Experience the flavors of a traditional Vietnamese dish right in your own kitchen with this recipe for Vietnamese Pork Meatball and Noodle Salad. Bun Cha from Hanoi is a classic ground pork dish loaded with savoy flavor, crispy veggies and delectable rice noodles. 

What is Bun Cha Made of?

Bun Cha is a ground pork dish traditional to the Hanoi region of Vietnam. Umami-rich pork meatballs (also called patties) are served alongside rice noodles, herbs and a variety of fresh vegetables.

It should be noted, this recipe is for Bun Cha Salad. It is not a traditional recipe for Bun Cha. It is purely an expression of my interest for the culture and its cuisine, and I’d love for you to experience the flavors for yourself. For more history on Bun Cha and a traditional recipe, check out this article from Rice & Flour.

large white bowl filled with lettuce, cucumber, herbs, rice noodles and cooked pork patties

What does Bun Cha mean?

Bun Cha is literally translated as grilled fatty pork (chả) over rice noodles (bún) with a dipping sauce and fresh herbs. In this recipe, we use ground pork, but some traditional recipes use pork belly.

In this case, the dipping sauce, or the Vietnamese bun cha dressing is a classic nuoc chom made with fish sauce, lime juice, a dash of honey, garlic and fresh minced chile for heat.

Is Vietnamese Bun Cha Healthy?

Bun Cha is definitely healthy-ish. It’s high in sodium due to the large amount of fish sauce used, though we don’t really worry about sodium here at ZK. This salad-version is made with all whole ingredients and loads of veggies, so for those reasons we qualify this as healthy. 

Ground pork can be quite fatty, but it’s a whole-food protein and fat (no additives), so that makes this healthy in our book. 

And finally, the rice noodles are very high in carbs with little to no fiber, which is where the “ish” in healthy-ish comes in. If you’re looking for a low-carb meal, reduce the noodles by half or skip them  altogether and make a larger salad.

For a healthier, high-fiber noodle option, use brown rice vermicelli

dry rice noodles, sliced cucumber, ground pork, fresh herbs, honey,lime juice, fish sauce, bibb lettuce, minced scallion, minced garlic and minced serrano measured out and arranged on a counter

Ingredients in this Recipe

Rice noodles

We recommend using rice vermicelli. Thin rice noodles are far more desirable than thicker, flat noodles like pad thai rice noodles. Look for these in the Asian aisle or at any international market. You can also get them online

Lettuce

This salad is best with bibb lettuce (also called butter lettuce). You can find these sold individually packaged in plastic clamshell containers in the produce area. You can also use shredded cabbage.

Cucumber

English cucumber is best here, but small mini cucumber would also be delicious. 

Herbs

We like a combination of fresh mint and cilantro here, but feel free to use basil, parsley and scallions. 

Fish Sauce

Aside from the pork, this is the most important ingredient in the dish. The funkiness of fish sauce is essential for creating a dish that’s rich in umami. This recipes uses fish sauce in the pork patties and in the sauce (nuoc chom). 

Lime juice

Every savory dish needs a bit of acid, and lime juice works perfectly here. If you don’t have lime juice or don’t want to buy fresh limes, rice vinegar or white vinegar will also work. 

Chile

Use any hot chile for the nuoc chom. We like Thai chile or, if you can’t find that, serrano. 

Garlic

Fresh garlic is used in the nuoc chom. We always recommend freshly minced instead of jarred for its potency and flavor. 

Scallions

A hefty amount of scallions are added to the pork meatballs/patties. They add tons of flavor and a welcome dose of green color.   

Baking soda

Just a dash of baking soda helps to retain moisture in the pork patties while they cook which keeps them juicy and tender. It also encourages browning, which gives the patties a nice golden and caramelized crust. 

Ground pork

Most ground pork sold comes as 80/20 (80% lean, 20% fat). Due to the high fat percentage, you don’t need any oil for cooking the patties. 

shallot white bowl filled with rice noodles, lettuce, sliced cucumber and herbs

Test Kitchen Tips

  • Make ahead: the ground pork patties can be formed and stored in the refrigerator up to 2 days ahead of time. Wrap them tightly in plastic and cook them when ready. The nuoc chom can be made up to 4 days ahead of time.
  • Storage: store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat the pork patties in a skillet over medium heat with a bit of a the nuoc chom. Add the noodles in the last few minutes to warm and soften them.
  • Grill the pork: if you have a grill, feel free to cook the pork patties on the grill (this mea is perfect for summer). We offer directions for both gas and charcoal grill in the recipe card.

Serve with…

  • Because this dish is so savory, we like to offer a bit of fruit on the side. Our Vietnamese Mango Fruit Salad is a natural fit.
  • This Savory Citrus Salad is a another bright and fresh dish to pair with the Bun Cha.
  • This Lemongrass Margarita is a fun take on a classic cocktail. The tartness of this drink balances out the bold flavors of the dish.
pork patties with minced garlic and serrano on top of them set on rice noodles

Bún Chả Salad — Vietnamese Pork Meatball & Noodle Salad

Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Yield 4 servings
Category Lunch/Dinner, Main Dish
Cuisine Vietnamese

Description

A salad version of the traditional Vietnamese pork meatball dish. This salad features loads of crisp veggies, nuoc chom, and tender rice noodles.

Ingredients

Noodles and Salad

  • 8 ounces dry rice vermicelli
  • 1 head Boston lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1 English cucumber, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • 1 cup mint leaves

Nuoc Cham

  • ¼ cup fish sauce
  • ¼ cup lime juice (2 limes)
  • 2 tablespoons honey, or cane sugar
  • 1 small Thai chile or serrano, stemmed and minced
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced

Pork Patties

  • cup minced scallions, green onions
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 pound ground pork

Instructions

  • Cook noodles per packet directions. Drain noodles and rinse with cold water. spread on a large plate and set aside.
  • Arrange lettuce, cucumber, cilantro, and mint in a large serving platter. Drop noodles in bunches around salad.
  • For the nuoc chom, combine ½ cup water, ¼ cup fish sauce, lime juice, honey, minced chile, and garlic; set aside.
    minced scallions in a measuring cup filled with water and fish sauce
  • Combine scallions, 2 tablespoons fish sauce, sugar, baking soda, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper in medium bowl.
    minced scallions in a light brown bowl with a fork sitting in it
  • Add pork and mix until well combined.
    ground pork minced with scallions in a light brown bowl
  • Divide pork into 12 portions then form into patties, each about 2½ inches wide and ½ inch thick.
    uncooked pork patties on a large white plate
  • Preheat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add patties in a single layer (depending on size of skillet, you may need to cook the patties in two batches); cook until browned on first side, 3–4 minutes. Flip, and continue to cook until browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the centers registers 160ºF, 3–4 minutes more.
    cooked pork patties in a cast-iron skillet
  • Transfer cooked patties to nuoc cham and gently toss to coat. Let stand in sauce 5 minutes.
    cooked pork patties in a marinade in a glass bowl
  • Arrange patties over noodles in serving bowl with salad. Drizzle nuoc chom over patties. Build personalized bowls as desired and serve with additional nuoc chom.

Notes

Charcoal Grill: Open bottom and lid vent completely. Light chimney filled with charcoal. When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour over half of grill. Arrange cooking grate over coals, place grill lid over top, preheat 5 minutes. Grill over coals as directed in recipe.
Gas Grill: Preheat grill on high for 15 minutes. Cook patties over high as directed in recipe.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/4 of recipeCalories: 570kcalCarbohydrates: 65gProtein: 25gFat: 24gSaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 76mgSodium: 2321mgFiber: 2gSugar: 13g
Keywords Bun cha
Did you make this recipe?Leave a comment below and tag @ZestfulKitchen on Instagram and hashtag it #zestfulkitchen!
large white bowl filled with lettuce, cucumber, herbs, rice noodles and cooked pork patties

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

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