I love coming back from travels and replicating something I ate on my trip at home. Its a great way to remember your trip. Going to the place where the dish is from, and eating it in it’s origin, allows you to know how it should taste, and gives you an idea about the terroir.
After a recent trip to Vietnam, I decided to make Bun Cha. Bun Cha is native to Hanoi. You cannot get this dish in the South. It is also the dish President Obama and Anthony Bourdain (RIP) ate together on an Episode of Parts Unknown.
Ingredients and method
Bring a pot of water to a boil. You will need this later to cook the rice noodles.
1 Large carrot cut into thin Slices
1 Green papaya cut into thin slices
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and put in fridge for at least 30 minutes
Grilled Pork Patties
1lbs of ground pork
1 tbsp sugar
2 diced shallots
4 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp honey
Combine all ingredients and put in fridge for at least 30 minutes
Fresh Vegetables and Herbs
One head of lettuce (I used butter lettuce)
Fresh Thai Basil (my store did not have this so I used “regular” basil)
4 cloves of garlic diced
Arrange the veggies neatly on a serving platter and set aside. Mince garlic and set aside in a separate container also.
Dipping Sauce/Broth/Soup Base
8 cups of water
1.5 cups of fish sauce
1 cup of sugar
Combine in a sauce pan and simmer. You can adjust the taste as you like. From my experience in Vietnam, this is supposed to have a very mild taste of fish sauce and be more on the sweet side. If the fish sauce is too strong, add more water. If not sweet enough, add more sugar. Remember to taste, taste, taste before serving, and only serve when it tastes how you want. I also added chili flakes but you can omit this if you like.
- Take pork mixture out of the fridge and form small 1-2 OZ patties
2. Traditionally, you should grill these over charcoal. This is where a lot of your flavor will come from. However, I seared these on the stove top and finished in the oven. You can do either.
3. Cook the rice noodles vermicelli in the boiling water according to the package instructions. Wash under cold water and put in serving bowl. I cooked 9oz raw which became 1 lbs 14 oz cooked. This was more than enough for 3 people.
Take a large bowls and place some pickled vegetables in each. Then add broth/sauce into each bowl.
Your table should now have:
- bowls with broth and pickled veggies
- bowl with pork patties
- serving container with the rice noodles
- fresh veggies
- minced garlic
To eat, combine a bit of everything in your bowl. Some noodle, a bit of each veg, garlic, and pork patties. You can also add fresh or dried chili. With each bite, you should make sure you have everything – pork, all herbs and veg, noodle etc. You will taste a complex mixture of flavors and its delicious. The fresh herbs, especially the mint, really enhance the experience. Enjoy!