After taking the cooking class last month at our local PCC, I wanted to make the Bun Cha bowl solo at home. It was a lot of work – about 1 3/4 hours from when I started until when we ate. Some of the sequencing can be refined.
Step 1: Make pickled daikon and carrots. You can do this in the morning or night before. Cut daikon and carrot into match stick sized chunks, add to a medium-sized bowl. (Uniformity is nice, but you have a lot of wiggle room here.) Bring the rice wine vinegar to a boil. Dissolve into this the sugar and salt. Pour onto vegetables & stir. Let cool, then store in a jar in the refrigerator until ready to use. If, for some reason you double it, you’ll have enough for Bahn Mi sandwiches later in the week.
- 1 C rice wine vinegar (I like the Marukan brand)
- 1/2 C sugar
- 2 T salt
- 1 C daikon, cut into match sticks
- 1 C carrot, cut into match sticks
- 1 t crushed red pepper
Step 2: Prepare Nuac Cham sauce. You can do this in the morning or night before. Mix the following together, stirring well:
- 1/4 C fish sauce (I used Three Crabs, but Red Boat works fine, too; it’s a little saltier)
- 1/4 C rice wine vinegar
- 1/4 C granulated sugar
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1/2 grated carrot
- 1 Thai chili, seeded and minced finely
- 2 limes, juiced
Step 3: Prepare shallots. Slice shallots thinly, then separate the layers (like you would for onion rings). Stir in a teaspoon of flour or corn starch, and mix by hand. The purpose of the flour is to soak up excess water. The mixture should look dry.
- 1 large or two small shallot, sliced thinly.
- 1 T flour or corn starch
Step 4: Prepare rice noodles according to directions. Except mine lacked any hints, so I winged it. Boil a lot of water. Place rice noodles in a big bowl, and pour boiled water on them. About every minute or so, give it a stir to ensure the noodles aren’t sticking. After about 10-12 minutes, they should be soft. Rinse them off with cold water (to retard cooking), shake all the water off you can, and set aside.
- 8 ounces rice sticks or rice vermicelli
Step 5: Prepare meatballs. I ground the chicken breasts in a food processor. Scoop into a medium bowl. Add the shiitakes. In the food processor bowl, give the shallot, garlic cloves and Thai chili a few whirls to mince. Lemongrass I just cut with a knife – chopped off both ends, sliced in half to remove the tough outer layer, finely sliced, then minced. Add these to the medium bowl with the remaining ingredients. Mix well. I found it expedient to squish everything around with my hand.
- 12-16 ounces ground chicken, dark meat preferred, but chicken breast is ok. You can grind this in a food processor.
- 1 grated carrot
- 1 C shiitake mushrooms, chopped fine
- 1 lemongrass (whatever the unit of lemongrass is), finely chopped
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 Thai chili, seeded and minced finely
- 1 t sugar
- 1 T corn starch
Step 6: Prepare garnish. Chop four large Romaine lettuce leaves. Mix in the remaining spices.
- 4 large Romaine lettuce leaves, washed and chopped.
- 1/4 C Mint leaves, torn
- 1/4 C Thai basil leaves, torn. (Normal basil works fine, too.)
- 1/2 C cilantro, roughly chopped, including the stems. The stems have the most flavor and provide some interesting crunchiness
Step 7: Cook the shallots. Fried shallot add a lovely caramelized taste and crunchiness. In a large skillet, heat several tablespoons of peanut (or other high smoke point) oil to about 325-350F. Drop the shallots in a single layer. Stir about once a minute. They should look crisp in about 4-5 minutes. Scoop these out and let them dry on a paper towel. With the oil still hot, let’s …
Step 8: Cook the meat blobs. Scoop oval blobs of meat (about 3-4T each), onto the hot pan with the shallot-infused oil from Step 7, and flatten the blobs so they’re even thickness, which will help you when cooking. Cook a 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown and the meat is done.
After doing all this, I think this would be a good candidate for preparing in advance.
Step 9: Superheroes, Assemble! Distribute noodles into bowls. Top with the garnish. Add some pickled vegetables. Add 2-3 meat blobs. Add shallots. Ladle on Nuac Cham sauce to desired level of awesomeness.
Flavors are all excellent. I had extra meat blobs and pickled vegetables leftover that I’m going to try using in Bahn Mi with later in the week.