What is bun cha?
The Vietnamese dish, bun cha (pronounced “boon sha” consists of rice vermicelli noodles (bun), grilled pork pieces (cha) and a broth that is both a marinade for the meat and a dip.
This typical North Vietnamese dish, originating from the city of Hanoi, is also called bun cha Hanoi. It is usually eaten as street food or in restaurants that focus entirely on the art of bun cha. The Vietnamese eat it exclusively as a lunch dish.
How to make bun cha
Grilled pork belly slices or minced pork balls are placed in a “broth” made of nuoc mam (fish sauce), vinegar, water and sugar – this is where the magic of bun cha takes place. The broth, in which slices of pickled papaya often float, is more a variation on nuoc cham (Vietnamese dipping sauce) than a soup and gives the grilled meat an unforgettable taste. Cooked glass noodles and seasonings, such as chilli, garlic, lettuce leaves and herbs are served with it.
How to eat
To eat this dish in an authentic way, serve the meat and broth in one bowl, and the rice noodles on a plate next to it. Place separate bowls with the chopped garlic, sliced chilli, fresh herbs and salad leaves around it.
Each person first seasons their broth to taste with garlic and chilli. Then, fill a small bowl with lettuce, herbs and some noodles and spoon some meat and some tasty liquid over it. If necessary, adjust the flavours by adding extra garlic, fresh chilli or chilli sauce. Stir gently and taste.
You can also eat bun cha in a wrap. Take a lettuce leaf, and put some herbs and noodles in it. Scoop some pork from the broth and place on the noodles. Roll the lettuce leaf as a wrap and dip it in the broth before each bite. Hold an empty bowl under your chin to catch any drops and, to be sure, prepare a stack of paper napkins.
Vietnamese people also like to serve bun cha in a spring roll. Put a piece of bun cha together with the other ingredients in the wrap before you eat it. This makes it crispy and extra filling.
Difference between bún chả and bún thịt nướng
Bún chả and bún thịt nướng are two of the most popular noodle dishes in Vietnamese cuisine. Bún chả consists of grilled fatty pork over a plate of rice vermicelli noodles and herbs, with a side dish of fish dipping sauce. Bún thịt nướng is cold rice vermicelli topped with grilled pork, fresh basil and mint, bean sprouts, and spring rolls. It’s then topped with roasted peanuts, pickled carrots, grilled garlic pork sausage or grilled prawns, and served with a fish sauce for dipping.
Do you like to roll your own lettuce wrap? Then try banh xeo, a rice flour pancake with pork, cut into pieces and rolled in lettuce leaves. Bun thit nuong is the South Vietnamese equivalent of bun cha.