Grilled Pork and Noodle Salad Recipe

Bun Thit Nu’ong Street Vendor, Ho Chih Minh City

Vietnam is know for it’s amazing street food with barbecue and noodle vendors found on nearly every street corner. Beside the classic Vietnamese beef noodle soup, Pho, one of my favorites dishes is Bun Thit Nu’ong, a cold rice noodle dish topped with savory grill pork and slivers of colorful pickled vegetables and herbs served with pungent fish sauce.

Bun Thit Nu’ong – BBQ Pork Noodle Salad

Vietnamese food is all about using an abundance of fresh vegetables and herbs, simple steamed or stir-fried or grilled seafood or meat and ever so subtle seasoning to bring out flavor in the fresh produce and meat. Bun thit nu’ong is the epitome of Southern Vietnamese cooking. It is popular street fare that is eaten anytime of day, displaying the signature layers of flavors and textures by combining crunchy raw and pickled vegetables and cold rice vermicelli with hot, crispy grilled pork topped with peanuts and handful of herbs.

A combination between a dry noodle dish and salad, the seasoning of bun thit nu’ong is a unique and tasty blend of ingredients. The salad is drizzled with with a green onion oil and the classic, Nuoc Mam Cham, a mildly spicy, sweet, salty and sour sauce infused with garlic, chilis and lime. Served with most Vietnamese dishes; nuoc mam cham is used as a dipping sauce for spring rolls, grilled meats and seasoning for stir-fried dishes and in this case, as a dressing for a noodle salad.

Cha Gio – Fried Spring Rolls

Flash fried spring rolls called Cha Gio are the typical accompaniment served with bun thit nu’ong, but I find this one dish meal perfectly satisfying without turning on the stove. To make the recipe less time consuming to prepare,  I recommend prepping several parts of the recipe in advance. Make the green onion infused oil and pickle vegetables a day or two before to bring out the multi-layered flavors and textures in this dish.

Make Pickled Vegetables Ahead

I always prep more ingredients than the recipe calls for, to make sure I have enough to make Goi Cuon, rice paper rolls or Banh Mi, a Vietnamese sandwich of grilled meat, pickled vegetables and a spread of pate on a crusty french roll.

Banh Mi – BBQ Pork Sandwich

Bun Thit Nu’ong – BBQ Pork and Rice Noodle Salad Recipe

14 oz rice noodles, dried, round and very thin
1 lb pork shoulder
1 small bunch mint
1 small bunch cilantro
4 green onions, thinly sliced on the bias
2 cups bean sprouts
1 English cucumber, cut into 4 inch matchsticks
1 small head Romaine lettuce, thinly sliced
1 cup pickled vegetables (recipe below)
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely crushed
Pickled Vegetables*
1 cup carrots, thinly sliced into 3 inch matchsticks
1 cup daikon, thinly sliced into 3 inch matchsticks
2 green jalapeno chilies, sliced into thin rounds, on the bias
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1/4 cup fish sauce
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 cloves garlic, smashed

3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced shallots
1/4 cup minced lemongrass
6 black peppercorns
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons grated palm sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil

Green Onion Oil*
1/2 cup canola oil
6 green onions, coarsely chopped
1/8 teaspoon salt
pinch of sugar

Nuoc Cham Mam – dressing*
3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 serrano chili, seeded and thinly sliced

For the pickled vegetables, combine the vinegar, fish sauce, sugar, salt, and garlic in a medium sauce pan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Fill each sterilized mason jar full of equal amounts of the sliced daikon, carrots and jalapeno. Add the pickling liquid, and place in the refrigerator for several hours, preferably overnight.

To marinate the meat, use a mortar and pestle or a food processor to grind together the garlic, shallots, lemongrass, peppercorns and 1 tablespoon of water into a thick paste. Transfer the paste to a bowl and whisk in the soy sauce, fish sauce, palm sugar and vegetable oil.  Place the sliced pork in a large sealable plastic bag and pour the marinade on top and combine until the meat is well coated with the marinade. Refrigerate for at least four hours, or overnight.

For the green onion oil, heat 1/2 cup of oil in a sauce pan over low heat. Once the oil is hot, add the green onions, salt and sugar and stir until the onions are tender but still bright green, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the green onions steep for 20 minutes. Use a fine sieve to strain the oil into a clean container. Discard the green onions and set aside the oil at room temperature until ready to serve. The oil can keep up to 1 week refrigerated.

For the dressing, use a mortar and pestle or a mini-food processor to grind the garlic and sugar into a paste. Transfer into a bowl and whisk in the fish sauce, lime juice, rice vinegar and ¼ cup water. Pour through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl and add the chili. Set aside until ready to use.

To grill the pork, heat a grill or grill pan over high heat and remove the meat from the marinade. Pat the meat dry and sear the pieces of pork until crisp and mahogany brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the meat to a platter.

Rice Vermicelli

Place the rice noodles in a large pot of boiling water with 1 tablespoon of salt. Boil the noodles for about 2 to 3 minutes, stirring so they do not stick. The noodles should be al dente. Drain the noodles and flush with cold water to stop from over cooking. Divide the noodles between 4 large soup bowls. Garnish the top with grilled pork, lots of fresh herbs, green onions, cucumbers, bean sprouts, pickled vegetables, crushed roasted peanuts, and dress lightly with the green onion oil and nuoc cham mam . Serve with extra nuoc cham cham on the side.

*The pickled vegetables, green onion oil and nuoc cham mam can be made several days in advance.