Bún thịt nướng, or Vietnamese grilled pork noodle bowl, is a quintessential Southern Vietnamese dish with flavorful, grilled pork, vermicelli noodles, fragrant herbs, pickled vegetables, and roasted peanuts brought together by a splash of the sweet and tangy nuoc cham.
Even though Labor weekend is over, we grill all year long. We have a roster of staples like the popular grilled Vietnamese lemongrass pork ribs, pork chops, pork patties (bun cha Hanoi), and marinated pork (thit nuong). The marinated pork goes into one of my favorite noodle bowls, bún thịt nướng. Bún thịt nướng, or Vietnamese grilled pork noodle bowl, is a quintessential Southern Vietnamese dish that you’ll find throughout restaurants and street food stalls in Saigon. Imagine pieces of flavorful grilled pork paired with vermicelli noodles, fragrant herbs, pickled vegetables, and roasted peanuts topped by a splash of the sweet and tangy nuoc cham all in one bowl. If I could only have one bowl of noodles for the rest of my life, this is it!
- Meat: for the meat, I like to use either pork butt or pork shoulder. Both come from the shoulder of the pig, but pork butt is higher on the foreleg, while pork shoulder is farther down. Pork butt has more fat and tends to be more juicy after grilling compared to shoulder. Have your butcher slice the meat to about 1/8 inch thick so it’s easier to marinate and grill. Marinate the meat for at least 4 hours to infuse flavor. If you can marinate them overnight, the flavor will be even better!
- Aromatics: I used a combination of scallions, garlic, and shallot for flavoring the meat. You can also add lemongrass but I prefer to leave it out for the traditional bún thịt nướng.
- Fish sauce: some of my favorite brands are Three Crabs, Flying Lion Premium Fish Sauce, and Red Boat Fish Sauce.
Tips for Grilling Meat
When it comes to grilling, go for the real deal, the charcoal grill! Using a grill pan over the stove or roasting it in the oven won’t give you that authentic bún thịt nướng experience. Take the marinated pork out of the fridge and bring it to room temperature for 30 minutes before grilling, allowing the meat to cook more evenly from edge center. Place the coals on one side of the grill, let the temperature rise to about 375-400 degrees F before tossing any meat on it. Start the pork on the hot side of the grill which will sear the meat and begin to caramelize the sugar. Move the meat to the cooler side to let them finish cooking. By using indirect heat, the result is a tender piece of meat without the seared black marks signaling inconsistent cooking. Try not to eat all the grilled pork as they come off the grill!
What to Serve the Grilled Pork With
Traditional Vietnamese vermicelli noodle bowls are topped with lettuce and herbs like Vietnamese mint (rau răm), Thai basil (húng quế ), peppermint (húng lui), and Vietnamese perilla (tiá tô), cucumber, bean sprouts, pickled carrot and daikon, roasted peanuts, and a sweet and tangy dipping sauce (nuoc cham). With bún thịt nướng, you can customize it to your liking. Our older boy loves bún thịt nướng with just lettuce, roasted peanuts, and the nuoc cham while I go for all the fixings!
Bún thịt nướng is quite popular with our family. We’ve been making it for as long as I could remember. I usually grill up a big batch and use the grilled pork for the noodle bowl, broken rice, and grilled pork rolls. On a hot day, having this noodle bowl is incredibly refreshing and satisfying. The flavorful, smoky, tender grilled pork along with the noodles, fragrant herbs, and tangy sauce will keep you coming back for more. It’s a perfect balance of salty, sweet, tangy, umami, and texture in a bowl.
Vietnamese Grilled Pork Noodle Bowl
- 2 pounds pork butt
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water, hot
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped shallot
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
- 1/4 cup scallions
- 10 ounces vermicelli noodles
- 1/2 head of butter lettuce, shredded
- 2 Lebanese cucumbers, julienned
- 1 bunch mint, picked and washed
- 1 bunch Vietnamese mint, picked and washed
- 1 bunch Thai basil, picked and washed
- 1 bunch perilla, picked and washed
- 4 cups bean sprouts, washed
- 1/4 cup scallion oil
- 1/2 cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
- dipping sauce for serving
- pickled vegetables for serving
- 4 ounces carrot, peeled, cut into matchsticks 1/8th-inch thick and 2 inches long
- 4 ounces daikon, peeled, cut into matchsticks 1/8th-inch thick and 2 inches long
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup sugar
Dipping Sauce / Nuoc Cham
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 1/2 cup cup water
- 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 red bird's eye chili, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup scallion, thinly sliced, green parts only
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Combine the hot water and sugar in a bowl and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
- In a large lidded container, combine the sugar water, fish sauce, vegetable oil, scallion, shallot, and garlic. Mix everything together. Add the pork and toss well to coat.
- Cover the container and put the pork in the fridge and let it marinate for 4 hours, preferably overnight.
- To make the pickle liquid, combine water, vinegar, and sugar in a bowl and whisk until the sugar has dissolved.
- Divide the pickle juice into two bowls. Add carrots and daikon separately in each bowl. Let the vegetables pickle for 2 hours
- To make the dipping sauce, combine everything in a bowl and whisk together until combined. Set aside until ready to serve.
- For the scallion oil, place the oil, salt, and onion in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook for 2 minutes or until the oil just starts to simmer. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Drain and run under cold water. Drain again and set aside.
- Set up the charcoal grill by placing coals on one side and lighting them. Rake the coals to create a flat even bed to create an even steady heat zone.
- Once the coals have burned down to about 375-400 degrees F, place the meat over the coals to sear for a minute on each side.
- Move the meat to the opposite side, frequently turning for 6-8 minutes or until cooked through. Transfer the meat to a serving plate. Drizzle scallion oil over pork.
- When ready to serve, divide the noodles among serving bowls. Add lettuce, herbs, cucumber, and bean sprouts. Top with pork, pickled vegetables, and roasted peanuts. Drizzle dipping sauce over noodles.