Bun Cha (Grilled Vietnamese Meatballs with Rice Vermicelli)
Northern Vietnam’s beloved pork and noodle dish makes for a deeply flavorful meal, whether cooked traditionally over fire or in a grill pan.
1 hour 20 minutes
SAVEUR’s chief content officer Kate Berry was born in Southern Vietnam, though she is particularly fond of these Northern-style grilled meatballs, which she tasted for the first time in a restaurant here in the States. According to the classic bun cha recipe, the slightly flattened meatballs are cooked over a wood or charcoal fire, but she finds that a stovetop grill pan is a great substitute for achieving the dish’s requisite char and smoky flavor.
Bun cha is usually served with a light and brothy dipping sauce; Berry suggests swirling the grilled meatballs directly in the condiment—fortifying it with their flavorful juices—before pouring the liquid liberally over the noodles and topping with fresh herbs. A side of crunchy do chua—Vietnamese carrot-daikon pickle—lends the rich pork an extra layer of freshness and crunch; find our recipe here. If cooking the meatballs on a wide-set grill, thread the meatballs on a skewer to prevent them from falling through the grates.
For the meatballs:
- ¼ cup fish sauce, preferably Vietnamese-style
- 3 Tbsp. turbinado sugar
- 1 large shallot, coarsely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, finely grated
- 3 lemongrass stalks, outer layers removed, coarsely chopped
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 2 lb. ground pork
For the dipping sauce:
- ¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp. fish sauce, preferably Vietnamese-style
- ⅓ cup turbinado sugar
- ¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp. coconut water
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice
- 4 garlic cloves, grated
- 1–2 red bird’s-eye chiles (optional)
- Leaves from 1 head soft lettuce, such as red or green leaf or Bibb
- 2 medium cucumbers, thinly sliced on the bias
- Fresh herb sprigs, such as Thai basil, cilantro, mint, shiso, rau ram, or sawtooth