly charred on the edges. Repeat this step with the pork shoulder.
Pour the dipping sauce into 4 serving bowls and divide the grilled meats between them. Add the green papaya slices.
Serve the grilled meats in dipping sauce with the rice vermicelli, vegetables, herbs, chillies and garlic.

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