Bun thit nuong is a popular traditional dish in Vietnamese cuisine. Marinated grilled pork and rice noodles loaded with fresh herbs like Thai basil, green onions, and lemongrass make up this dish. Alongside this delectable salad is the mouthwatering nuoc cham sauce, a prepared fish sauce.
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The name bun thit nuong (originally written as Bún Thịt Nướng) means “noodles.” But the dish is not your everyday noodle, and the combination of grilled meat, rice noodles, and an abundance of flavors makes it stand out.
In addition, the vibrant aromatic meal comes with a colorful presentation that would make you long for a taste.
You can find bun thit nuong in most local Vietnamese restaurants, but it’s even more special to make at home. Either way, it’s absolutely delicious!
Why You Must Try Bún Thịt Nướng
You should try bun thit nuong for its reputation alone because this popular Vietnamese dish is packed full of flavor. If you crave a hot, sour, sweet, and salty meal simultaneously, bun thit nuong is your best bet.
Furthermore, you can prepare the dish in various ways. You can grill, cook, or bake it and still achieve your desired taste.
Lastly, with a little practice and the proper ingredients, it is easy to cook. You can also save time during preparation and keep the rice noodles boiling while baking the marinated pork.
Unique Presentations to Try
Even within the same dish and flavors, there are still plenty of variations. Like many traditional dishes throughout history, bun thit nuong has received the creative touches of several cultural groups in Vietnam. As a result, each group has its unique bun thit nuong recipe.
Some are served with nuoc cham, others with fish sauce. Some are made with pork butt, others with pork shoulder, some chefs use a charcoal grill, and others use a gas grill.
Whether accompanied by bean sprouts or sliced cucumbers, soy sauce, or hoisin sauce, all of these Vietnamese recipes are delicious in their own right.
Let’s look at how different parts of Vietnam would serve you their grilled pork and rice noodles according to their preferences.
This dish is commonly known as bun thit nuong in Southern Vietnam. They mix the whole dish, including the fish sauce, and serve it in a bowl of rice vermicelli noodles, fresh vegetables, and grilled pork.
The vegetables are at the bottom, with the rice in the middle and the grilled pork on top of that. They also top the pork with toasted peanuts and scallion onion. Then, they pour the fish sauce over the combination. Some also garnish the dish with sliced cucumbers and an egg roll or two.
Another unique thing about Southern Vietnam bun thit nuong is the shape of the meat, and they use smaller pieces of pork cut into thin and delicate slices. Also, the southerners marinate sliced pork with fresh lemongrass.
In Northern Vietnam, they call the dish bun cha. They serve it a little differently from the Southern Vietnamese. Instead of having everything in a single bowl, they keep them separated.
The rice vermicelli noodles and the fresh vegetables are served as a pair on a plate. Alongside that is a bowl containing grilled pork mixed with fish sauce.
Also, unlike the southerners’ meat strips, bun cha contains ground pork molded into meatballs. The meatballs must have some fat to keep the firm meat moist and tender. Pig shoulder is the ideal meat for this.
Also, the meat bowl can be garnished with Đồ Chua, a combination of pickled carrots and daikon mixed with water, vinegar, and sugar until the sugar dissolves.
Prepare the Right Marinade
Gather all of your ingredients and prep them before adding the meat. This ensures better consistency. Then put the pork in a large mixing bowl to combine. The choice of pork is flexible, but pork shoulder has an excellent fat ratio for this purpose.
However, this may vary by piece, so the fat percentage is up to you! After 1 hour or so, you can marinate the meat. But we recommend you allow it to marinate overnight for better results.
Tips for Cooking the Pork
In Vietnam, meat is usually barbecued on a wire grill basket. The ring to grill meat is traditionally made of bamboo charcoal, but you can use more modern alternatives like a grill pan.
For instance, an oven makes it easier and saves you time and trouble. But barbecuing it in the traditional method adds to the flavor and is worth the risk. In any case, you should grill the pork for as long as possible.
Tips for the Rice Noodles
You can use rice vermicelli noodles of various sizes to prepare the dish. But we recommend thinner noodles for the best results. The thicker noodles can take longer to cook, unlike the thinner ones. Moreover, the thinner ones are as easy to find as the thicker ones.
Nonetheless, thicker noodles will do just fine if you prefer them or cannot find any others. There are no special instructions for cooking the noodles; boil them as you usually would. Simply follow the ones on the package and simmer for as long as recommended.
Tips for the Nuoc Cham Fish Sauce
Bun thit nuong is incomplete without nuoc cham, a classic Vietnamese combination of fish sauce, sugar, water, lemon or lime, and sometimes rice vinegar, chili, or soy sauce. It is an explosion of flavors.
If you have the time, we recommend you prepare a brilliant fish sauce. Otherwise, you can always buy one. Regardless of your fish sauce source, ensure you get the best you can find. You would not want to deny yourself the incredible taste of the dish.
Tips for Getting the Best Bun Thit Nuong
Bun thit nuong is not a dish you rush through without planning, so you need to plan ahead to have plenty of time in order to get the best results. For instance, it is best to marinate the pork overnight to absorb as many flavors as needed. You could also make the daikon and the pickled carrot the night before you cook the dish.
Pulverize With Food Processor
Also, it would be best to use a food processor to mince the lemongrass into tiny pieces instead of chopping it manually. This will ensure the lemongrass will coat the pork more effectively.
Mix the Marinade Before Adding the Pork
It is best to mix the marinade well in a bowl before pouring in the pork. The pork needs to absolve the flavors evenly for best results. Mixing the marinade before adding pork will ensure the meat soaks in it well and takes in all the flavor.
Soak the Skewers Before Grilling
Before skewering the meat, soak the bamboo skewers in water to prevent them from breaking apart when you stab the pork chops. Soaking skewers in cold water will prevent them from shattering when you add the meat and prevent them from completely burning off on the grill.
How to Store Bun Thit Nuong and Side Dishes
Bun Thit Nuong Storage
You can keep bun thit nuong at its best by storing its components separately. Keep the pork in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator. The pork can last up to five days in the fridge. But if you wish to preserve it for longer, keep it in a freezer.
Before you freeze the pork, wrap it well in aluminized foil and put it in a freezer bag. The pork can last up to one month in the freezer. In addition, you can re-cook the pork to continue its shelf life with a steamer or microwave.
On the other hand, rice noodles will only keep for a few days when stored properly in the fridge, but for best results, you should make them fresh each time.
Side Dish Storage
The daikon and fish sauce can last up to a month in a freezer. The vegetable and pickled carrots can also be stored in the refrigerator for up to one month.
Easy Bún Thịt Nướng Recipe (Vietnamese Grilled Pork & Rice Noodles)
- 1.5 lbs pork shoulder
- 8 oz rice vermicelli/noodles
- 2 stalks of fresh lemongrass tender inside part only diced
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
- 2 cloves crushed garlic
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 3 tbsp minced shallots
- 1.5 tbsp minced garlic
- 1/4 cup white or brown sugar
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1/2 tbsp thick soy sauce
- 1/2 tbsp pepper
- 3 tbsp neutral oil
- Green leaf or butter lettuce
- Vietnamese perilla
- Vietnamese balm
- Pickled daikon and carrots
- 1/2 tbsp of scallion oil
- 1/2 tbsp of crushed peanuts
- Prepared fish sauce or nước chấm
Step 1: Prepare Your Marinade
- Remove the outer layers of the lemongrass and chop the softer pieces. The outer layers are tough, and it is not easy to push the knife through.
- Mix a neutral oil, such as olive oil, with the ingredients for the marinade. It is best to use a big bowl to make mixing more convenient.
- Stir the mixture thoroughly. Then add the pork to the bowl. Stir the marinade ingredients with the pork until the pork is well-coated.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap when you are satisfied with the mixture.
- Place the pork marinade in a refrigerator for at least one hour or marinate it overnight to get the best results.
Step 2: Prepare Your Rice Vermicelli
- Boil water and put it in a large bowl. Soak the noodles in hot water to soften them. Leave the noodles in the bowl for five to ten minutes.
- Check that the noodles are soft and tender. Once satisfied with the softness, pour the noodles into cold water and rinse. Drain the water and let the noodles cool.
- Prepare your fish sauce/nuoc cham while the rice vermicelli cooks. Also, begin to prep your pickled carrots and herbs.
- Serve the rice in bowls and add the garnishes. You can also place some fish sauce in the bowl before grilling the pork.
Step 3: Grill the Pork
- Preparing the pork shoulder for grilling can be tricky as you need thinly sliced strips. The best grill to do the job is an Asian grill because it holds the pork up, keeping it from falling into the direct fire. A vegetable grill may not work as well, but it is your second-best bet.
- Gather two utensils for grilling the pork: one to cook the pork and another to remove it from the grill. You could use one tong, but you must be extra careful.
- For optimum results, grill the pork in batches using medium-high heat. Grilling the pork shoulder may be challenging, but approach it with patience. Ensure you flip it when one side is cooked.
- Once you are done grilling the pork to satisfaction, divide the pork into portions for the serving bowls. With this, your bun thit nuong is ready. Add some chilies if you desire.
Bun thit nuong is an excellent dish for lunch and dinner. It is also great for occasions, and the extra effort you put in for a large group will be worth it. The traditional Vietnamese dish offers a plethora of assorted flavors in one dish.
Also, it allows you to add some of your favorite garnishings. It is a complete dish with a combination of highly nutritious ingredients. Plus, you can prepare it without having to be in Vietnam. The ingredients for an authentic recipe are easy to find, and you can buy some online.
Whether or not you already love Vietnamese food, this will quickly become your favorite Vietnamese dish.