Remember that really famous photo of Anthony Bourdain (RIP) and Barack Obama sitting on plastic chairs in Vietnam? Well this is the dish they were eating. Bun Cha Hanoi is a vermicelli dish from Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. It comes with Vietnamese pork meatballs, noodles, and fresh veggies. It’s sooooo yummy, refreshing, and perfect for summer, so I’m so excited to share the recipe with you guys.
What is Bun Cha Hanoi?
In Hanoi, this dish is simply known as bun cha. What separates Bun Cha Hanoi from other vermicelli dishes is that all the components come separately. Sort of like tsukemen in Japanese cuisine. The bun cha, fresh vegetables, and vermicelli come to the table on separate plates, and each person eats it however they like. They are 2 schools of thought on how to eat this dish: northern and southern. In the South, they like to eat this in a spring roll. In the North, they simply add the fresh vegetables and noodles to the bowl of bun cha and scoop both out with a piece of pork and a few pickled vegetables.
Ingredients, Substitutions & Adjustments
- Pork Meatballs
- Ground Pork – This dish is traditionally prepared with ground pork. I would highly recommend using ground pork to get the most authentic flavor. However, you can probably get away with using ground turkey.
- Seasonings (pepper, granulated sugar, cinnamon) – Adds sweet and earthy flavors to the meatballs. If you can find Vietnamese cinnamon, I would recommend using that. It has a better flavor.
- Fish sauce – Any kind of fish sauce should work for this recipe. A good brand to use is Red Boat fish sauce.
- Vegetable oil – Any kind of neutral oil should work for this recipe like grapeseed or vegetable oil.
- Lemongrass – Adds a slightly sour taste to this dish. There are no substitutes for lemongrass.
- Shallot – Adds a slight sweetness to this recipe. A good substitute for shallots is sweet yellow onion.
- Pickled Vegetables
- Carrots & Green papaya – This dish is traditionally served with both carrots and green papaya. If you can’t find green papaya, I would just leave it out and serve it with only pickled carrots.
- Salt – Brings out the flavor of the other ingredients.
- Apple cider vinegar – This ingredient pickles the vegetables. A good substitute for apple cider vinegar is white vinegar.
- Vietnamese dipping sauce – You can find my recipe for Vietnamese dipping sauce here.
- Vermicelli noodles – Any kind of vermicelli noodles will work. If you can’t find vermicelli, any kind of thin white rice noodles will work.
- Mint & Lettuce – Adds freshness to the dish and balances out the savory flavors.
Making my Bun Cha Hanoi
This dish is really simple to make. First prepare your pickled vegetables. Combine carrots, green papaya, water, salt, and apple cider vinegar into a large jar. Set aside and let it sit for at least 3 hours. It is better if you leave it overnight. Next make your pork meatballs. Combine the ground pork, pepper, sugar, cinnamon, fish sauce, vegetable oil, lemongrass, and shallots into a large bowl. Let marinate for 20-30 minutes. After marinating, form meatballs that are 1.5 inches in diameter. They should be the size and shape of slider patties.
After forming the meatballs, grill them over a grill pan or outdoor grill. Grill for 2-3 minutes on each side. They should be brown on both sides and cooked in the enter. Now it’s time to put it all together! Add a few pork meatballs and pickled veggies to a small bowl. Cover with Vietnamese dipping sauce until it just covers both. Serve with pork meatballs, vegetables, and noodles separately.
How do you eat Bun Cha Hanoi?
Growing up, I ate this the Northern way where I add the veggies and noodles to the bowl of bun cha and then fish them out with a piece of pork and a few veggies. Here’s how it happens. When you order bun cha, you will get a plate of vegetables, a plate of cooked vermicelli, and small bowls with the bun cha. Each person will get their own bowl of bun cha. Add lettuce, mint, and a small handful of vermicelli noodles to your bowl. Rip the lettuce and mint into small, bite-sized pieces. Use a fork or chopsticks to fish out the vermicelli, veggies, pork meatball, and pickled veggie in one bite. This might seem like a lot, so you can eat the vermicelli and veggies first, and then eat the pork meatballs and pickled vegetables. Repeat this process until you finish the bun cha.
I definitely want to stress that you can eat this dish however you like. There is no “right” way to eat this dish. The right way is whichever way makes you happy!
Did you make this dish?
If you made this dish, I would love to see!
Vietnamese Grilled Pork Meatballs (Bun Cha Hanoi)
Grill Pork Meatballs
- 2 carrots thinly sliced
- 1/2 small green papaya thinly sliced
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups Vietnamese dipping sauce
- 1 package vermicelli noodles
- 1 head lettuce
- Pickle the green papaya and carrots. Combine all the ingredients for the pickled veggies in a large jar and set aside. Let sit for at least 3 hours or overnight. I would highly recommend leaving it overnight for the best results.
- Marinate the pork . Combine all the ingredients for the pork meatballs into a large bowl. Let marinate for 20-30 minutes. Form pork into circular pieces with a 1.5 inch diameter. They should be the size and shape of slider patties.
- After forming the meatballs, grill them on a grill pan or outdoor grill. Grill for 2-3 minutes on each side until brown on both sides. Set aside.
- Add some of the pork meatballs and pickled veggies to a small bowl. Cover with Vietnamese dipping sauce until the liquid just covers both.
- Serve with the pork meatballs, vegetables, and noodles separately. Each person should make their own vermicelli bowl using these components. See above section for how to eat this dish.