Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Bun cha ca Nha Trang (Nha Trang fish cake vermicelli)

I have visited Nha Trang once in my life when we went back to Vietnam almost a decade ago. However, I have never gotten a chance to try this local deliciousness until recently. This is actually my second attempt of making this dish. Since I have never tried it before, I'm not very sure how authentic the taste of my soup is. But one thing I know for sure is that it came out deliciously, just how I imagined it would taste. 
The tanginess of the tomato and tamarind soup base blends nicely with the seafood flavor. The crunch from each bite of the bamboo complements perfectly the softness of the vermicelli and the fish cake. This noodle dish requires a large variety of vegetables to accompany it. I am missing the banana blossoms, so I substitute with green leave lettuces and it worked just fine although the banana blossoms may give the dish an additional crunch to the texture. But hey, I can't be too greedy right? Or can I?


1. 2 lbs of pork belly
2. chicken broth (or water for the broth)
3. 1 lb of fish cake (uncooked)
4. 1 lb of pork paste (uncooked)
5. 5 tomatoes
6. 2 lbs of bamboo shoot
7. 1/4 of a pineapple (optional, I did not have it so I omitted it)
8.  1 bag of dried vermicelli (cooked and drained)
9. Banana blossoms (shredded), green leave lettuces (roughly chopped), bean sprout, a variety of Vietnamese mint herbs.
10. Salt,  rock sugar, tamarind soup base, mushroom seasoning, fish sauce, annatto -seed-infused oil for color.
11. 3-4 shallots (thinly sliced) and 4-5 white part of the green onions (cut into 1 inch long)
12. green onions and cilantro (chopped), white onion (thinly sliced) for garnish
13. For the pickled garlic chili mixture: Jalapenos, Thai red chiles, garlic, vinegar, sugar and salt

In a large stock pot,  add annatto-seed-infused oil then white parts of green onion and shallot. Stir until slightly brown and fragrant. Add in tomatoes and pineapple (if use), cook for a couple minutes until slightly soften. 
Next, add chicken broth or water into the pot and bring it to boil.
In another pot, bring some water to boil and boil the pork belly for about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse to remove any dirty foam that stuck to the meat. Then add the pork belly into the soup pot. Simmer for 30 minutes until fully cooked, then remove the pork belly and cut into thin slices. Season the soup with salt, rock sugar, tamarind soup base, mushroom seasoning and fish sauce, adjust the seasoning to taste. Finally, add the sliced bamboo shoots to the soup and continue to simmer for 15 more minutes.

In a stand mixer, add the fish cake and pork paste in the mixing bowl and mix under medium speed until everything nicely incorporated (about 10 minutes). Season with 2 tsp of sugar, 1 tsp of fish sauce and ground black pepper.
Form a nice, round cake patty with a diameter of about 5 inches. Heat up some cooking oil and deep fry the fish cake patties until golden brown on both sides, then slice them up into 1/4 inch thick slices after cooled down.
Prepare the pickled chile and garlic by heating up the vinegar, sugar and salt with 1/2 cup of water. Turn off heat after reaching the boiling point and cool the mixture  down to room temperature before adding  it to the chilli and garlic slices.


To assemble the bowl, add vermicelli to the bottom of the serving bowl, lay a few slices of fried fish/pork cake along with some pork belly slices. Ladle the broth into the bowl with some bamboo shoots, tomato and pineapple pieces. Garnish with chopped green onion, cilantro and sliced onion.
Serve immediately with fresh bean sprout, pickled chili/garlic and other vegetables. 

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