Prep time 2 h (including marinating time)
Cook time 15 min
I love this dish; it has a little bit of everything. Anything with South East Asian flair, loads of fresh herbs, a fantastic dressing and some spicy meat has got to be a winner. Bun cha, as the Vietnamese call it, is a great dish to take on picnics as the meatballs are just as good cold. Pack everything in separate containers and and you are ready to go.
2 tbsp sugar
5 tbsp water
500g ground pork
½ red onion, finely diced
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 hot red chilli, finely diced (optional)
1⁄4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp brown sugar
1 1⁄2 cups water
1⁄2 tsp. minced or grated garlic
1 red Thai chilli, minced
½ green papaya or green apple or green mango, cut into matchsticks
350g thin rice noodles, cooked as directed
1⁄2 head red leaf lettuce, torn into small pieces
2 good handfuls of coriander, mint, Vietnamese mint, Thai basil
1 green mango, grated
Combine the sugar with 3 tablespoons of the water in a saucepan over a medium-high heat. Cook until a dark brown caramel forms, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the remaining water, swirling the pan. If the sugar clumps a bit just swirl the pan and it will melt again. Cool a little.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the pork, red onion, fish sauce, caramel sauce, chilli, if using, and pepper. Cover and marinate in the fridge for 1½ hours.
To make the dressing, simply combine the fish sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, water, garlic, chilli and green papaya, apple or mango in a large mixing bowl. Set aside to let the flavours infuse.
Remove the pork from the fridge and shape into small balls, 20 in all. Heat your grill to high. Brush the meatballs with a touch of peanut oil then grill or barbecue until fully cooked and slightly charred, 4 minutes each side.
Divide the noodles among 4 bowls and spoon over some of the dressing. Place the meatballs to one side. Place the lettuce, herbs and mango to another side and serve with extra dressing on the side.