Bun Cha – Vietnamese Grilled Pork Meatballs Recipe

by katerina on January 3, 2012

Bun Cha or Bún Chả was one of my favorite street food discoveries in Vietnam. Juicy pork meatballs are partly flattened and grilled over an open flame, then served in a warm sweet broth. As with many meals in Vietnam the entire dish is lighter than you expect as it is served with vermicelli noodles and fresh herbs.

Grilled Pork Meatballs Recipe

Making this meal at home is very easy and is a great candidate for a quick weeknight meal since it takes less than 30 minutes. The key to success is to find ground pork which isn’t super lean. As with any great burger or meatball fat is a key to juiciness. Unfortunately I don’t always have open flame available in my kitchen but even a stove top grill produces a delicious Bun Cha.

Haven’t had a chance to read about my travels in Vietnam, Hong Kong & Cambodia? Read all about it here:
Foodie Travel Diary Pt1: Hong Kong – Shiny Meats and Chicken’s Feet
Foodie Travel Diary Pt2: Vietnam – Noodle Soup for Breakfast
Foodie Travel Diary Pt3: Vietnam – A Country of Foodies
Foodie Travel Diary Pt4: Vietnam – How to Navigate Street Food

Print Recipe

Vietnamese Grilled Pork Meatballs

(serves 2 )

200g ground pork
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1 finely sliced scallion, white part only
Dipping sauce:
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoon fish sauce
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 fresh birds eye chili
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 carrot
Serve with:
Fresh Herbs, ideally cilantro, mint and basil
Fresh lettuce
Vermicelli noodles

Combine the meatball ingredients into a bowl: pork, fish sauce, salt, pepper, sugar, and scallion. Use your hands to thoroughly combine the spices with the meat. Divide the meat into 6 equal parts and form each into a small, slightly flat ball. Heat your grill to medium-high to high heat.

To prepare the broth put the water, garlic and sugar into a small saucepan. Prepare the chili. If you found a real birds eye chili I suggest you wear gloves for this. Cut the chili in half and remove the seeds, slice in half and add to the broth along with the fish sauce. Bring to a simmer, stir so that the sugar dissolves and remove the broth from the heat. Stir in the tablespoon of lemon juice. Use a peeler to peel some very thin strips off of the carrot and add it to the broth. If your kitchen is warm, just leave it covered until you serve the meatballs or you can keep it on a low flame if your kitchen is cold.

Put a pot of water on to boil to cook the vermicelli noodles.

Grease your grill well and grill the meatballs on each side until thoroughly cooked. You want them to have a nice char but still be juicy. Remove to a plate, and quickly cook your vermicelli noodles in the boiling water, watch them carefully as they likely will only need 45 seconds or so. Drain them quickly and rinse them under cool water to help stop them from sticking together.

Plate it all together. To eat it like they do in Hanoi, serve the meatballs in a bowl of warm broth with vermicelli, herbs and fresh greens on the side, adding vermicelli and herbs to it as you eat. I quite like just piling it all into a bowl to begin with.

Prep Time: 15 minutes | Cooking Time: 15 minutes | Total Time:30 minutes
Calories(approximate per serving): 300

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Peter January 3, 2012 at 6:35 am

Kat, those look freakin’ good! All the best in the New Year.


Sylvie January 3, 2012 at 9:33 am

That went straight into my to-try folder.


katerina January 3, 2012 at 11:11 am

Happy New Year Peter!

Sylvie – let me know when you do.


Liz Thomas January 3, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Oh! You’ve really taken me back with this one!

We had these in Hanoi years ago at a tiny street stall sitting on those highly uncomfortable little blue stools drinking the local beer! They were so delicious.

There were two young girls (I mean really young, only about 12 years old) working there. They had just come into the city from the country and were really shy. It’s sad that they have to start work at such a young age but the families needed the money to feed and clothe the younger brothers and sisters. It’s a different world. They were lovely girls and the lady owner of the stall treated them like her own children.

I am so pleased you posted this recipe and I’m filing it — going to Thailand next week so won’t have time to do it before we go but definitely when we get back.

Thanks and wishing you a very Happy New Year — any more travels planned?
Liz in Macau


katerina January 4, 2012 at 9:00 am

Hanoi was where we had it too. Twice, despite only being there for two days. It was pho, suop, bun cha repeat.

It was always hard to tell how old some of the people were and sometimes they were so young! The bartender on our Halong bay cruise was only 16.

I am heading to Italy and France in May for 3 weeks… I am sure ideas will come out of that too.


Liz Thomas January 4, 2012 at 9:05 pm

We have a house in France — in the Dordogne — no where near as smart as it sounds as it is not properly renovated but I do have a workable kitchen which makes it fun.

So expensive in Europe these days though. Hoping to be there ourselves in August.



Hapa Couple January 17, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Thank you for sharing this recipe. We tried your recipe, making a couple changes since we are on the Dukan Diet and it came out great! (Changes were, lean turkey instead of pork and Tofu Shirataki noodles – not as yummy as vermicelli, but still good with the broth)


katerina January 17, 2012 at 4:08 pm

@Hapa – excellent, what an interesting adaptation, I bet turkey would work really well. Thanks for sharing.


L January 17, 2012 at 8:28 pm

Just made this tonight, it was SO GOOD. So so so good, definitely a keeper! AND no eggs, corn, soy, wheat, nuts, dairy, tomatoes….very allergy friendly :)


katerina January 18, 2012 at 9:26 am

Soooo glad it worked out L! Glad to hear it is allergy friendly :)


adrie December 20, 2012 at 3:51 am

I made this dish tonight for my fiancee and our friend. It was a success. Thank you. I added fresh grated ginger and sesame oil to the meat, as well as cut up shrimp. I can’t wait to eat any leftovers tomorrow.


katerina December 27, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Cut up shrimp? Sounds delicious! Thanks for reporting back.


Liz August 7, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Sounds delicious – thank you!


An April 28, 2014 at 4:46 am

It looks tasty ^^. Must have it for my lunch!


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