Grilled pork with vermicelli (Bún thịt nướng)

Bún thịt nướng (Grilled pork with rice vermicelli) is among my favorite dishes. I have a strong memory of the rare occasions when my parents made it. It was quite an event, with mom doing the marinating, making the vermicelli, washing the lettuces and herbs, while dad sitting on a stool out in the balcony, fanning the old-fashioned charcoal portable grill. I’ve never asked mom what she puts in her marinade, probably because I had never cared about how to make it… until I went study abroad. It’s kind of a hassle to make it just for one person, so when the biker comes visit, I figured it’s a great occasion to try this out. I was afraid the smell of fish sauce in the marinade and the dipping sauce would chase him away, but it was fine :). I took the recipe from Hungry Huy and modified it to my liking.

Bún thịt nướng has several parts to it: The bún, which is rice vermicelli; the thịt nướng – grilled pork; an assortment of lettuce and herbs, some đồ chua – pickled daikon/ carrots, a spread of mỡ hành – scallion in oil, drizzled with nước chấm/ nước mắm đâm/ nước mắm pha – the dipping sauce. The recipe mainly focuses on thịt nướng, since it’s the soul of the dish. I didn’t include a section of how to make đồ chua – you can find it in the link above, or skip it.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 – 1.5 lbs pork. Pick a cut that has some fatty parts in there. Pork shoulder works for me. Pork belly probably will also work, with some trimming of the skin and fat. You basically don’t want anything too lean, since the meat will be too dry.
  • 1/2 lb vermicelli, follow instructions to cook.

Marinade:

  • 3 tbs honey
  • 4 tbs fish sauce
  • 3 tbs cooking oil
  • 2 tbs minced garlic
  • 2 tbs minced lemongrass (can be found at the frozen section of Asian stores)
  • 1 tbs minced shallot
  • 1 tbs pepper

Dipping sauce (nước chấm):

  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • 1 medium size, juicy lime/ lemon (probably about 3-4 tbs juice)
  • 2/3 – 3/4 cup water
  • 2-3 tbs sugar (start with 2)
  • 4 tbs fish sauce
  • 1 Thai chili pepper if you can handle the heat

Vegetables: red leaf lettuce, mint, cucumber… I only got the lettuce since it was the cheapest.

Garnish: đồ chua, scallion in oil.

DIRECTIONS

  1. Slice the pork thinly, about 1/3″ – 1/4″. Set aside
  2. Add all ingredients for the marinade in a bowl, mix well. Add the sliced pork, thoroughly mix to coat all pieces with the marinade. Securely close the lid and marinate overnight in the fridge.
  3. Preheat oven to 400F.
  4. Line a baking tray with an oiled aluminum sheet. Put the pork slices on, slightly squeeze the marinade out of them (you don’t want them to be to soggy). Don’t crowd them on the tray.
  5. Bake them at 400F for 10-12 minutes, then broil each side 3-5 minutes until you see a nice brown, golden color. Check frequently so you don’t burn the meat!
  6. Make the nước chấm: Add sugar, garlic, lime juice, water, mix well to dissolve sugar. Add fish sauce and adjust to taste. This part is a little.. vague, because honestly, I haven’t found a one-recipe-please-all kind of magic. The Northern part of Vietnam prefers a lighter taste, while the South prefer a sweeter one, so I usually adjust it until I like the taste.
  7. Assemble: Add the lettuce/ herb, then vermicelli, some đồ chua, the grilled pork (cut to bite-size), a spread of scallion in oil. Serve with the sauce in a separate bowl. I love to add the sauce and mix everything up, but some people keep the sauce separately and dip bite-by-bite.

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NOTES:

  • I didn’t use sugar since it can burn the meat easier, and didn’t use salt since it can dry the meat out.
  • You can add crushed toasted peanuts if you want. Traditionally this dish has peanuts as a topping, but I don’t like it so I always skip that part.
  • The đồ chua isn’t very crucial either – I like how it adds some flavors and crunchy textures to the dish, but it can be skipped.

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