Bun Cha

Updated: Sep 3


Bun Cha is one of those must try dishes straight out of Hanoi, Vietnam! Anytime I have been to visit Vietnam, Bun Cha is the dish I always hunt down as soon as I land to get my fix. This dish really hits all the notes and is incredibly complex in flavour, simple to make and so delicious. I created this recipe with a clear mind thinking the only way to do it was to do it as close to how you get it in Vietnam! Minus a few of the herbs that are usually served this bowl of Bun Cha brought back a pleasant nostalgia of being back in Vietnam! With all that said let's make Bun Cha!

Cook Time 45 mins / Prep Time 45 minutes / Marinade 1-2 hours

To serve 4-6


Pork Belly and Patties:

500g pork belly

500g pork mince

4 shallots

6 garlic cloves

2 lemongrass stalks

4 spring onions

4 tbsp oyster sauce

2 tbsp dark soy

5 tbsp fish sauce

6 tbsp caramel or honey

1 cup sugar (caramel)

50ml water (caramel)

salt and black pepper

Bun Cha soup:

6 cups water

1 cup fish sauce

1 cup white sugar

2 limes

Herbs and Toppings:

400g rice vermicelli

2 baby gem lettuce

bunch of coriander

bunch of mint

5 small Birdseye chillies

Pickled vegetables:

2-3 birdseye chillies

1/2 under ripe papaya or 1 small kohlrabi

2 carrots

2 tbsp white sugar

6 tbsp rice vinegar


Pork belly and marinade:

  1. Before we get into marinading the pork we firstly need to make a simple caramel which will add both nuttiness and sweetness. This is optional, however, I found that using honey you lose that classic Vietnemese grilled pork flavour and the honey also tends to burn far quicker. To make the caramel add 1 cup of sugar to a dry pan then place onto a high heat. Melt the sugar by swirling the pan around to mix until a medium to dark caramel is formed then when ready remove from the heat. Slowly add 50ml of warm water and continue to swirl the pan until the consistency becomes more manageable and slightly loose. Place the caramel to one side and allow to cool.

2. Now that we have the caramel made up we can now move onto marinading the pork. Finely slice 500g of pork belly strips then place the sliced pork belly into a large mixing bowl. Next in a separate bowl add 500g of pork mince. To the pork and pork mince we can now build 1 marinade that we can divide into both meats.

3. Now a little prep before we add the marinades, finely slice 4 shallots, mince 6 garlic cloves, bruise and finely slice 2 lemongrass stalks and finely chop 4 spring onions. When prepared add all of the aromatics to a mixing bowl along with 4 tbsps oyster sauce, 2 tbsps dark soy, 5 tbsps fish sauce, approximately 6 tbsps of the caramel when chilled and a pinch of salt and black pepper. Mix well then add half of the marinade to the pork belly and the other to the pork mince. Mix the marinades into pork and mince until completely covered. Place the pork belly into the fridge for now and we can build the patties.

4. For the minced pork, roll into small balls approximately 50g in weight each. Flatten out the balls to make flat patties as they will be easier and quicker to grill. Place all of the pork patties onto a tray cover in clingfilm and allow to marinade with the sliced pork belly for 2-12 hours (longer the better).


5. Whilst we wait on the pork to marinade we can also make up the pickles as these will need some time also. The addition of pickles in bun cha really helps balance out the dish as the pork can be quite fatty, the pickles is able to cut through that. For the pickles simply wash, peel and slice 2 carrots into which ever shape or size you like, make sure the carrots are not sliced too thick though. Peel and again slice either a small kohlrabi or 1/2 an under ripe papaya into similar shapes and size of the carrot. When ready add a good pinch salt and leave for 10-15 minutes, this will help make the pickles become more crispy and to release some of the water content. After 10-15 minutes wash the vegetables under cold water a few times to remove the salt then place into a fresh bowl. Now in a small bowl add 2 tbsp of white sugar and 6 tbsp of rice vinegar. Stir until the sugar dissolves then add to the vegetables. Add some finely sliced Birdseye chillies and allow to pickle until we are ready to serve.

Herbs and Rice Noodles:

6. One of the key components that really makes bun cha what it is, is the addition of lots of various herbs. Its quite difficult to find some of the herbs they use in Vietnam in the western world but as a base you can use lettuce, mint, coriander, Thai basil etc...Wash and roughly tare the herbs and roughly chop some of the baby gem lettuce. Place the herbs into a bowl and they are good to go. Another common topping is some finely sliced birdseye chillies and some minced garlic. Place these into a small bowl and we will serve these toppings on the side.