Bun cha

Bun cha

Leanne Kitchen

This is a classic dish eaten throughout northern Vietnam – bun, meaning ‘rice noodles’, and cha, being ‘pork’. On our travels we’ve witnessed locals regularly packing into their favourite corner cafes, tucking into bun cha – and inevitably we joined them.


Quantity Ingredient
600g boneless pork shoulder, trimmed, frozen for 90 minutes
600g minced pork


Quantity Ingredient
2 1/2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 lemongrass stems, finely chopped, white part only
4 large brown shallots, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons ground white pepper
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
60ml vegetable oil


Quantity Ingredient
60ml fish sauce
60ml white rice vinegar
2 teaspoons caster sugar
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 red bird’s eye chilli, finely chopped

To serve

Quantity Ingredient
500g thin fresh rice noodles
1 oak leaf or butter lettuce, leaves separated and large ones torn
Pickled carrot
large handful vietnamese mint leaves
large handful mint leaves
large handful coriander leaves
large handful perilla leaves
crushed roasted unsalted peanuts
Spring onion oil


  1. For the marinade, combine the sugar with 2 1⁄2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook, swirling the pan, to dissolve the sugar, about 3–4 minutes. Bring to the boil and cook for 5–6 minutes or until the mixture becomes a deep caramel colour. Remove from the heat and add 2 tablespoons cold water, taking care as the mixture will spit. Cool slightly then add the remaining ingredients and stir to mix well.
  2. Remove the pork from the freezer. Using a large, sharp knife, slice the meat into 3 mm thick slices. Transfer the meat to a bowl, pour over half the marinade and toss to combine well.
  3. For the dressing, stir all the ingredients together in a bowl with 250 ml water, until the sugar has dissolved.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining marinade with the minced pork. Using clean hands, work the marinade through the mince. Cover the bowls with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours, or overnight, for the flavours to develop.
  5. Using your hands, take tablespoonfuls of the mince mixture and form them into flattened discs about 4 cm across.
  6. Heat a barbecue or chargrill pan to medium–high. Cook the patties for about 5 minutes, turning once, or until cooked through. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
  7. Drain the marinated pork shoulder well. Grill the pork slices for about 4 minutes, turning once, or until lightly charred and cooked through.
  8. Meanwhile, cook the rice noodles according to the packet instructions and drain well. Divide the noodles and lettuce among large bowls. Scatter over some pickled carrot, herbs and peanuts and drizzle over the spring onion oil. Put the patties and pork on top and serve immediately with the dressing on the side.
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