Vietnamese Bun – Or, Vietnamese Cold Noodle Salad (Today’s version with Caramelized Pork)

Today’s dinner was perfect for a warm summer dinner. Easy to make and serve as almost all if it can be prepared in advance. We are going to start with the sauce. This recipe will serve 4.

Nuoc Cham is Vietnamese Dipping Sauce. It has a very unique flavor due to the variety of ingredients. It will keep for a couple of weeks in a closed container in the fridge, so don’t hesitate to double the recipe.



  • 2 Thai Bird Chilis, or 1 serrano, seeds removed and diced fine
  • 1 Clove garlic, diced fine
  • 1/2 Tsp. Chili Paste (I used Sambal Oelek) which is available in most grocery stores in the Asian Foods Aisle
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 2/3 C hot water
  • 1/4 C Thai Fish Sauce
  • 2 to 4 Tbsp. Fresh Lime Juice
  • Optional – 2 tbsp. shredded carrot

In a mortar and pestle – yes it helps to be married to a pharmacist. I have about 20 mortars and pestles to choose from in my house. In a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic and chilis. In the meantime blend the hot water, sugar and lime juice. It should taste like good limeade; a little sweet, a little tart. Due to the flavor variation of fresh fruits, you may need to add a little more water or sugar or lime. Add the crushed garlic and chili peppers, and the chili paste. Blend well, making sure all the sugar is dissolved. Finally, add the fish sauce, 2 tbsp. at a time. It will have a very slightly fishy flavor – not overwhelming at all. Add the shredded carrot. Set the sauce aside and let it rest for at least 15 minutes.

Now for the Bun:

  • One package of rice threads – cook 5 minutes in boiling water, drain and rinse with cold water. Set in a colander in the sink and let it drain for about 30 minutes. Then cover loosely with a damp towel and set aside on the counter until ready to serve.

Prep all the veggies:

  • 1 Cup finely shredded crisp lettuce per person – romaine, iceberg, red leaf will all work well
  • Daikon – peeled and sliced into matchsticks
  • Cucumber – washed, seeded, and sliced into matchsticks
  • Carrot – peeled and sliced into matchsticks
  • Fresh Beansprouts
  • 3-4 Tbsp. chopped low salt dry roasted peanuts (Optional)

Prepare all of the above , cover and put in the fridge until you’re ready to serve dinner.

Finally, the meat. Traditionally, Beef is the topping of choice, though chicken, pork, shrimp, spring rolls can all be found. Tonight I chose to use pork.

For 4 servings, I used 1/2 of a packaged tenderloin, freezing the other piece for another time. I did partially freeze the pork though, for ease in slicing. When it was partially frozen, I used a very sharp knife and sliced it in thin, approx. 1/4″ slices. I then marinated the meat in the caramel marinade which follows:

  • Mix 1/4 C sugar and 1/2 C water in a small saucepan.
  • Bring it to a boil and let it simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes, until it starts to caramelize. When it is brown enough, slowly and carefully add an additional 1/2 C HOT water and stir it to thin it out. Take it off the burner
  • Add 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • Add 1 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
  • Add 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil (I used peanut oil)
  • Dice up 2 small shallots, or the white parts of 4 to 5 scallions and add to the marinade.

Pour the marinade over the sliced pork, and let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes. To cook the pork you can use a grill, broiler, or griddle pan. In any case you want the heat high as the thin sliced pork will cook in just 1 or 2 minutes per side.

To cook the meat I used a griddle pan with a little peanut oil. I made sure the griddle was very hot, as evidenced by the sizzling when the meat was placed on the pan. I cooked the meat just 1 or 2 minutes per side in a single layer. I put the cooked meat in a bowl and set it aside while I finished cooking all the pork.

We were ready to serve. In order, we put about 1 C of lettuce into a bowl.2016-09-13-06-06-26

Next – the noodles.2016-09-13-06-07-10

Then any combination of daikon, cucumber, carrots and pork that you’d like.2016-09-13-06-08-22

Then bean sprouts, peanuts and some Nuoc Cham that we made first.  Tonight we also topped the bun with fresh basil, although mint can also be used, if you’d prefer.2016-09-13 06.10.43.jpg

Finally – to finish the meal perfectly, serve with Vietnamese Iced Coffee. I make mine with cold brewed decaf coffee and sweet and condensed milk. Yum!


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