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People from all over the world may know Pho as a Vietnamese rice noodle dish, which is so famous worldwide that it is officially defined in the Oxford Dictionary. However, that is not the only rice noodle in Vietnam. In this Vietnamese food guide, we will introduce to you another type of rice vermicelli and a famous dish using it called "Bun Thit Nuong" (Rice vermicelli/noodles with grilled pork).
Bun thit nuong is one of the various variations of Vietnam’s traditional rice noodles. No one knows exactly what was the inspiration to make this dish, but Bun thit nuong has become familiar to many Vietnamese, especially the people in the South. Bun, or rice vermicelli, served with different types of protein, especially grilled pork, herbs, and fish sauce, instead of putting it in soup, is a typical combination of many dishes in Southern Vietnam. Some people also said that Bun thit nuong is a version of Bun cha in Hanoi. The two are similar in the ingredients used, but in Bun thit nuong, the fish sauce is much thicker, and people usually mix the rice noodle with fish sauce instead of dipping it in like when eating Bun cha.
In Ho Chi Minh City, Bun thit nuong is so popular that you can easily find it in vendors on the street, in small stores, and even in an expensive restaurant. The locals rank it as one of the most common daily foods because you can find it anywhere, and eat it as a quick meal at any time of the day. You can eat it for breakfast, brunch, lunch, a light meal between lunch and dinner, or even dinner. Besides, if you have to work hard and miss dinner, a bowl of Bun thit nuong at late night would be a good reward. That is the reason why Bun thit nuong is a representative of Vietnamese foods taking part in The Southeast Asia Street Eats Festival 2017 taken place in Singapore.
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The pork is washed carefully before being cut into small pieces and flavored by mixing with other spices like garlic, shallot, salt, and pepper. Each restaurant will have different ways of seasoning, and that is the secret of their delicious Bun thit nuong. After marinating for 1 - 2 hours, the meat will be grilled on a charcoal stove. The flavor of the mixture brings out an unbearably good smell during grilling that attracts you from a very long distance.
Rice vermicelli is a kind of noodle; it is different from ramen which is mainly made from wheat flour. Rice vermicelli is made entirely from rice flour, a staple food of Vietnamese. It is usually mistaken for cellophane noodles, a type of transparent vermicelli made from mung bean starch or rice starch. Rice vermicelli is white and softer than cellophane, which is why it is very common not only in Vietnamese cuisines but also in Chinese, Thai, and other Southeast Asian cuisines. It can be eaten with soups, soy sauce, or fish sauce.
Pickled Carrot and Radish
The carrot and radish pickles are one of many Vietnamese pickles that have become traditional side dishes of many families and reflect the features of their origin region. It is also a signature ingredient of Banh mi.
You can easily make this pickle by draining the water in carrot and radish by mixing them with salt for about 20 minutes, then soaking the vegetable in a combination of vinegar, water, and sugar. You can also add garlic and shallot for fragrance. The carrot and radish do not only add vibrant colors like red and white to the Bun thit nuong dish but also balance the fat of grilled pork with a little sour touch of vinegar and the freshness of the vegetables.
Other Vegetables and Herbs
These ingredients are typical of many Southern Vietnam rice vermicelli dishes. Julienne cucumber, thinly chopped Vietnamese coriander, basil, and lettuce are put in the bowl of Bun thit nuong to add a bit of green, freshness, juiciness, and crunchiness.
Sweet Fish Sauce
The sweet fish sauce is an integral part of Bun thit nuong. It decides whether the dish is good or not. The person who marinated the grilled pork and the one who makes the sauce must be one because these two ingredients make up most of the savory flavor and textures of the dish. The sauce is a mixture of fish sauce, sugar, lime, garlic, chili, and sometimes, pepper to enhance the taste.
Fried Spring Roll
This kind of food can be served in all seasons of the year and appears in almost every menu of Vietnamese restaurants. The fried spring roll was a favorite dish in the South of Vietnam and then brought to the North. It had become an instant hit in Hanoi, and people started to call fried spring roll by the name "Nem Saigon" to remember the real origin of the dish. The crispy thin layer of rice paper outside and a warm, juicy, soft, meaty filling inside are delicious by themselves, but when accompanied by other ingredients of Bun thit nuong, fried spring roll will be a feast for your taste buds.
Green Onion Oil and Ground Peanuts
A drizzle of green onion oil and ground peanuts on top will make the noodles clump easily come off and soften the grilled pork. They also add flavors and texture to the delicious dish. You may notice that this combination is often seen in many grilled dishes like Vietnamese snails and shells.
1. Ms. Tuyen
Address: 195 Co Giang, District 1
Opening hour: 7 AM - 10 PM
Price: VND 40,000
2. Vi Sai Gon
Address: 487 Nguyen Tri Phuong, District 10
Opening hours: 10 AM - 9 PM
Price: VND 35,000 - 45,000
3. Sau Can
Address: 300 Bui Dinh Tuy, Ward 12, Binh Thanh District
Opening hours: 6 AM - 10 PM
Price: VND 25,000
4. Hai Dang
Address: 145 - 147 Chan Hung, Ward 6, Tan Binh District
Opening hours: 11 AM - 10 PM
Price: VND 20,000 - 25,000
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Bun thit nuong is not just a popular Vietnamese street food, but it is considered a special dish of Vietnam to take part in many festival foods in Asia. Tasting it once and you would be amazed at how various flavors can harmonize in this Vietnamese food.
Have you ever tried this dish before? Tell us how you feel in the comments below.
If you want more Vietnamese foods in Ho Chi Minh City besides Bun Thit Nuong, our I Love Food Tour and I Really Love Food Tour are perfect offers for you.
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a southern version of bun cha