Win $500 Cash! The Holiday Desserts recipe contest is on now. LAST CHANCE TO ENTER →

Vietnamese Meatballs and Noodles (Bún chả)

A Hanoi favorite of pork mince balls in sweet dressing with vermicelli noodles and a herb salad.

Vietnamese Bun Cha Horizontal 1

Bún chả is served with grilled pork (chả) over a plate of white rice noodles (bún) and herbs. It’s one of the highlights of eating in the northern Vietnamese city of Hanoi, and an amazing alternative choice to meatball dishes and stir fries. While there are three different pieces to making an authentic, delicious Bún chả recipe, if you get your ducks in a row during preparation, the process is a simple one that results in the most flavorful pork meatballs in dressing, accompanied by a variety of herbs, simple greens and white rice noodles.

Garlic, soy sauce, sugar and fish sauce combine to make a rich, sweet marinade which you can create for the pork mince up to 24 hours ahead, although 1-2 is the minimum requirement to maximize flavor. From there, all you need to do is create a bit of char when the meatballs are grilling to create a beautiful texture.

Vietnamese Bun Cha Vertical 1

The pork marinade is not alone however, with the meatballs presented in a fantastic dressing that some might call soup. This time the sugar, dissolved by heat, and fish sauce are paired with vinegar and lime juice to make a classically Vietnamese sweet sour type sauce – it’s tangy but very refreshing! The dressing dramatically adds to the base flavor of the pork, and you could certainly just eat this part of the Bún chả combination alone.

The third element of great Bún chả are the noodles, which are cooked simply and then added to your meatballs and sauce. You can mix and match other flavors according to taste, with chillies, mint, and Thai basil all equally tasty when combined with the dressing. The best way is to serve the noodles and extra salad type ingredients so that each diner can enjoy the flavors that most appeal to them.

Bún chả is one of my favorite dishes from South East Asia, and it’s really satisfying to be able to make an authentic, delicious version of my own that I can serve for friends and family!

Vietnamese Bun Cha Vertical 2

Serves 4 - 6

20m prep time

10m cook time

2h inactive

5
Rated 5 out of 5
Rated by 2 reviewers
For the Meatball Marinade
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 2 small shallots, finely chopped
  • 3 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt, to taste
For the Meatballs and Salad
  • 1 1/2 lb pork mince
  • 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil, for grilling
  • 1 lb dried vermicelli noodles
  • 3 red chillies, seeded and finely chopped
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup Thai basil leaves
  • 1-2 cups iceberg lettuce leaves
  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage
For the Dressing
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2-3 tablespoons lime juice
Preparation
  1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add the pork mince and combine, then refrigerate for a minimum of 1 -2 hours. Remove the marinated pork mince from the refrigerator and form into small patties, then set aside.
  2. To make the dressing, heat the fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, and water in a saucepan over high heat until the sugar dissolves. Transfer to a serving bowl and allow the dressing to cool before combining with the lime juice and stirring thoroughly. Set aside.
  3. Cook the vermicelli noodles as per the package directions, and set aside in a bowl.
  4. To make the dressing, heat the fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, and water in a saucepan over high heat until the sugar dissolves. Transfer to a serving bowl and allow the dressing to cool before combining with the lime juice and stirring thoroughly. Set aside.
  5. Brush a mid sized frying pan with oil and heat to medium-high. Cook the pork meatballs for 3-4 minutes on each side or until slightly charred. Transfer to small serving bowls in even quantities for each diner, then pour a generous amount of dressing over the meatballs.
  6. Place the salad ingredients - lettuce, cabbage, chillies, garlic, mint, and basil - on a central platter, along with the vermicelli noodles. Diners can take the amount of ingredients they wish to incorporate into their bowl with the meatballs to make their own bun cha bowl.

Recipe adapted from Marion’s Kitchen

Subscribe to 12 Tomatoes