Our bún chả Hanoi brings a mouthwatering combination of grilled pork patties (chả) and pork slices in a punchy dipping sauce served with vermicelli noodles (bún) and an abundance of fresh herbs.
Having born and grown up in Hanoi, my dad's love for northern Vietnamese food runs deep. His all time favorite dish, bypassing even pho, is bún chả, a specialty of Hanoi with a mouthwatering combination of grilled pork patties (chả) and pork belly in a punch dipping sauce served with vermicelli noodles (bún), and an abundance of fresh herbs.
My dad reminisced how the smoke wafting from the charcoal grills alone made him salivate everyday he biked home from school in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. This iconic dish earned an international spotlight when President Obama and Anthony Bourdain were seen enjoying a meal on an episode of Parts Unknown. It was a proud moment for me as a Vietnamese! Every family has their own version of bún chả Hanoi, and I couldn’t be more excited to share our family recipe with you.
What Kind of Meat to Use
Traditional bún chả Hanoi has both grilled pork patties and sliced fatty pork or pork belly. With both my parents having high cholesterol, we typically use sliced pork butt which has some fat but not as fatty as pork belly. For the pork patties, I like to use ground pork butt which is a bit fattier compared to other cuts. If you're using lean ground pork, make sure to add twenty to twenty five percent pork fat to keep the patties moist. Refrigerate both the pork mixture for patties and sliced pork for 2 hours to let the flavor develop.
Tips for Grilling Meat
When it comes to grilling, the charcoal grill takes the flavor to the next level. Using a grill pan over the stove or roasting it in the oven won’t give you that authentic bún chả Hanoi experience. Take the pork patties and 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.
How to Make the Pickled Vegetables
I use a simple mixture of water, sugar, and rice vinegar for the pickle juice. Cut the carrot into thin slices crosswise. Slice the green papaya into 1 inch long and ⅛ inch thick. Pickle them for 2 hours until you’re ready to eat.
What to Serve Meat With
Traditional bún chả Hanoi is served with vermicelli noodles along with lettuce and herbs like Vietnamese mint (rau răm), Thai basil (húng quế ), peppermint (húng lui), and Vietnamese perilla (tiá tô), pickled carrot and green papaya, and a sweet and tangy dipping sauce (nuoc cham).
How to Eat Bún Chả
In Saigon, bún thịt nướng is served in a bowl whereas the herbs, noodles, and meat are presented separately in Hanoi. Both the grilled pork and pork patties are plunged into the dipping sauce where the smoky flavor and juices from the meat bring a wonderful depth of flavor. To eat, use your chopsticks to grab some noodles and herbs, dip them in the dipping sauce, pick up some of the meat, and slurp everything up. For convenience, I just pile everything in a bowl.
Bún chả Hanoi is hands down one of my favorite Northern Vietnamese dishes. The smoky, flavorful, tender meat along with noodles and fresh herbs are a feast for the senses. Your taste buds will rejoice the moment you slurp up everything in one bite. Having eaten bun cha for over 70 years, my dad is quite particular about how bún chả Hanoi tastes. My dad gave me his stamp of approval for this dish which was a special moment in my culinary journey. With my recipe you can make this iconic Vietnamese dish in the comfort of your kitchen!
Vietnamese Grilled Pork Patties With Vermicelli Bún chả Hanoi
- 1 pound ground pork butt
- 2 ounces pork fat
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- ¼ cup minced shallot
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper (1 teaspoon if you like a bit more heat)
- 1 pound sliced pork butt
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons hot water
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped shallot
- ¼ cup chopped scallion
- 4 ounces carrot, peeled, cut crosswide about ⅛ inch thick
- 4 ounces papaya, cut into 1 inch length and ⅛ inch thick
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup rice vinegar
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 red bird's eye chili, thinly sliced (optional)
- 10 ounces vermicelli noodles
- 1 head of butter lettuce, shredded
- 1 bunch mint, picked and washed
- 1 bunch Vietnamese mint, picked and washed
- 1 Thai basil, picked and washed
- 1 perilla, picked and washed
- dipping sauce for serving
- pickled vegetables for serving
- 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 papaya separately in each bowl. Let the vegetables pickle for 2 hours.
- In a large bowl, combine ground pork, pork fat, garlic, shallot, fish sauce, sugar, and pepper and mix well. Cover bowl and refrigerate mixture for 2 hours to let flavor develop.
- Weigh out about 2 ounces of pork mixture. Form the pork mixture into small patties with oiled hands, about 3 inches in diameter. Put the formed patties on a tray lined with parchment paper.
- 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 2 hours.
- 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 pork patties and marinated pork over the coals to sear for a minute on each side.
- Move the meat to the opposite side, frequently turning for 6 minutes for pork patties and 4 minutes for marinated pork or until cooked through. Transfer cooked meat to a serving plate.
- To make the dipping sauce, combine everything in a bowl and whisk together until combined. Set aside until ready to serve.
- Cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Drain and run under cold water. Drain again and set aside.
- Place the noodles, lettuce, and herbs on one platter.
- Divide the pork and pork patties between 6 dipping bowls. Add the pickled vegetables and pour the dipping sauce into each bowl. Each guest should have their own dipping bowl, with the platter of noodles and herbs in the middle of the table.
- Take a mixture of noodles, herbs and meat, and dip into the warm fish sauce with each mouthful.
- For convenience, put the meat, noodles, lettuce, and herbs into individual bowls. Drizzle the sauce over the bowl and enjoy with pickled vegetables.