"Bun cha is the dish I eat whenever I'm in Hanoi," says Melbourne-based chef Tony Tan. "This recipe comes from chef Nguyen Thi Kim Hal of the Sofitel Legend Metropole, Hanoi. It's essentially char-grilled pork and patties, vermicelli noodles, fresh herbs, pickles and a sweet broth. Go for pork with 30 per cent fat to get the best flavour, and start a day ahead to make the pickles."
- 300 gm skinless, boneless pork belly, cut into 1cm-thick slices
- 400 gm minced pork
- 250 gm rice vermicelli
- 1 butter lettuce, leaves separated
- 1 bunch each Thai basil leaves, coriander leaves and Vietnamese mint leaves
- 200 gm bean sprouts
- 1 large carrot, thinly sliced
- 150 gm green papaya (see note), thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp salt
- 100 ml rice wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 2 tbsp raw caster sugar
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 5 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 3 golden shallots, finely chopped
- 2 spring onions, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- ½ tsp five-spice powder
- 600 ml chicken stock or water
- 100 ml fish sauce
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- 100 ml lime juice or rice wine vinegar
- 1 long red chilli, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1For pickles, combine carrot, papaya and salt in a bowl. Mix well and stand to soften (20 minutes). In a separate bowl, whisk vinegar and sugar until dissolved. Rinse carrot and papaya, squeezing excess moisture, and add to pickling liquid. Cover and refrigerate to pickle (overnight).
- 2For marinade, combine raw sugar with 2 tbsp water in a small saucepan, bring to the boil, stir to dissolve, then cook until golden (1-2 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in 2 tbsp hot water (be careful, hot caramel will spit). Return to heat and stir until reduced and syrupy (1-2 minutes). Transfer caramel to a bowl and combine with remaining ingredients.
- 3Place pork belly and minced pork in two separate bowls. Add half the marinade to each bowl, tossing to coat, then cover and refrigerate to marinate (2 hours).
- 4For dipping sauce, combine stock, fish sauce, sugar and lime juice in a saucepan over low heat and stir until dissolved. Cool, then add chilli and garlic.
- 5Preheat a barbecue to high. Form minced pork mixture into small balls (about 11/2 tbsp each) and place on a tray lined with baking paper. Flatten slightly, then grill in a lightly oiled mesh grill basket, turning occasionally, until lightly charred and cooked through (4-5 minutes). Grill pork belly in another grill basket until charred and cooked through (2-3 minutes each side).
- 6Cook vermicelli in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender (1-2 minutes). Drain, refresh and divide among bowls. Spoon some pickles into dipping sauce and divide among bowls. Arrange lettuce and meat on top. Add herbs and sprouts. Serve with remaining dipping sauce and pickles.
Green papaya is available from select greengrocers. If it's unavailable, substitute with daikon.
Drink suggestion: Zesty, off-dry riesling. Drink suggestion by Max Allen.