Bun Cha Ca Recipe

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bun cha ca one of most popular soup noodle in the seaside area with rice noodle

Bun Cha Ca is a Vietnamese noodle soup that is made with fish cakes and vermicelli noodles. It is a popular dish in Vietnam and is often enjoyed as a breakfast or lunch meal. The dish is known for its flavorful broth, tender fish cakes, and soft noodles.

To make Bun Cha Ca, the broth is typically made by simmering fish bones with ginger, onions, and a dash of salt for about 1-2 hours. The fish cakes are made by blending fish of choice with garlic, salt, and pepper. The mixture is then shaped into small cakes and fried. Vermicelli noodles are boiled separately and added to the bowl along with the fish cakes and broth. The dish is often garnished with fresh herbs, lime wedges, and sliced chili peppers.

Overall, Bun Cha Ca is a delicious and satisfying dish that is perfect for any time of day. It is easy to make and can be customized to suit individual tastes. Whether you are a fan of fish or simply looking for a new and exciting dish to try, Bun Cha Ca is definitely worth a try.

History of Bun Cha Ca


Bun cha ca is a traditional Vietnamese noodle dish that originated in the coastal city of Da Nang. The dish is believed to have been created by local fishermen who used their catch of the day to create a hearty and flavorful meal. The dish has since become a staple of Vietnamese cuisine and is enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.

Regional Variations

While the basic recipe for bun cha ca remains the same, there are regional variations that add unique twists to the dish. In the northern regions of Vietnam, the dish is often served with grilled pork meatballs and vermicelli noodles. In the southern regions, the dish is served with a variety of seafood such as shrimp, squid, and fish cakes.

One of the most popular regional variations of bun cha ca is the Da Nang style, which is known for its use of turmeric and dill in the broth. The broth is prepared by simmering pork bones, tomatoes, and a variety of herbs and spices. The fish cakes are then added to the broth and simmered until cooked through. The dish is served with a side of vermicelli noodles, bean sprouts, and fresh herbs.

Overall, bun cha ca is a delicious and versatile dish that has a rich history and is enjoyed by many throughout Vietnam.

Essential Ingredients

Fish Selection

The key ingredient in Bun Cha Ca is the fish cake. Any firm white fish can be used to make the fish cake, such as cod, haddock, or pollock. Some recipes also call for the addition of shrimp or crab meat to the fish cake mixture. It is important to use fresh fish for the best flavor and texture.

Herbs and Spices

Fresh herbs and spices are essential for the authentic flavor of Bun Cha Ca. Common herbs used in this dish include cilantro, mint, Thai basil, and scallions. These herbs are typically added to the soup as a garnish, but they can also be added to the fish cake mixture for extra flavor. Other common spices include garlic, ginger, and chili peppers.

Broth Components

The broth for Bun Cha Ca is typically made with a combination of fish stock and pork bone broth. The fish stock is made by simmering fish bones and heads with aromatics such as lemongrass, ginger, and shallots. The pork bone broth is made by simmering pork bones with water and aromatics for several hours. Kombu and katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) can also be added to the broth for extra umami flavor. Fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice are added to the broth for seasoning.

Overall, the combination of fresh fish cake, fragrant herbs and spices, and flavorful broth make Bun Cha Ca a delicious and satisfying Vietnamese noodle soup.

Kitchen Tools and Equipment

To prepare a delicious bun cha ca, one does not need any fancy or specialized equipment. The following basic kitchen tools and equipment are sufficient to make this dish:

  • Grill or grill pan: This is used to cook the fish and other ingredients. One can use a charcoal grill, gas grill, or grill pan.
  • Pot: A pot is used to cook the rice noodles.
  • Mixing bowl: This is used to mix the ingredients for the marinade and dipping sauce.
  • Tongs: Tongs are used to turn the fish while grilling.
  • Knife: A knife is used to cut the fish and vegetables.
  • Cutting board: A cutting board is used to chop the vegetables and slice the fish.
  • Measuring cups and spoons: These are used to measure the ingredients accurately.
  • Serving bowls and plates: These are used to serve the dish.

It is important to ensure that all the kitchen tools and equipment are clean and dry before use. One should also have all the ingredients ready before starting the cooking process to avoid any last-minute rush.

Overall, bun cha ca is a simple dish that can be prepared with basic kitchen tools and equipment. With the right ingredients and technique, one can create a delicious and flavorful meal that is sure to impress family and friends.

Preparing the Fish


Marinating the fish is an essential step in preparing bun cha ca. It adds flavor, tenderizes the meat, and helps prevent it from sticking to the grill. To marinate the fish, mix together some minced garlic, ginger, sugar, fish sauce, and vegetable oil in a bowl. Then, coat the fish with the marinade and let it sit for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Grilling Techniques

Grilling the fish is the most crucial step in making bun cha ca. It gives the dish a smoky flavor and a crispy texture. There are two different grilling techniques that can be used: direct heat and indirect heat.

Direct heat grilling is best for smaller pieces of fish. It involves placing the fish directly on the grill grates over high heat. It only takes a few minutes per side to cook the fish to perfection.

Indirect heat grilling is recommended for larger pieces of fish. It involves placing the fish on a cooler part of the grill and closing the lid. This allows the fish to cook slowly and evenly without burning.

No matter which grilling technique you use, make sure to brush the fish with oil before placing it on the grill. This will help prevent it from sticking and make it easier to flip.

Broth Preparation

Stock Basics

To make the perfect broth for bun cha ca, the key is to use a combination of ingredients that will give the soup a rich and savory flavor. Start by combining kombu with water in a saucepan and set it on medium-high heat. Bring it to a barely simmer, then remove the kombu. Add katsuobushi in the broth and bring it to a boil, then switch off the heat. Let it sit for about 10 minutes before removing the katsuobushi out of the broth.

Another option is to use fish bones to make the broth. Wash the bones, put them in a pot of water and boil with a little salt, then pour the broth away. Wash the bones again and simmer the bones. You can also use chicken or pork bones to make the broth. The longer you simmer the bones, the richer the flavor of the broth will be.

Seasoning Adjustments

To season the broth, add fish sauce, lime juice, coconut soda, garlic, and chili peppers. The amount of each ingredient will depend on your personal taste preferences. Start with a small amount and adjust accordingly. Remember that it’s easier to add more seasoning than to take it away, so start with a small amount and add more as needed.

Once the broth is seasoned to your liking, let it simmer for a few more minutes to allow the flavors to meld together. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve and discard any solids. The broth is now ready to be used for the bun cha ca soup.

Assembling Bun Cha Ca

Noodle Preparation

To assemble Bun Cha Ca, first, prepare the rice noodles according to the package instructions. Once cooked, rinse them under cold water to stop the cooking process and prevent them from sticking together. Drain the noodles thoroughly and set them aside.


To plate the dish, divide the cooked noodles evenly into serving bowls. Next, add a few pieces of lettuce, cucumber, and carrot on top of the noodles. Then, add the fried fish cakes and grilled pork meatballs on top of the vegetables. Garnish with some fresh herbs such as mint and cilantro.

Finally, pour the hot broth over the top of the ingredients in each bowl. Serve immediately with additional herbs, lime wedges, and chili sauce on the side.

Overall, Bun Cha Ca is a delicious and satisfying Vietnamese dish that is perfect for any occasion. With its flavorful broth, tender fish cakes, and juicy pork meatballs, this dish is sure to impress your guests and leave them wanting more.

Serving and Garnishes


Bun cha ca is a delicious Vietnamese noodle soup that is traditionally served with a variety of accompaniments. The most common accompaniments include fresh herbs, bean sprouts, lime wedges, and chili peppers. These ingredients add freshness, texture, and heat to the dish, and can be added according to personal preference.

Another popular accompaniment for bun cha ca is fish sauce. This sauce is made from fish, salt, and water, and has a salty, savory flavor that complements the sweetness of the soup. Fish sauce can be added to the soup to taste, or served on the side for diners to add as desired.

Presentation Tips

Presentation is an important part of any dish, and bun cha ca is no exception. To make the dish look as appealing as possible, it is important to pay attention to the presentation. Here are a few tips to help make the presentation of your bun cha ca as attractive as possible:

  • Use a large, shallow bowl to serve the soup. This will allow the ingredients to be arranged in an attractive manner, and will also make it easier for diners to eat.
  • Arrange the ingredients in an attractive manner. Start by placing the noodles in the bottom of the bowl, followed by the fish cakes, and then the broth. Add the accompaniments around the edges of the bowl, in an attractive pattern.
  • Garnish the dish with fresh herbs, such as cilantro or basil. This will add color and flavor to the dish, and will also make it look more attractive.

By following these tips, you can create an attractive and delicious bowl of bun cha ca that is sure to impress your guests.

Variations and Substitutes

Bun cha ca is a versatile Vietnamese dish that can be customized to suit different tastes and dietary preferences. Here are some variations and substitutes to consider when making this dish:

Protein Options

While the traditional bun cha ca recipe calls for fish cakes, you can also use other types of protein such as shrimp, squid, or even tofu. For a meatier version, you can add grilled pork or beef to the dish.

Noodle Options

Bun cha ca is typically made with vermicelli rice noodles, but you can also use other types of noodles such as egg noodles or soba noodles. For a low-carb option, you can substitute the noodles with zucchini noodles or shirataki noodles.

Sauce Options

The sauce is an essential component of bun cha ca and can be customized to suit different tastes. While the traditional sauce is made with fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, garlic, and chili, you can also add other ingredients such as peanut butter, hoisin sauce, or soy sauce to give the sauce a different flavor.

Vegetable Options

Bun cha ca is typically served with a variety of fresh herbs and vegetables such as lettuce, mint, cilantro, and bean sprouts. You can also add other vegetables such as cucumber, carrot, or bell pepper to the dish for added crunch and flavor.

Gluten-Free Options

If you have a gluten intolerance or allergy, you can substitute the regular soy sauce with gluten-free soy sauce or tamari. You can also use rice paper wrappers instead of rice noodles to make a gluten-free version of the dish.

Overall, bun cha ca is a delicious and versatile dish that can be customized to suit different tastes and dietary preferences. By experimenting with different protein, noodle, sauce, and vegetable options, you can create a unique and flavorful version of this classic Vietnamese dish.

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