Bun Thit Nuong or Vietnamese Noodles with Grilled Pork is one of the most classic Vietnamese noodle dishes. Savory grilled pork is served with a refreshing bowl of noodles, herbs, and pickled vegetables, all drizzled with nuoc cham. Included in this recipe are gluten free options as well as tips on how to make this without a grill if you don’t have one.
One of the most classic Vietnamese noodle salads in Vietnamese cuisine is Bun Thit Nuong or Vietnamese Noodles with Grilled Pork. 9 times out of 10, if Vietnamese people order bún, they will order this dish. There’s absolutely nothing like it flavor wise. Grilled lemongrass pork is served in a bowl of vermicelli noodles paired with fresh herbs, do chua, mo hanh, and a drizzle of nuoc cham. Everything in this seemingly simple bowl of cold noodles create a harmony and balance of flavors. It is hands down one of my favorites.
What is Bun Thit Nuong?
Hailing from Southern Vietnam, this refreshing noodle bowl is part of a whole category of Vietnamese cuisine called bún or noodles. Each noodle bowl is named for the protein that it is made with. For example, Bun Ga Nuong is noodles with grilled chicken and Bun Cha Gio is noodles with Vietnamese egg rolls. There are also other variations with beef, shrimp, and tofu. Bun Thit Nuong translates to noodles (bun) with grilled pork (thit nuong).
Bun Thit Nuong is typically eaten in the summer because it is served cold (with the exception of the lemongrass pork). The main components of the bowl include lemongrass pork, vermicelli noodles, fresh vegetables (typically lettuce, mint, and cucumbers), and do chua. It is then topped with crushed peanuts and a drizzle of Vietnamese dipping sauce.
Everyone has their own version of this dish, and the variation typically comes in the vegetables included as well as the addition of other toppings. Other vegetables that can be included are bean sprouts, cilantro, and Thai basil. In terms of toppings, I like to use mo hanh or scallion oil to add extra flavor, and sometimes, I use fried shallots instead of crushed peanuts. As a bonus, sometimes I throw in cha gio for extra texture and protein.
Ingredients, Substitutions & Adjustments
- Pork shoulder – In traditional Bun Thit Nuong, pork shoulder or pork butt is used. You can use whatever cut of pork you want.
- Lemongrass – Adds a slight lemon-y taste to the pork and helps balance out the rich and savory flavors. If you don’t have lemongrass, I would use a tablespoon of lime juice and the zest of 1 lime. The flavor won’t be the same as lemongrass, but it’s a good enough substitute.
- Shallots and garlic – Adds extra flavor the pork! Shallots can be substituted with sweet yellow onion. I would use about 3 tbsp of onion.
- Fish sauce – Adds umami flavor to the pork.
- Soy sauce – Adds umami flavor to the pork. I used low sodium soy sauce for this recipe. Substitute with tamari to make this dish gluten free. If you want more color on your pork, use dark thick soy sauce.
- Oyster sauce – Adds umami flavor to the pork. A good substitute for oyster sauce is vegan oyster sauce. I’ve tested this with vegan oyster sauce, and it works just as well as regular oyster sauce. To make this dish gluten free, substitute with a tablespoon of tamari.
- Vegetable Oil – Helps give the pork its brown color. Substitute with grapeseed oil or olive oil.
- Honey – Adds sweetness to help balance out the savory flavors from the fish sauce and soy sauce. If you don’t have honey, substitute with another tablespoon of brown sugar.
- Light brown sugar – Adds sweetness to help balance out the savory flavors from the fish sauce and soy sauce. Light brown sugar can be substituted with dark brown sugar. Note that dark brown sugar is sweeter, so that will make the dish sweeter. If you want to make this dish processed sugar free, use another tablespoon of honey.
The ingredients below are the ones I use in my vermicelli bowl, but you can use whatever vegetables you want.
- Vermicelli noodles – Vermicelli are thin, rice noodles used in all Vietnamese noodle bowls. Personally, I wouldn’t substitute this ingredient with anything because I don’t think there’s a great substitute for it. If you had to substitute with something, I would use thin rice noodles.
- Lettuce – You can use any type of lettuce for the vermicelli bowl. Romaine, green leaf, and red leaf lettuce are a few examples.
- Pickled carrots and daikon – These are optional but they add a nice balance to the rich flavors. Get the recipe for my pickled carrots and daikon here.
- Cucumbers – Another refreshing vegetable to add to your vermicelli bowl! Personally, my favorite cucumbers are Persian cucumbers but use whatever you have available.
- Mint – One of the traditional ingredients in a vermicelli bowl. I usually use green mint but sometimes, I use perilla leaves.
- Peanuts (optional) – Crushed peanuts are served in every vermicelli noodle bowl. If you don’t like peanuts, leave it out. A good substitute for crushed peanuts is fried shallots.
- Vietnamese dipping sauce – This is the “dressing” for this noodle bowl. Get the recipe for my Vietnamese dipping sauce here!
Other kinds of vegetables you can use in this dish
This vermicelli noodle bowl can include a variety of different herbs and vegetables. In addition to those mentioned in the recipe, some others you can include are bean sprouts, cilantro, perilla leaves, and Thai basil.
How to make Bun Thit Nuong at home
First, marinate your pork. Add all the ingredients for the pork marinade to a large bowl. Mix and let it marinate for 30 minutes. For the best flavor, marinate for at least an hour.
While the pork is marinating, prep the rest of your ingredients. Make your Vietnamese dipping sauce, boil your vermicelli noodles, pickled your daikon and carrots, and cut your cucumbers. If you are making peanuts, prep these as well.
Prep your grill. I used an indoor grill, so I heat it up for 10 minutes. Grill your pork pieces for 1-2 minutes on each side until you get nice grill marks and the pork is cooked through.
Now you’re ready to make your vermicelli bowls! Add vermicelli noodles to a bowl. Follow with a few pieces of lettuce, pickled daikon, pickled carrots, cucumbers, and mint. Finish it off with crushed peanuts and a drizzle of Vietnamese dipping sauce.
What do I do if I don’t have a grill?
If you don’t have an outdoor grill, you can use a grill pan, indoor grill, or a saute pan. I personally used an indoor grill for this recipe. I recently bought this one, and I absolutely love it. It minimizes the amount of smoke emitted, so my fire alarm isn’t constantly going off.
If don’t have a grill or grill pan, I would use a saute pan. Heat the pan over high heat for 5-10 minutes until the pan is really hot. The hot pan will help you get the “grill” look without actually grilling.
Tips on how to make the perfect Bun Thit Nuong
Slice the pork while frozen for easier cutting
Thinly slicing pork is really hard. I found that when the pork is partially frozen it holds its shape better, making it easier for me to cut.
Marinate the pork overnight for the best flavor
The longer the pork marinates, the better the flavor will be. I tested this for 30 minutes, 1 hour, and overnight, and while it was tasty in all 3 tests, the pork that was marinated overnight had the best flavor.
How do you store Bun Thit Nuong?
Store all the components for this Vietnamese noodle bowl separately in an airtight container in the fridge. The pork and noodles will keep up to 3 days in the fridge. The vegetables will keep up to a week, depending on how well you store them. When you are ready to eat, put everything together and serve.
Reheating Bun Thit Nuong
I would first microwave the vermicelli noodles for ~1 minute and then let it sit for 5 minutes. When you store vermicelli noodles in the fridge, all the moisture from the fridge makes the noodles stick together. Microwaving the noodles helps them come apart, and it also helps evaporate some of that excess liquid. You need to let them cool down because the noodles tend to soak up more dressing when they’re warm, so you tend to overdress the dish when the noodles are warm. The noodles are best served at room temperature.
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Authentic Bun Thit Nuong (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Vermicelli Bowls)
- Add all the ingredients for the pork marinade to a large bowl. Mix and let it marinate for 30 minutes. For the best flavor, marinate for at least an hour.
- While the pork is marinating, prep the rest of your ingredients. Make your Vietnamese dipping sauce, boil your vermicelli noodles, pickled your daikon and carrots, and cut your cucumbers. If you are making peanuts, prep these as well.
- Prep your grill. I used an indoor grill, so I heat it up for 10 minutes. Grill your pork pieces for 1-2 minutes on each side until you get nice grill marks and the pork is cooked through.
- Now you're ready to make your vermicelli bowls! Add vermicelli noodles to a bowl. Follow with a few pieces of lettuce, pickled daikon, pickled carrots, cucumbers, and mint. Finish it off with crushed peanuts and a drizzle of Vietnamese dipping sauce.
- Pork shoulder substitute. Traditionally, pork shoulder or pork butt is used for this recipe. You can however use whichever cut of pork you want.
- Lemongrass substitute. If you can’t find lemongrass, substitute with 1 tbsp of lime juice and the zest of 1 lime. The flavor won’t be exactly the same, but it will be good enough.
- Shallot substitute. Substitute with sweet yellow onion. Use ~3 tbsp of onion.
- Soy sauce substitute. Use any kind of soy sauce you can find. Substitute with tamari to make this recipe gluten free.
- Oyster sauce substitute. Substitute with vegan oyster sauce or tamari (gluten free).
- Vegetable oil substitutes. Substitute vegetable oil with grapeseed oil or olive oil.
- Light brown sugar substitutes. A good substitute for light brown sugar is dark brown sugar. If you want to make this dish processed sugar free, use another tablespoon of honey.
- Peanuts. This is an optional ingredient, but it’s highly recommended if you want the most authentic experience. A good substitute for peanuts is fried shallots.
- Other vegetables you can use. Bean sprouts, cilantro, perilla leaves, and Thai basil.