By Sophie Churchill
Bún Chả is a dish that perfectly demonstrates the harmonious opposition that Vietnamese cuisine prides itself on. It boasts sweet and salty flavors, fresh and fermented vegetables, and cooling and warming sensations. As Uyen Luu describes, balance between flavors, temperature and elements is a main philosophy in Asian cooking. Food is categorized by flavor and whether it is hot or cold, not in temperature, but in energy and element. Vietnamese food is known for being healthy, yet flavorful due to a diversity of ingredients that promote a balanced diet. All senses are evoked while eating Bún Chả as the smell of the pork, sound of the melting fat hitting the pan, sight of all the colorful vegetables, and feel of the crunchy and soft textures are absorbed. Seasoned pork is grilled over a charcoal fire (chả) and then eaten with salad, vermicelli noodles (bún), pickled vegetables, a light sauce, and then topped with bean sprouts, mint, and cilantro. According to 196 Flavors, the origins of this meal are lost to history but it is best-loved in Hanoi and is eaten at all times of the day in both restaurants and food stands. It was a favorite of the late chef and writer Anthony Bourdain who enjoyed it with former President Barack Obama at a street food shop in Hanoi. Bún Chả is designed to be eaten slowly and with family. The meat drenched with sauce sits separately from the noodles which sit separately from the vegetables and sides. This separation combined with the use of chopsticks helps the eater to take more time chewing their food and savoring each bite. The deliciously flavorful combination of ingredients and ideology of appreciating all senses while eating are enveloped into this wonderful dish.
Preparation Time: 2 hours
Vietnamese caramel sauce
- 70 g sugar
- 150 ml hot water
- 450 g pork shoulder or pork belly
- 450 g minced pork
- 50 g shallots
- 15 g garlic
- Fish sauce
- Oyster sauce
- 400 g green papaya, carrots, kohlrabi
- 25 g sugar
- 15 ml rice vinegar or lemon juice
- ¾ tsp salt
- Fresh herbs
Dipping sauce and noodles
- 25 g sugar
- 15-18 ml lemon juice/ rice vinegar
- 175 ml water
- 15-20 ml fish sauce
- Garlic, chili, black pepper
- 1.5 kg fresh rice vermicelli noodles
- Boil sugar and water together to make a sauce.
- Grill the pork over a charcoal fire. If you are using an oven, put the meat over a wired rack or pizza pan.
- Slice the side pickled vegetables thinly. Add sugar and then salt.
- Poach the vermicelli noodles in hot water.
- Mix sugar, lemon juice and water together. Gradually add fish sauce and taste. Soak the garlic in vinegar and sugar and add. Add the remaining ingredients.
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