This specialty dish of Hanoi is a satisfying combination of grilled pork belly and pork mince patties served with an abundance of fresh herbs and a punchy dressing. You can cut corners if you need to and use store-bought rice noodles.
- 500 g pork mince
- 50 g pork fat, roughly chopped
- 500 g pork belly, thinly sliced
- 1-3 garlic cloves
- 50 g sugar
- 100 ml fish sauce
- 5 red Asian shallots, diced
- pinch freshly ground white pepper
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 100 g caster sugar
- 100 ml warm water
- 150 ml white vinegar
- 200 g green papaya, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced
- 1 carrot, quartered lengthways and thinly sliced
- 320 g (2 cups) rice flour
- pinch salt
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- ¾ cup tapioca starch
- 3 tsp xanthan gum
- 250 ml (1 cup) chicken stock
- 200 ml warm water
- 140 g caster sugar
- 150 ml fish sauce
- 100 ml white vinegar
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 3 birds eye chillies, finely chopped
- pinch freshly ground white pepper
- 1 bunch coral lettuce
- 1 bunch mint
- 1 bunch Vietnamese mint
- 1 bunch shiso (optional)
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: 3 hours
1. For the marinade, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl.
2. Place the minced pork and pork fat in a large mixing bowl and the pork belly in another bowl. Pour half the marinade over the pork mince and pork fat and the other half over the sliced pork belly and mix well to combine. Vigorously mix the pork mince to help bring the protein together. Scoop out the pork mince and then slap the mixture back into the bowl a few times to remove any air- this will help to prevent the mixture from falling apart when grilled. Cover and refrigerate the pork mince in and the sliced pork for at least 3 hours, or preferably overnight.
3. Meanwhile, for the pickles, combine the sugar and warm water in a bowl and stir until the sugar has dissolved, then add the vinegar. Place the green papaya and carrot in a bowl, pour over the pickling liquid and set aside for at least 2 hours, ensuring the ingredients are fully submerged.
4. For the noodles, place 80 g (½ cup) rice flour, salt, oil and 750 ml (3 cups) of water in a saucepan. Use a whisk to combine well, ensuring there are no lumps. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and stir continuously with the whisk until the mixture is thick and smooth. Remove from the heat and stand until cool.
5. Place the tapioca starch, xanthan gum and remaining rice flour in the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir on a low speed to combine. Once the rice mixture has cooled, add to the flour mixture and beat on low speed until the dough comes together. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides, then mix on a higher speed until the mixture comes together into a smooth, wet dough- you don't want the dough to be too dry as it will prevent it from coming through the ricer.
6. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Prepare a large bowl with ice and cold water.
7. Working in batches, put some of the noodle dough into a potato ricer, using the smallest holes of the ricer. Press down to ensure there is no air, this will ensure you will get long noodles. Stir the boiling water to form a whirlpool, then squeeze the noodles into the water. Gently shake the bottom of the ricer in the boiling water to break off the noodles. Cook the noodles for a few minutes or until they float to the top. Remove with a slotted spoon or tongs and place in the iced water. Repeat with the remaining noodle dough until all of the noodles are cooked. Drain the cooked noodles, then rinse thoroughly under cold water to remove the starch.
8. Roll the minced pork mixture into golf ball-sized balls. If time permits you can then return to the refrigerator for 1-2 hours to firm up.
9. Preheat the charcoal grill. You can use a barbecue grill for this dish, but you won't achieve the same smoky flavour.
10. For the nuoc mam, warm the chicken broth in a small saucepan over medium heat. Place the warm water and sugar in a bowl and stir to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the fish sauce, vinegar, garlic and chilli.
11. When the charcoal is ready, slightly flatten the pork balls using the palms of your hands, then transfer to the grill. Carefully add the pork belly, being careful of the flare ups from the fat dripping onto the charcoal. which will make the meat black and bitter tasting. Cook the meatballs and pork belly, turning regularly, for 7-10 minutes or until cooked through.
12. To serve, place the cooked noodles and salad ingredients on a large serving platter. Drain the pickles and evenly divide amongst the small bowls. Add the meatballs and pork belly and evenly pour over the warm chicken broth and nuoc mam, finishing with a little pepper on top. Invite guests to dip a few noodles and herbs into their broth and eat, followed by mouthfuls of the meat and pickles.
Diana Chan and guests explore the flavours of Asia from her Melbourne home in the second series of Asia Unplated.