Vietnamese Bun Cha Gio
Let’s talk about Bun Cha Gio and Vietnamese food… In college, one of my dearest friends and I, often scheduled lunch dates at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant.
One day, we entered the restaurant and were intercepted by a young cute Vietnamese waiter who was still learning English. He led us to our table as we chatted and giggled away.
The waiter, who seemed to show a special interest in our dining experience, hovered over us, trying to make conversation. We felt a little embarrassed at the extra attention.
As he took our order, he asked me if I wanted my meal to be mild or spicy. I answered, “Spicy, please.” He smoothly winked and answered, “Ahhhh, spicy food for a spicy personality!” Yes, even with broken English, he had game. Some things cross all cultural boundaries.
Even though that was close to twenty years ago, my friend and I never miss an opportunity to slip that unforgettable line to each other, “Spicy food for a spicy personality.”
Bun Cha Gio Ingredients
The town I grew up in has a significant Vietnamese population with incredible restaurants and vast Asian markets. Exploring the Asian markets is a feast for the eyes, especially the produce department and meat counter.
Vietnamese Bun Cha Gio is a traditional pork noodle salad, served in a bowl with fresh veggies and nuoc cham, an acidic dressing/dipping sauce. Fresh Herbs, rice noodles, and other condiments make this recipe what it is.
Here’s what you need to make it…
For the Grilled Pork
- Boneless Pork Chops
- Fresh Grated Ginger
- Minced Garlic Cloves
- Fish Sauce
- Soy Sauce (gluten-free)
For the Nuoc Cham Dressing
- Warm Water
- Rice Vinegar or White Vinegar
- Fish Sauce
- Minced Garlic Clove
- Chili-Garlic Sauce
- Shredded Carrot
For the Salad
- Cooked Rice Vermicelli Noodles
- Mung Bean Sprouts
- Shredded Carrots
- Sliced Cucumbers
- Chopped Cilantro, Basil, or Mint
- Chopped Peanuts
- Chopped Green Onions
- Frozen Spring Rolls (gluten-free)
How To Make Bun Cha
Let’s start out with the pork which is the main protein source for this Bun Cha Gio salad bowl recipe. My top suggestion for this step is to make sure you freeze your pork! It makes it so much easier to slice thin. Trust me!
- Freeze the pork for 30 minutes to firm it up. Then cut each chop in half length-wise and thinly slice (1 mm). If already frozen, thaw halfway before slicing.
- Mix the ginger, garlic, fish sauce, soy sauce, and sugar together. Then toss with pork in a bowl. Allow the pork to marinate for 30 minutes.
- Heat a large wok or skillet to high heat (medium/medium-high won’t do). Drain the pork well. Add peanut or vegetable oil to the wok. Stir fry the pork for 1-3 minutes.
Marinating your pork and then stir-frying in oil makes this part of the dish SO flavorful! If you’re looking to make this recipe gluten-free make sure to use gluten-free soy sauce.
Nuoc Cham is normally made with sweetened lime juice and fish sauce, but I discovered that restaurants often make theirs with rice vinegar instead of lime. I find I actually prefer this method, as it cuts out a little of the “bite”.
- Mix the warm water and sugar in a small bowl. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
- Then add rice vinegar, fish sauce, garlic, chili garlic sauce, salt, and shredded carrots. Set aside the nuoc cham.
The nuoc cham is the only source of spicy heat in Vietnam’s Bun Cha Gio, so add as much or as little as you want to the salad. You can also boost the heat by adding more chili-garlic sauce.
Gio’ is the Vietnamese word for fried spring rolls. Hot, chopped spring rolls are added to the top of the salad for crunch.
In order to speed up the prep time on this dish, I did not make our spring rolls from scratch. Instead, I bought good-quality frozen spring rolls and baked them in the oven. It provides the extra flavor and crunch without turning this meal into a 2-hour cooking affair.
- Preheat the oven to the necessary temperature provided on the spring roll package.
- Drizzle a little oil on a cookie sheet and roll the frozen spring rolls in it.
- Cook the spring rolls according to the provided instructions.
- Chop the spring rolls into 1/2-inch pieces.
If you prefer to make your own spring rolls, feel free to do so!
Vietnamese Salad Bowl Prep
Now assemble the whole salad bowl! Bun Cha Gio is pretty simple to put together…
- Place a large handful of noodles in the bottom of four bowls. Top each with sprouts, shredded carrots, cucumbers, cilantro, and green onions.
- Place the pork and spring rolls on top, and sprinkle with chopped peanuts.
- Serve with nuoc cham on the side, so each person can add as much as they desire!
Bold and healthy Vietnamese Bun Cha Gio is something I crave on a regular basis. My kids are crazy over it, and I bet yours will be too!
It’s so popular and delicious, that even Anthony Bourdain chose to treat President Obama to this Vietnamese street food recipe.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can This Be Made Using Pork Shoulder?
Yes, you could cook it using the same instruction. Just make sure to slice it thin against the grain.
Could I Substitute The Vinegar?
If you are sensitive to vinegar, you can swap it for lime juice as well, or use half rice vinegar and half lime juice.
More Vietnamese Dishes to Try!
- Low Carb Vietnamese Chicken Pho Recipe
- Vietnamese Coffee Bread Pudding
- Vietnamese Spring Rolls
- Vietnamese Coffee Popsicles
- Som Tum Green Papaya Salad
- Bun Cha Hanoi by Carolines Cooking
- Banh Xeo Recipe from Hungry Huy
Vietnamese Bun Cha Gio
For the Pork:
For the Nuoc Cham Dressing:
For the Salad:
- 1 package cooked rice vermicelli noodles
- 2 cups mung bean sprouts
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 1 cup sliced cucumbers
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro or basil
- 1/2 cup chopped peanuts
- 1/2 cup chopped green onions
- 1 package frozen spring rolls (gluten-free)
- Freeze the pork for 30 minutes to firm it up. Then cut each chop in half length-wise and thinly slice (1 mm). If already frozen, thaw half way before slicing. Mix the next five ingredients and toss with pork in a bowl. Allow the pork to marinate for 30 minutes.
- For the Nuoc Cham: Mix the warm water and sugar in a small bowl. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Then add the following six ingredients and set aside the nuoc cham.
- Preheat the oven to the necessary temperature provided on the spring roll package. Drizzle a little oil on a cookie sheet and roll the frozen spring rolls in it. Cook the spring rolls according to the provided instructions.
- Heat a large wok or skillet to high heat. Drain the pork well. Add 1 tablespoon of peanut or vegetable oil to the wok. Stir fry the pork for 1-3 minutes. Chop the spring rolls into 1/2-inch pieces.
- To plate: Place a large hand-full of noodles in the bottom of four bowls. Top each with sprouts, shredded carrots, cucumbers, cilantro, and green onions. Place the pork and spring rolls on top, and sprinkle with chopped peanuts. Serve with nuoc cham on the side, so each person can add as much as they desire!
Making this recipe? Follow us on Instagram and tag @ASpicyPerspective so we can share what you’re cooking!