05/25/2010

Bun Thit Nuong – A popular yet specialty of Vietnamese Noodle Dish

Bun Thit Nuong (vietnamese Bún Thịt Nướng or Bún Chả) is a popular dish of Vietnamese cuisine which is considered as a Vietnamese culinary specialty. It consists of grilled marinated pork chop serves with thin rice vermicelli over a bed of mixed fresh vegetables and well mixed fish sauce. Bun Thit Nuong is classified under Noodle dishes of Vietnamese cuisine and it is served all year round. The light of the dish and its elegant flavor makes it a perfect choice for tropical climate characterized by high humidity and hot.

Although it is not apparently trace back when Bun Thit Nuong is introduced, it is a long time since it becomes a popular dish that anyone can find it on a traditional shoulder pole at a corner of the street, in a popular or fine restaurant anywhere in Vietnam and in some Vietnamese restaurants in different foreign countries.

Bún Thịt Nướng is a common name of the dish in the South of Vietnam while it is Bún Chả in the North of Vietnam. The fundamental difference depends upon the cut and shape of meat. Bun Thit Nuong uses small pieces of meat, usually a thin slice of pork. Bun cha uses ground pork and shapes into a meatball. Whereas meat is thinly sliced or shaped into a ball, it must have a small portion of fat to keep the moisture of meat when grilling. Traditionally, pork shoulder meat is a perfect choice for cooking this dish because of its nature firm meat and ideal part of fat.

Meat is cut, shape and well marinated before grilling. The essential flavor and culinary specialty of the dish primarily come from how meat is marinated. It must not too strong because it will dip into fish sauce when serving and must not too light to keep concentrated flavor. Marinated sauce includes fish sauce, ground pepper, salt, sugar, minced shallot and garlic. The secret ingredient is vegetable oil. It is adjusted depends on how fresh is meat. If the mixture is dry, one or two teaspoons of vegetable oil will keep meat tender and bind together if it is shaped into a ball. In some locations, lemongrass is added to provide a special taste for the dish. Well marinated meat will be skewed on a bamboo stick or clipped on a grilling grid. Like barbeque, meat is grilled on charcoal. That is the reason why in some restaurants outside Vietnam, they name the dish as Vietnamese barbeque pork with rice vermicelli. Some restaurants wrap meat with a banana leaf to infuse its essential flavor into meat when grilling. It is important to make sure that meat is just perfectly done when it is on grill. Grilled pork is tender, brown on the edges and fat is melted to keep meat moist. It is unlikely a dish to put meat on the grill and keep away. It is necessary to keep an eye on charcoal temperature to ensure it is not too hot or not too cold. Otherwise, meat is burn or still rare.

The dish is served with mixed fresh vegetable of bean rout, lettuce, Vietnamese basil, various kind of mint and mixed fish sauce. Normally, Bun Thit Nuong is served in a bowl with a layer of rice vermicelli lays on fresh vegetable and top of grilled pork, a little toasted peanut and green onion. Mixed fish sauce is poured over components and it is ready to taste. Bun Cha is served in a bit different way in which fresh vegetable and rice vermicelli both are arranged on a single plate. Grilled pork and mixed fish sauce are in separate bowls. Before tasting, grilled pork is dipped into fish sauce then it is served with a portion of vegetable and rice vermicelli in a small bowl one at a time.

Mixed fish sauce is a condiment play an important role to blend taste and flavor together. Mixing fish sauce is considered as an “art of condiment”. If grilled pork is accidently salty, fish sauce is lightly mixed to re-balance taste. If grilled pork is not well-seasoned, fish sauce needs a stronger taste. Ingredients are balanced on the basis of making a well condiment to the rest components of the dish. Basically, fish sauce is mixed with lemon juice or rice vinegar, water, sugar. For Bun Thit Nuong, minced garlic and chili pepper are added which are visible in the bowl. Julienne daikon and carrot are also added to help for presentation of fish sauce. For Bun Cha, chili pepper is not directly added when mixing fish sauce but it is separately served to taste for personal favor. Instead of julienne daikon and carrot, thinly diced cabbage stalk is added to create crunch.

In Vietnam, Bun Thit Nuong is flexibly served as breakfast or lunch. For people work overtime, it is served as afternoon snack because the light of the dish will not overwhelm dinner but still enough to provide energy for continuous working. Outside Vietnam where Vietnamese communities are presented, Bun Thit Nuong is usually served as main course. However, it sometimes is served as breakfast or appetizer depends on ordered size. Whereas it is an appetizer, snack or main course, the healthy ingredients, the light of the dish and its elegant flavor make Bun Thit Nuong an undeniable specialty of Vietnamese noodle dish.