Cook this: Easy pork bun cha

IMG_2812-4.JPG

I decided to make a version of my favourite Vietnamese dish for dinner the other night – bun cha. I grabbed out my very trusty cook book that I got at the Morning Glory Cooking School for some inspiration from Ms Vy’s version, which calls for minced pork patties.

Because I’m giving this whole low FODMAPs thing a go, it sadly lacked the shallots and garlic I’d have usually used, otherwise I really didn’t change a lot! After glancing quickly at the picture in the cook book for a little inspiration, I made up a quick and easy version that will be super easy to re-create for dinner even on the nights I’m in a bit of a hurry.

To make this quick and healthy bun cha for 2, you’re going to need:
– 300g minced pork
– finely grated zest of 1 lemon
– 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
– 1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves
– 1 small shallot, finely diced, as well as 1 crushed clove of garlic (leave these out if you need it low FODMAPs!)

– rice noodles, as much as you want, cooked as per packet instructions
– 1 carrot, peeled and grated
– 1 cucumber, halved lengthways and thinly sliced
– fresh coriander and chives, to serve

To make the pork patties, combine all of the ingredients and mush them together with your hands. Roll them into balls and flatten slightly, cooking them for a few minutes on each side on a hot pan sprayed with cooking oil. Or, if your very Aussie husband is cooking them while you’re preparing the rest of the meal, cook them up on the BBQ. We are coming into BBQ weather, after all.

To serve, pop your noodles in a bowl. Add the carrot and cucumber, then the pork patties. Sprinkle some fresh coriander and chives over the top, and spoon some sweet and sour chilli sauce over it, too (recipe below). How easy is that?! It’s also highly advisable to double the quantities so you can have the leftovers for lunch the day after!

IMG_2811-4.JPG
SWEET CHILLI SAUCE – if you’re keen and want to make your own (which I’d recommend, it’s actually really easy!):
– 3 tbsp lemon juice
– 3 tbsp fish sauce
– 1 tbsp caster sugar
– 2 tbsp cold water
– 1 small shallot, diced and crushed a little
– 1 small red chilli, sliced

To make your chilli sauce, just combine everything in a bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves. To be perfectly honest, this is not a perfect science; the taste can easily vary depending on your lemon and type of fish sauce, so it is absolutely imperative that you taste it and just adjust accordingly! Once it’s all done, just set it aside – left over sauce also keeps really well in the fridge for a week or so in an air-proof container or jar.

Ben Thanh Night Market, Ho Chi Minh City

This is definitely one of the cooler markets I’ve been to. I’d read a little bit about it online when I Googled “night markets in Ho Chi Minh City,” learning that there was a day market there, housed in sheds and mostly undercover, but it really came into its own at night. The regular market shuts down at around 6pm, and then the mayhem begins, which we learnt the hard way.

Sib and I left our hotel room at around 5.30pm, ready to eat our weight in street food (we’d heard it was pretty good there). We figured if the market started up around 6.30pm, we’d have an hour to find our way (without a map, relying solely on the lovely doorman’s instructions, vaguely pointed to us from the hotel lobby) and dawdle a little in the process. When we arrived, we found the day time market still open, so we took a quick wander around, stopping to purchase some green tea.

We became suddenly very aware of the fact that all of the stalls seems to be packing up at once, quite abruptly, and we were clumsy nuisances tripping over semi-collapsed trestle tables and garbage bags; we stumbled back out to the street, surveying our options. We decided to take a walk around the outside of the market to see if we could work out where this night market would be set up. What happened next was without a doubt one of the most comical, peculiar, preposterous thing I think I’ve ever seen. We looked up the street and saw a line of men and women running tents and pergolas down the street, in amongst the traffic!

IMG_4959As we watched on, we witnessed the set up of the night market; it was mental. Complete madness. I don’t know how else to describe it. One moment, the area was empty, a few minutes later, the marquees we’d seen being wheeled down the street at breakneck speed were up, being wired with lighting and cooking stations were being fired up. A few minutes later, hand bags and watches were starting to come out of large sacks, being carefully laid out. We were stunned. We’d never seen anything like it! We decided to go grab a cold drink at a café and wait another 30 minutes or so to give the market a chance to set up properly.
IMG_4963When we returned, it was ready. I really couldn’t believe the speed and efficiency with which it was all done – if I hadn’t seen it myself, I’d have never believed it. The market itself was pretty good – small, lots of stuff to appeal to tourists, handicrafts, clothing, designer knock offs and what not. But it was the food that was the best.

We stopped at what seemed to be the world’s most fabulous pop-up restaurant, a well oiled machine commandeered by the calmest kitchen crew I’ve ever seen, not the least bit phased by the ridiculous crown already lining up to be seated, and waiters dressed in smart waist coats.
IMG_4967We went with our favourite Vietnamese dish for dinner – bun cha. I had the roast pork. It was perfect.
20140707-152519-55519054.jpg

We weren’t planning on dessert, but when we saw this cart with 6 different types of sticky rice, we changed our minds and took home a little polystyrene tub with a small scoop of each to share, smothered in coconut milk. Just wow.
IMG_4971

Eat here: Bún Chà Dac Kim, Hanoi

Bún Chà Dac Kim
1 Hang Manh, Hanoi, Vietnam

20140707-153054-55854871.jpg

Hands down one of the coolest dining and travel experiences of my life! We were picked up from Hanoi’s airport by a lovely young lady and her driver, who took us to our hotel. On the drive over, we talked the whole way, asking each other question after question. Her English was fantastic, and we found out she had a good friend in Sydney, which gave her a good opportunity to practice. We asked her for her recommendations on the things she thought we should see and her favourite places to eat – she proceeded to write out a double-sided notebook page for us!

We told her our favourite Vietnamese dish was bun cha – a huge smile spread across her face and she started to furiously scribble onto the page again, telling us this was her favourite food too, and she’d give us the address of her pick for the best place to get it in the city. Once she dropped us off at the hotel and we got a few photos taken together and exchanged email addresses, we dumped our suitcases in our room and prepared to head back out and find us some bun cha.

It took a little while, but eventually we found the street name. The ridiculous amount of people massed out the front indicated we were in the right place. Once it was clear that we were interested, we were quickly ushered into the establishment without a word from the lady. It looked like a little shop front that was already full and couldn’t possibly accommodate us; we were then ushered up two flights of stairs and to the end of a communal table.

20140707-153054-55854107.jpg

Without a word being exchanged, we pointed to a nearby water bottle and held up two fingers (we were aiming for 2 bottles of water, and we had them within 60 seconds), then settled down to survey our surroundings. Shoulder to shoulder, sardine-tin dining with miniature street side plastic stools and a crazy, market-style atmosphere. It was perfect. We’d no sooner taken in the full 360 degree view than looked down at the pile of food that had materialised in front of us. Much like the fabulous experience we had at Bale Well in Hoi An, it appeared that AUD$5.00 got us a bottle of water each as well as all we could eat bun cha.

20140707-153052-55852691.jpg

Pickled vegetables, a veritable mountain of noodles, half a garden worth of fresh herbs, fresh spring rolls and god knows what kind of meat wrapped in leaves and swimming in undoubtedly the best broth either of us had ever had.

So there we sat, looking at each other over the small plastic trestle table, simultaneously bursting out into laughter. We could not believe it! From what started as a “I wish we could just go to Vietnam and eat our way around the country!” We had actually made it a reality! We were sitting in a little nondescript street side shanty, three stories above Hanoi, eating the most spectacularly delicious spread of food! If you’re in Hanoi, please take down this address and ask your hotel or hostel front desk for directions; it’s one hell of an experience!

20140707-153053-55853723.jpg