These Vietnamese Pork Bun Bowls (Bún) are easy to throw together on a busy weeknight and only take about 20 minutes (minus marinating time). They have the same fresh, savory, sweet, and umami-rich flavor as at your favorite Vietnamese restaurant, but incorporate a few shortcuts to make them extra quick and easy to make at home.
What is your favorite kind of Asian food? I’ve thought long and hard about this. I’m hesitant to commit, since they are all so different from each other, but I am almost 100% certain for me it’s Vietnamese. The flavors are always so fresh and bright, especially from the use of fresh herbs. The dishes are usually very light yet satisfying, and I never feel weighed down after eating them. Unfamiliar with Vietnamese food? Bún bowls, Bánh mì, and Phở are some of the most popular dishes you’ll find at Vietnamese restaurants, and all are wonderfully delicious.
These Pork Bun Bowls are kind of like a salad. They’re super fresh, super healthy, gluten free, and very flexible. They consist of layers of fresh lettuce, vermicelli rice noodles, vegetables (such as carrots, cucumbers, or radishes, which are often pickled), protein (most commonly pork, but tofu, chicken, beef, or fish can also be used), fresh herbs (mint, cilantro, and basil), garnishes (such as crushed peanuts), and the most amazing sauce ever (the base of which is fish sauce, which makes it packed full of flavorful umami).
There are a few shortcuts I took to make this recipe quick, easy, and accessible in terms of ingredients. For example, I used fresh vegetables rather than pickling them. I used “regular” (for lack of a better word) basil and mint, rather than the Vietnamese/Thai varieties.
But there’s one shortcut I didn’t take: marinating the pork for a long time. Pork shoulder is a notoriously tough cut of meat, and is usually cooked low and slow (such as for pulled pork sandwiches or carnitas). Marinating it for at least 24 hours is crucial for this recipe to help tenderize and flavor the meat.
As a bonus, I doubled the meat and marinade and froze half of it for another meal later. I’m starting to stock my freezer for when our baby comes in January- I’m sure future Elizabeth is going to thank me!
The only uncommon ingredients that you’ll need for this are rice vermicelli noodles and fish sauce. You can very likely find them at your local grocery store in the International or Asian aisle, but you can also get them on Amazon. Also, I used a heavy cast iron skillet to cook the pork- traditionally, the meat is BBQd, but I opted for a stovetop version. The cast iron gets super hot which helps get the blackened, scorched parts on the pork that are oh so tasty.
Recipe for Easy Vietnamese Pork Bun Bowls below!
Easy Vietnamese Pork Bún Bowls
For the pork:
For the dipping sauce (Nước Chấm):
- 6 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons sugar or honey
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- juice of one lime
- crushed red pepper to taste
For the Bún Bowls:
- 4 cups chopped fresh lettuce
- 1 package rice vermicelli noodles cooked and cooled
- 1 cucumber sliced
- 2 carrots thinly sliced or cut julienne
- 2 tablespoons fresh mint chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil chopped
- pork from above
- chopped peanuts for garnish (optional)
- Add the pork and all the marinade ingredients to a large freezer bag or container. Allow to marinate for at least 24 hours or up to three days (you can also freeze it for a longer time).
- Cook the pork on high heat in a heavy skillet, such as cast iron. Cook for approximately 10 minutes, or until seared and fully cooked through.
- Meanwhile, divide the bowl ingredients into four bowls, layering the lettuce, noodles, carrots, cucumbers, and herbs.
- Mix together ingredients for dipping sauce/dressing and divide amongst four small bowls or ramekins.
- Top each bowl with equal amounts of pork and garnish with chopped peanuts. Pour dipping sauce on top of each bowl just before eating.