The photo above should really say it all. But just in case you still need an introduction, bun thit nuong (grilled pork with noodles) is a classic Vietnamese dish that appears on nearly every Vietnamese restaurant menu. And boy, is it a fabulous treat for summer grilling!
2 lbs pork butt or shoulder, thinly sliced against the grain (a fatty cut is key to keeping the meat moist during grilling)
2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
8-10 metal skewers (if using bamboo skewers, get the long ones and soak them in water for 30 minutes)
1 16 oz. package rice vermicelli (look for the word “Bun” on the package)
Lettuce and herbs:
8-10 leaves romaine lettuce, cut thin or shredded
1 cup fresh mint leaves, rinsed and dried (Thai basil would also work)
1 1/2 cups cucumbers, julienned
1 cup bean sprout, rinsed and dried
3 scallions, thinly sliced
a couple pinches of salt
4 tablespoons neutral oil, like canola or sunflower
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
one Thai bird chili, minced or sliced if you don’t want too much spiciness
5 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1 cup water
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup fried shallots
1/4 cup crushed roasted peanuts
Grilled pork: In a mini-prep (or food processor or blender), pulse the scallions, garlic, shallot, oil, soy sauce, fish sauce, honey and black pepper. In a large mixing bowl, combine sliced pork and marninade, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 hours. (Use the marinating time to prepare the noodles and herb salad.) Skewer meat on metal or bamboo skewers, being careful to not pack the meat too tightly. Light grill and when coals are ready, grill skewers for 4-5 minutes per side over indirect heat. Transfer grilled skewers to a platter.
Noodles: Make the noodles while the pork marinates. Place 3-4 quarts of water in a pot (enough to completely cover the noodles, use less if you are making less noodles) and bring to a vigorous boil. Add dried noodle pieces and make sure they are entirely submerged. Bring pot back to a boil and then immediately remove from heat and cover pot. After five minutes, drain noodles and rinse thoroughly under cold water, shaking them to remove excess liquid. Noodles should be room temperature, though not cold, for serving.
Scallion oil: Heat oil in a small pan until very hot. You can test the oil by dropping in a slice of scallion, if there is sizzling, then you’re good to go. Place scallions in a ramekin or other heat-resistant dish, add a pinch or two of kosher salt and pour hot oil over. Allow mixture to sit for at least 5 minutes for the flavors to mesh.
Nuoc cham: Every Vietnamese family has a jar of this sauce in their home and every one makes it a little bit different. Some like it bit sweeter, spicier, saltier or more tart. Use this recipe as a base and tweak to suit your own taste. To avoid too much spiciness, slice the pepper into 2-3 chunks instead of mincing. Combine minced garlic, chili peppers, lime juice, sugar, water and fish sauce in a small bowl. Stir to make sure sugar dissolves completely. Keeps in fridge for 10 days. In the picture I’ve also added some thinly sliced radishes and onions.
Assembly: Place a small handful of lettuce/cuke/bean sprouts/herbs in a bowl, then place roughly 1 to 1 1 1/2 cups noodles on top. Add skewers atop noodles, garnish with scallion oil, fried shallots, crushed peanuts, and a couple spoonfuls of nuoc cham. Makes 4-6 servings.