Words by Sandy Hoang Art by Emma Lucas
Back when I was a kid, we had a family reunion every weekend. It was an occasion on which my mum and aunties would cook different Vietnamese cuisine.
Although we would have various food choices, Bún chả Hà Nội has always been a part of our weekend menu. Since all us kids loved it so much. Bún chả Hà Nội’s origin is in the North of Vietnam, where my home town is. It’s one of the North’s most famous dishes – after Phở of course. The savory taste and the aroma of the dish is appealing in every way. It is overflowing with heaps of green veggies and herbs. The bowl of dipping sauce, made with a touch of fish sauce, sugar, chili, garlic, water and lime, is golden and clear; like an amber gemstone. A few thin slices of pickled carrot and kohlrabi give the dish a crunchy texture. Lastly, there is the juicy grilled pork with the silky rice noodles. Even though the dish is a combination of different elements, textures, flavours, colours – all of these components come together in perfect harmony.
I remember my cousins and I always ran around the charcoal stove, sneaking some of the pieces of meat that were nearly cooked when the adults weren’t around. We managed to sneak a few pieces, hoping the meat depletion would go unnoticed. Well I guess with the amount we took it was impossible for this to go unnoticed. So, we were forbidden from the kitchen, otherwise there’d be no pork left come mealtime. Till now, I can still vividly recall the scent and flavour of my favourite childhood dish.
- 1 kg fresh rice vermicelli (white-round)
- 500 grams of thinly sliced pork belly/shoulder
- 500 grams of minced pork (flat circle)
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 4 tablespoon of minced shallot
- 2 tablespoons of sugar
- 4 tablespoons of fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons of pork stock powder
- 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons of Vietnamese caramel sauce or honey
Vietnamese caramel sauce
- Melt 4 tablespoons of white sugar in a nonstick saucepan with 2/3 cups of warm water until it starts bubbling and turns into a golden brown colour
- 400 grams of green papaya/kohlrabi and carrots
- 1 tablespoon of vinegar
- 2 tablespoons of sugar
- ½ a cup of fish sauce
- ½ a cup of sugar
- 3 cups of water
- 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon of minced chili
- 1 tablespoon of of lime juice
- Thailand Basil
- Bean Sprout
1) Marinating the meat
- Shape the ground pork into patties and marinate separately to the grilled pork slices; with the minced garlic, oyster sauce, sugar, fish sauce, minced shallots, caramel sauce and ground black pepper.
- Set aside for 30 minutes or a few hours in the refrigerator.
2) Making the pickles and the dipping sauce
- Cut the thinly sliced kohlrabi/green papaya and carrots, add a little salt and set aside for 15 minutes. After that, rinse well and slightly squeeze out the excess water. In a large bowl, mix the kohlrabi and carrots with sugar and vinegar. Set aside for at least 1 hour so the veggies can absorb the flavor.
- For the mixture add sugar, lemon juice and water together first. Taste it to make sure you are happy with the lemon juice quantity. Then, gradually add fish sauce to taste. Finish with a touch of minced chili, garlic and pickles.
3) Grilling the meat
- Charcoal – Grill the pork slices and minced pork patties outdoors on charcoal until both sides are golden brown.
- Oven – Put the meat over a broiler; where heat hits the meat above and below. Warm up the oven to 220 degrees Celsius then put the meat inside and cook for 10 minutes.
- Fill your serving bowl half-full with the dipping sauce then add some grilled pork. Serve with a platter of fresh greens and cooked rice vermicelli noodles. Dunk some noodles and fresh greens into the bowl and eat with the grilled pork and pickles. There you go, my childhood direct to you.