Authentic Bun Cha – Vietnamese Grilled Pork Meatballs with Noodles

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Vietnamese Grilled Pork Meatballs with Vermicelli Noodles (Bun Cha) is a classic Northern Vietnamese dish. Bun Cha features flavorful and juicy pork meatballs, vermicelli noodles, plenty of refreshing herbs and traditional lime fish sauce dipping. It is the dish all Hanoians as well as many Northerners hold dear in their hearts.

Vietnamese Grilled Pork Meatballs with Vermicelli Noodles (Bun Cha) is a classic Northern Vietnamese dish. Bun Cha features flavorful and juicy pork meatballs, vermicelli noodles, plenty of refreshing herbs and traditional lime fish sauce dipping.

Overview of Bun Cha – Vietnamese Grilled Pork Meatballs with Vermicelli Noodles

Bun Cha is thought to originate in Hanoi, but it is also a popular dish in other Northern cities. This dish can be found at every corner of Hanoi, from big streets to small alleys. People in Hanoi eat these grilled pork meatballs with vermicelli noodles for either lunch or dinner.

Restaurants or street food stalls selling bun cha usually look modest with basic plastic tables and chairs. Of course, you can find this dish on the menu of fancier restaurants, but those aren’t the places the locals go to eat bun cha. Even Chef Anthony Bourdain chose a street food shop to treat the former President Obama to bun cha in his Parts Unknown series.

How to Cook Bun Cha – Vietnamese Grilled Pork Meatballs with Vermicelli Noodles

This classic dish is very easy to make at home. When freshly made, the meatballs smell incredible.

Each family has their own way of making bun cha. The recipe below is an authentic one. It is how I like to make bun cha and also how other people I know make it.

Ingredients

The meatballs are called “cha“. To make them, you will need ground pork, lots of aromatics, fish sauce, oyster sauce, and sugar.

Don’t use ground pork that is too lean since it will make the meatballs turn out dry. I think ground pork with 15%-20% of fat is good, or use ground pork made from pork shoulder.

Now, if you want to make these meatballs as authentic as possible, you will need to make caramel sauce from sugar and add it to the marinade. The caramel sauce gives them the distinct smoky sweet taste and caramelized color. You surely can add sugar to the pork directly or substitute with honey, but it won’t taste the same. 

Making caramel sauce for Vietnamese caramelized fish (ca kho)
Making caramel sauce

Bun Cha Hanoi is often on the sweet side a little bit, so cook a teaspoon of the marinated pork, taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.

Other ingredients you will need are rice vermicelli noodles, soft lettuce such as baby or butter lettuce, fresh herbs, and lime, sugar and fish sauce for the dipping sauce.

Cooking Bun Cha – Vietnamese Grilled Pork Meatballs with Vermicelli Noodles

Restaurants and street food stalls usually charcoal-grill the meatballs which, without any doubt, is the best way to cook them. A gas grill will also work fine and you will be surprised how well they turn out with a grill pan such as this Staub grill pan.

Cook Vietnamese Grilled Pork Meatballs (Bun Cha)

I cook mine in the Staub grill pan and they are absolutely juicy and delicious. I also used this pan in my Vietnamese grilled pork chops recipe. Once the pan is hot, you just need the heat to stay in the middle of medium and medium-high and the meatballs will still get great grill marks and come out juicy. 

Detailed step-by-step instructions and photos are all in the recipe card below.

How to Serve and Eat Bun Cha like a Vietnamese

Bun Cha (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Meatballs with Vermicelli Noodles) is a popular dish in Hanoi. It features flavorful meatballs, rice vermicelli noodles, fresh herbs and sweet and sour dipping sauce. A classic dish that is quick and easy to make at home.

Bun Cha Hanoi is served with grilled pork meatballs, vermicelli noodles, fresh herbs and lettuce and dipping sauce. The dipping sauce usually contains thinly sliced carrots and green papaya to provide more crunch. You can also add bird’s eye chili to the dipping sauce for some heat.

The grilled pork meatballs are put directly in the lime fish sauce dipping (nuoc cham) when served. From this point, there are two ways to eat it.

The first way to enjoy this dish, also the way most Hanoians eat it, is to use chopsticks to pick up some noodles and dip them into the sauce, then eat with meatballs and herbs.

The second way is to add vermicelli noodles, lettuce and herbs to a serving bowl, spoon over the dipping sauce with meatballs into the bowl, and then eat.

Regardless of the way you choose to eat it, one bite will bring so many flavors, aromas and textures to your tastebuds.

Two other iconic dishes of Hanoi you may like are Vietnamese Turmeric Fish with Dill and Noodles (Cha Ca La Vong) and Hanoi combination chicken noodle soup (Bun Thang)

You may also like these noodle bowl recipes: Vietnamese Beef Noodle Salad (Bun Bo Xao) and Vietnamese Beansprouts Pork Noodle Salad (Bun Thit Xao Mien Tay).

I’d love to hear what you think about this dish, so please feel free to leave a comment. New recipes are added every week so let’s connect on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram for the latest updates. You can find my collection of Vietnamese recipes here.


Vietnamese Grilled Pork Meatballs with Vermicelli Noodles (Bun Cha)

Authentic Bun Cha – Vietnamese Grilled Pork Meatballs with Noodles

Vietnamese Grilled Pork Meatballs with Vermicelli Noodles (Bun Cha) is a classic Northern Vietnamese dish. Bun Cha features flavorful and juicy pork meatballs, vermicelli noodles, plenty of refreshing herbs and traditional lime fish sauce dipping.
Author: Sophie
5 from 14 votes
Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings: 4 people

Ingredients
 

For the pork meatballs

  • 1 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons water, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 2-3 lemongrass stalks, white part only, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons oyster sauce
  • black pepper

For the dipping sauce

  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • thinly sliced carrots and/or green papaya (optional)

Other ingredients

  • vermicelli noodles
  • butter lettuce (or other soft lettuce)
  • cilantro
  • mint

Instructions
 

  • In a small saucepan, add 1/4 cup of sugar and 3 tablespoons of water. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium, continue to simmer. You will see a lot of bubbles on the surface. The mixture will then turn from clear to yellow, and get darker as you simmer it. Reduce the heat if needed. Keep watching closely, until it has a slightly dark caramel color, turn off the heat and carefully add 1 1/2 tablespoons of water. Swirl the saucepan to combine and remove it from the stove. Set aside.
    Making caramel sauce for Vietnamese caramelized fish (ca kho)
  • In a mixing bowl, add the ground pork, caramel sauce and all other ingredients for the pork meatballs. Mix for a couple of minutes to combine thoroughly. Set aside for 10-15 minutes or marinate in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours for tastier results.
    Ingredients for Vietnamese Grilled Pork Meatballs
  • To make the dipping sauce, whisk together lime juice, sugar, water, and fish sauce in a bowl. Adjust to taste. Add garlic, and add thinly sliced carrots and green papaya if using. Set aside.
    Dipping sauce for Vietnamese Grilled Pork Meatballs
  • Prepare vermicelli noodles according to package instructions. Prepare lettuce and fresh herbs.
  • Heat the grill pan (or preheat gas grill/charcoal grill if that’s what you use to cook the meatballs). Shape the marinated pork into small meatballs. Once the pan is hot, grill them in a single layer until fully cooked.
    Cook Vietnamese Grilled Pork Meatballs (Bun Cha)
  • Put the grilled meatballs in the the dipping sauce, serve immediately with noodles, lettuce and herbs.

Notes

Bun Cha Hanoi is often on the sweet side a little bit, so adjust seasonings to your liking.

Nutrition

Calories: 536kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 36g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Cholesterol: 122mg | Sodium: 1772mg | Potassium: 594mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 18g | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 42mg | Iron: 2mg
Course: Main Dish, Noodle and Soup
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Keyword: bun cha, pork meatball noodles
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19 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Thank you for this recipe! My grandma used to make this when I was a kid. She has long since passed away and I never got to learn any of her delicious recipes. So glad I stumbled upon your website. Tastes just like my childhood memories.

  2. 5 stars
    This was the best meal I’ve ever made in my entire life, I could eat this everyday until I died and would’ve lived a happy life. Thanks for sharing this recipe. I will try and make a vegan version for my family with impossible meat and report back.

    1. Hi Sisi,
      Sorry I didn’t see your comment earlier. Thank you for the feedback! I’m so glad you liked it. Have you had a chance to make a vegan version yet? I’d love to hear how it turned out.

  3. 5 stars
    made this with my college roommate and it was so easy and delicious! will definitely be making it again and checking out your other recipes. thank you!

    1. Hi Nicole,
      Thank you for coming back and leaving me a comment! I’m glad you guys loved it. I look forward to hearing how other recipes turn out for you.

  4. This is my favorite Vietnamese dish. In Hanoi it is always served with at least 3 herbs but I don’t know what they were. You only listed mint and cilantro but there was definitely another one that came with it every time and I loved it. Any idea what any other popular herbs are that are eaten with this dish in Hanoi?

    1. Hi Rita,
      I think it’s probably perilla leaves (lá tía tô) which are very popular in Northern Vietnam. The leaves are green on one side and purple on the other side. Does it sound familiar to you? Its flavor and aroma is quite similar to Japanese shiso leaves. Another possible one is Vietnamese balm (kinh giới). You can also use Thai basil. With mint, in Vietnam people usually spearmint. If you can’t find spearmint, peppermint will also work though the aroma is slightly different. I hope it helps and let me know if you have more questions 😊.

  5. When I add my caramel sauce to the meat, the caramel hardens and I can not mix the meat . What do u suggest?

    1. Hi Sandy,
      Was your meat very cold and your caramel sauce hot when you added the caramel? If so, I think that’s the reason. You can transfer the caramel sauce to a bowl to let it cool down a little before adding. Or if the sauce was too thick, that can happen too and you can add a bit more water to the saucepan to make it thinner. Please let me know if this helps.

  6. 5 stars
    One of my ALL TIME favorite dish!! Everyone I’ve made it for, Loved it! Since we don’t eat pork, I’ve replaced it with free range dark and white ground chicken meat. Pork lovers can’t tell the difference.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Theresa,

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience with using ground chicken instead of pork to make this dish! That is very helpful to know. I’m also glad that it turned out great for you and everyone you have made it for enjoyed it.

      Sophie

    2. 5 stars
      I almost cried this was so good! The closest we have had seen being in Hanoi! The flavor brought such great memories! Thank you for this incredible recipe!

      1. Hi Lauren,
        Thank you so much for the feedback! It sounds like you had a great time in Hanoi. I’m really glad you were able to recreate the bun cha flavors you had back then with my recipe :). It is definitely one of the dishes we miss the most when we live away from Hanoi.

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