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Vietnamese Bun Cha - Bun Thit Nuong Difference


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I've been trying to find the difference between the two dishes. They seem very similar. My wife is Vietnamese, she always gets bun thit nuong or bun thit nuong cha gio (grilled pork with spring rolls).

I saw No Reservations w/ Anthony Bourdain when he went to Vietnam and one of the dishes he got was Bun Cha. It seems very similar to Bun Thit Nuong. I know, at least I think I do, that it is a northern dish from Hanoi. The difference I noticed from the show is that you leave the dipping sauce in a bowl and dip your noodles, veggies, meat in the sauce and eat it that way. The way my wife eats Bun Thit Nuong is to pour the dipping sauce into the bowl and mix it all up and eat it that way.

I also noticed that a difference with the dipping sauce is that it had papaya in it, I'm assuming green papaya. Other than that and the way it is eaten, I didn't see much of a difference between the two.

Well, after some more research, couldn't find much on the web, I looked through my many Vietnamese cookbooks. I was able to find what I was looking for, whether it is or not I'm not sure.

The cookbook is "Vietnamese Home Cooking" by Nguyen Thanh Van. In the book she has two dipping sauces, Nuoc Cham (sauce my wife uses) and Nuoc Cham Nem. Nuoc Cham Nem looks like the sauce that was used in the No Reservations episode. The difference between the two dipping sauces:

Nuoc Cham Nem has: a little less garlic, rice vinegar instead of lime juice, shredded green papaya, and a little ground pepper.

Does anyone know anything about this, am I on the right track? Thanks for any help anyone can provide.

-z

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I'm still searching for a recipe for the "sauce" that is used for bun cha. I do not think it is the standard nuoc cham.

As far as the meat and the grilling goes, i'm not sure how different they are, but bun cha usually has meatballs as well as grilled pork strips. I can also attest that bun cha in Hanoi is amazing.

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I second (or third) the Bun Cha in Hanoi..... I'm considering going back there just for it! There's a thread on the eGullet somewhere where we were discussing bun cha and I think the consensus was that one of the components to the sauce was "caramel sauce" - I gather it's easy to make - just caramelize sugar and add water or I think you can find it in an asian grocery... Nakji wasthe poster - and we were discussing it while she was living in Hanoi and was trying to ask her friend to ask one of the guys on the street how it was made...

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Thanks for the responses. I don't think it was caramel sauce in with it, it looked closer to Nuoc Cham, the caramel sauce would have made it dark, at least I would think so.

I'll be going to Vietnam in June 2010, so I'll definitely have to try it out there. In the meantime I'll keep looking and researching.

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jmolinari, I'll have to try the caramel sauce in the nuoc cham.

In the episode they took the ingredients, and dipped it into a bowl on nuoc cham on the side. My was who is originally from Saigon, pours the sauce over the bowl of noodles, meat and veggies. I guess that is more of a southern Vietnam thing.

In Bobby Chin's vietnamese cookbook, he makes his caramel sauce with Palm Sugar. I wonder if that is what they use in Vietnam? I'm going to try making it with that next time I make some. I always use white sugar, water and fish sauce.

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I can't say for certain as I'm no expert on Northern Vietnamese cuisine, but I don't think it's caramel sauce in the bun cha sauce. Caramel sauce would've gave it a thicker consistency and as discussed, the sauce we're talking about is more liquid/soupy. I'm guessing that it's the nuoc cham (minus the chillis) with added marinade and meat fats/oils from the grilled pork. *thinking* Yep, I'm going to go with the meat oils/fats.

Reminds me of cha ca thang long, which is drenched in flavoured oils as well.

Musings and Morsels - a film and food blog

http://musingsandmorsels.weebly.com/

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My friend's lady on the street in Hanoi swears the bun cha dipping sauce is only green papaya (cut into small flat green squares, not shredded) a little vinegar and water. There's probably MSG in there, too, actually, now that I think about it. The dipping sauce in Hanoi is always a tinge brownish, so I couldn't entirely rule out a little diluted caramel sauce. But word on the street swore it was only three ingredients.

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