Monday, August 10, 2015

Bun Thit Nuong (Vietnamese Vermicelli)

My recent obsession has been Vietnamese Vermicelli with grilled pork, or Bun Thit Nuong. I was first introduced to this dish by a co-worker within the last year. Actually, I had my first try of this dish a few years ago when I decided to become adventurous at a local Vietnamese restaurant. Rather than ordering my usual Pho, I decided to give a dry noodle a taste. When I did, it really was a dry noodle. It wasn't bad. It was just that nothing stood out of the dish. Who eats just salad with noodles?! So I never ordered it again on my own.

Then one day, a few co-workers and I went out to lunch. We decided to share plates so we could try different dishes. One of my co-workers ordered the Bun. She poured all the sauce on top of the dish and mixed the whole salad up. She equally plated the noodle salad dish on each or our plates and then I took my first bite from a real Bun Thit Nuong. It was love at first bite. I realized that you don't just dip the meat in the sauce. The sauce was the dressing! DUH!!! lol. The sauce, better known as Nuoc Cham, made a whole difference in the world as I knew it. Aside from getting its flavor from the grilled pork, the sauce made the dish. From that day on, whenever there was Bun on the menu, its the only thing I order. Its a large bowl of lettuce and rice noodles with all kinds of different toppings - pickled carrots and daikon, sliced cucumbers, cilantro, bean sprouts, fried onions, crushed peanuts, and grilled meat. Its so filling, but so light. And I just love it.

This recipe is actually a shortcut recipe, in that I used a prepared grilled pork, a Filipino delicacy called Tocino. It has the same flavor as the grilled pork they put at the restaurant we went to. For the pickled Carrot and Daikon, I used this recipe from Hungry Huy. However, I have since been eliminating the daikon altogether. If you aren't familiar with a daikon, please be warned that though its supper yummy, it releases a very foul odor that lasts in the kitchen for a very long time. The Nuoc cham was made using this recipe from This dish came out just as good as the restaurant's. I was so excited, because now I can have Bun anytime I want. Maybe one day, I'll make the grilled pork from scratch. But to get a quick fix, I'll stick with the prepared tocino. For now.

chopped lettuce
cooked vermicelli/rice noodles
prepared grilled pork or Filipino tocino
cilantro leaves
cucumbers, julienned
bean sprouts
fried onions
crushed peanuts
pickled daikon & carrots (recipe below)
Nuoc cham (dressing recipe below)

1) Layer the bottom of a large serving bowl with chopped lettuce. Top with cooked vermicelli noodles.

2) Arrange the remaining ingredients in a nice pattern, except the nuoc cham, on top of the noodles.  When ready to eat, pour nuoc cham on top of the noodle salad and toss until evenly coated. Enjoy!

For the pickled daikon & carrots 
1/2 lb. daikon radish
1/2 lb. carrots
1 Tbsp. salt
1/2 cup hot water to dissolve 5 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup water
4 Tbsp. distilled white vinegar

(note: Daikon radish emits a very foul odor, but tastes so yummy. If the odor really bothers you, you can totally eliminate the daikon radish and double up on the carrots)

1) Julienne the carrots and daikon (you can use your food processor for your convenience). Sprinkle salt and toss well. Allow to sit for 15 minutes.

2) Rinse the carrots and daikon well, and squeeze out excess moisture. Dry and add in mason jars.

3) Dissolve sugar in hot water. Combine with the remaining water and vinegar. Pour on top of the vegetables until completely covered. Seal and store at room temperature until pickled to your taste, about 12-24 hours. Refrigerate up to 3 weeks until ready to use.

For the Nuoc cham
4 large garlic cloves, finely minced
2 Thai red chilies, finely minced (or 1 tsp. red chili flakes)
1 can coconut water (or 1 1/2 cup water)
6 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1) In a medium bowl, combine coconut water (or regular water) with the sugar. Whisk until sugar completely dissolves.

2) Add fish sauce, garlic, chilies and stir until combined. Add lime juice and stir.

3) Check for taste and add more sugar, fish sauce, or lime juice as needed. Store in an air tight container and refrigerate for up to 4 months.