By Caroline's Cooking
Bun cha Hanoi is a traditional Vietnamese dish that is so worth getting to know. A delicious combination of flavorful meatballs, rice noodles and a tangy dipping sauce/broth, you'll immediately love all the flavors and textures.
The first time I came across bun cha was not eating it but seeing Anthony Bourdain and Barack Obama enjoying it on an episode of Parts Unknown. It was one of the few TV shows we watched avidly. I definitely miss it both for the wonderful foods he enjoyed with a range of interesting people, as well as his insights into cultures, both the good and bad.
That particular episode was both an interesting conversation over their meal and the food itself looked delicious. I knew I needed to hunt some down myself.
When I tried it, I could see what all the fuss was about and why it is one of Hanoi's favorite foods. It's a wonderful combination of flavorful pork, soft noodles, a simple but delicious dipping sauce and fresh herbs.
WHERE DOES BUN CHA COME FROM?
Bun cha is a specialty of the Hanoi area of Vietnam, but beyond that the origins are a bit vague. In Hanoi, the dish is called just bun cha, while elsewhere it is often called bun cha Hanoi to distinguish it.
"Bun" means rice noodles, and you'll find a few dishes that combine the noodles with different meat, fish and vegetables. With pork, "cha", though is a favorite.
You'll typically see this served as a lunch dish, like another Hanoi favorite pho. It's the kind of dish you'll find in many little side-street cafes and stalls.
VARIATIONS ON THE DISH
As with many traditional recipes, there are a few variations in the ingredients. But a few things are consistent, like making slightly-sweet pork meatballs flavored with lemongrass, garlic and a little shallot.
Some recipes use some of the same flavorings for pork belly as well, but I've kept things a little simpler with just meatballs here. They have plenty flavor, so don't feel you are missing out.
The dipping sauce is almost like a broth, just without actual stock since it's on the lighter side. Again, the exact ingredients vary, but most at least have some fish sauce and sugar.
The sauce is a kind of nuoc cham that you will probably see with many other dishes and is easy to make with lots of flavor. You typically add some slices of chili and papaya slices are also common, so I added both here since I can never say no to either.
HOW DO YOU EAT BUN CHA?
One warning comes with this dish - it can be a bit messy! You traditionally try to take a little of everything to get all the flavors together. So try to pick up some meat, noodles and herbs/lettuce, all dipped in the dipping sauce. With chopsticks, just to make it trickier!
But the mix of flavors and textures is worth the messiness, believe me.
In the South of the country, this dish is sometimes slightly different (and called bun thit nuong) and served all together. In the North, the noodles and herbs are always on the side. Then the meatballs (and pork belly, if included) are served in a small bowl in with the dipping sauce. I typically just put a few in at a time partly for space, but also so they don't sit too long and disintegrate.
Bun cha has a few components, but each is pretty easy to make and they all come together to make one truly delicious dish. Comforting, packed with flavor and sure to win you over in no time.
This Hanoi grilled pork patty is amazing!!! I have tried T-ZO grilled patties with my sandwiches and rice, OMG….. it was not only matches with other ingredients but also made my sandwiches and rice dish even more flavorful and tasty!
I love the dish and its patties. The grilled patties are juicy and so flavorful. It’s hard to describe in words. I even use the patties to make sandwiches for my girlfriend. She LOVES it and says to me IT TASTES ELECTRIFYING! :))
One of my absolute favorite dishes in the world. I don’t think I’ve ever drooled so much watching a video and reading the article, brings back great memories of my visit to Hanoi. I really love the grilled pork patties, amazingly flavorful!
I love the BBQ pork patties! I have just bought 10 grilled pork packages from this page before the Xmas. Pretty amazing! I decided to try to make my own sandwiches with those grilled patties! It turned out to be beyond my expectation. I mean surprisingly delish!!!
This is one of my favorite dishes when I went to Hanoi. I love the smoky flavor of the meat combining with the sweet and sour taste of the fish sauce. I was so happy when I found your restaurant offering this dish. I hope you will make this dish as ready-to-eat meal soon! I will definitely get it as one of the main dish for my weekly meals!