Bun Cha, also known as Bun Cha Hanoi, is a traditional Vietnamese dish, a must-try if you are planning on taking a trip to Vietnam. This traditional plate originated in Hanoi – the capital of Vietnam – and it remains very popular in this city these days.
Bun Cha is made of grilled pork that has the form of a meatball and it is served in a broth alongside rice noodles, vegetables, and herbs. In Vietnamese “bún” means noodles, whereas “chả” means pork patty, and that is where this dish gets its name.
This combination of fresh and savory flavors is part of many Vietnamese diets. Craving to learn more about this delicious Vietnamese food? Keep on reading to discover how to eat Bun Cha, its health benefits, and an easy recipe so you can try it out.
Bun Cha Hanoi
In order to get started, let’s take a closer look into all the ingredients that make up a Bun Cha.
The main ingredient present in the meatballs is pork, thinly sliced grilled pork belly is also served with the pork meatballs. Other ingredients include garlic, sugar, salt, pepper, green onions, and fish sauce. The latter is key to guarantee the correct seasoning.
Another essential ingredient is rice vermicelli, which makes up the noodle part of this dish. Rice vermicelli is a thin rice noodle and is part of several Asian dishes. One more vital element of Bun Cha is the dipping sauce or broth, it is made of fish sauce, lemon juice, rice wine vinegar, sugar, crushed garlic, and chili, all diluted in water.
To complete the dish there are some essential sides such as vegetables and herbs making the plate more colorful and tasteful. The most common include pickled vegetables (carrots, onion, green papaya), bean sprouts, cilantro, and mint. However, it is worth mentioning that Bun Cha is a very versatile dish and you can add many types of fresh vegetables that will work just fine, leafy greens such as cabbage or lettuce, radish, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber are some examples.
Bun Cha Broth
Bun Cha Broth deserves a separate paragraph. This essential part of Bun Cha acts as both, marinade for meat and dipping sauce for the meatballs.
The ingredient that provides it with the typical Vietnamese flavor is the fish sauce, also known as nuoc man. Fish sauce is a classic condiment in Vietnamese cuisine. It has a deeper flavor than its vegetarian counterpart, soy sauce, and provides the famous umami flavor that Asian cuisine is known for. It is made of fermented fish or krill. Contrary to what most people believe, it acts as a tasty seasoning instead of giving the food a fishy taste. The golden broth is essentially what gives the meatballs their unforgettable Vietnamese taste
How to Eat Bun Cha
Now let’s get to the point, how to eat Bun Cha? According to most Vietnamese, to eat Bun Cha in the most original way, the secret is to get a little bit of everything in every bite in order to feel all the flavors in every mouthful. To do this you can either use chopsticks and a spoon; or, if you are not accustomed to eating with chopsticks a fork and a spoon.
To get a bit of everything you will need to dunk a spoon into the broth and whirl some noodle onto the spoon using the chopsticks or fork. Finally, you can add the meatball and some of the vegetables and herbs on the top of your spoon; then, you are ready to take a big bite.
Another way to eat Bun Cha is in a wrap. Grab a lettuce leaf and put some noodles and herbs on top of it. Place a meatball on the noodles and then roll the lettuce leaf in order to wrap it. Pro-tip: dip the wrap into the broth before each bite.
Bun Cha Health Benefits
It is well known that Bun Cha is a delicious dish, now what about its health benefits?
The main ingredient of Bun Cha is pork. Even though is high in protein, pork also contains a fairly high amount of saturated fat. To make it healthier, try to use lean pork cuts such as pork tenderloin or sirloin pork chop to prepare the meatballs.
As for the noodles, rice noodles have a slight advantage in terms of carbohydrates when compared to egg or wheat noodles; they have a lower carbohydrate count than them. However, their carbohydrate count remains relatively high (44 grams in a cup); especially for someone under a low carb or low-calorie diet. If that is your case, try to replace the conventional rice noodle with brown rice noodles. These noodles possess a much higher fiber count.
In regard to the remaining ingredients, they are mostly used to provide flavor and seasoning. As Bun Cha is considered a highly versatile food, you can add as many vegetables as you wish to make it nutritious and colorful.
Now in terms of condiments, fish sauce is well known to be very salty; one single tablespoon can contain virtually the whole sodium intake for the day. So, if you suffer from high blood pressure issues, here are some tips for you:
- Search for a low sodium version of the sauce.
- Mix the sauce with water or pineapple juice to dilute the sodium content.
Instead of buying it in the supermarket, try to make it at home. This way you can have control over the salt content in the final product.
Bun Cha, also called Bun Cha Hanoi, is a famous traditional Vietnamese food. It is an unskippable dish if you have a planned trip to Vietnam. This tasty dish is made of pork meatballs, accompanied by grilled pork belly, rice noodles, golden broth, vegetables, and herbs; this all provides an ideal balance of fresh, savory, and sweet, typical of the Vietnamese cuisine. As to how to eat Bun Cha, most Vietnamese agree that the best way is to take a bite of each one of the ingredients that compose the plate to make the most out of it.
Even though it has lots of vegetables, some of the ingredients that compose the Bun Cha might be troublesome if you are on a low-calorie diet or suffer from high blood pressure. Some tips to make it healthier include changing the pork cut to a lean one, replacing the noodles with the brown rice equivalent, and changing the fish sauce to a low sodium peer.