“Bun cha is a delicious balance of noodles, a lot of herbs, a beautiful dressing and marinated meats cooked over fire. ‘This really is what Vietnamese food is about,’ says Angie Hong. ‘You find it on every street corner in Hanoi or in the central markets in Ho Chi Minh – as a lunchtime dish only.’” Maeve O’Meara, Food Safari Fire
- 250 g (9 oz) pork belly, skin on
- 250 g (9 oz) pork neck
- 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) pork neck, coarsely minced (ground)
- 4 French shallots, chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp sugar
- small pinch of Chinese five spice
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tsp kecap manis
- 6 young spring onions (scallions), green tops only, finely sliced
- freshly ground pepper (a mixture of black and white if you have)
- ½ green papaya, peeled and cut into thirds lengthwise, seeds removed (you can also use kohlrabi)
- 1 carrot, quartered lengthwise
- 1 tbsp raw sugar
- 2 tsp vinegar
Nuoc nam dipping sauce
- 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) white vinegar
- 250 ml (8½ fl oz/1 cup) hot water
- 110 g (4 oz/½ cup) sugar
- 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) fish sauce
- freshly ground pepper
- selection of chopped herbs: sawtooth coriander (cilantro), garlic chives, rice paddy herb, hot mint, coriander (cilantro), fish mint, lovage, Vietnamese mint, chillies, Thai basil, perilla
- cooked rice vermicelli
- lettuce leaves
- finely chopped garlic
- red chilli paste or finely chopped chillies
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Marinating time 1 hour or overnight
Slice the pork belly and pork neck into 5 mm (¼ in) thick slices
Combine these in a bowl and have the mince in a separate bowl.
Pound the shallots in a mortar and pestle with salt and sugar to a coarse paste. Add the Chinese five spice, fish sauce, oyster sauce and kecap manis and mix well. Distribute between the meat and add the spring onions to the minced pork. Mix well. Season both bowls of meat with pepper and marinate for at least 1 hour, though overnight is even better.
Slap handfuls of minced pork against the edge of the bowl several times – this helps to bind it together. Form the pork into round patties (about 2 tablespoons each) and flatten slightly.
Slice the papaya and carrot finely widthwise. Sprinkle with raw sugar and set aside while you cook the meat. Add the vinegar before serving.
Place patties and pork belly/neck in separate oiled grill baskets and cook over charcoal, turning once you have some colour on one side. Keep turning until golden brown and slightly charred on both sides.
To make the dipping sauce, combine the vinegar, hot water, sugar and fish sauce in a small saucepan. Season with pepper and mix well. Place the sauce over low heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Keep it warm while you cook the meat.
To serve, pour the warm dipping sauce over the grilled meat and patties.
Serve with papaya and carrot, herbs, rice vermicelli, lettuce, garlic and chilli paste or chopped chillies.
Recipe from Food Safari Fire by Maeve O'Meara (Hardie Grant, hbk, $55). Photography by Toufic Charabati.