5 tablespoons fish sauce or oyster sauce or soy sauce (3 more tablespoons later)
¾ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons sugar (2 more tablespoons later)
1 pound thinly sliced pork belly or bacon (See note *)
1 pound ground pork
¼ cup cilantro (All the greens in this section must be fresh)
5 green onions
¼ cup lettuce
¼ cup perilla or lemon thyme or mint
¼ cup Thai basil or basil
¼ cup Vietnamese mint or mint
¼ cup kohlrabi or green papaya
3 garlic cloves
1 Thai chile or cayenne chile or serrano chile
3 tablespoons fish sauce or oyster sauce or soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1⅔ cups water
½ tablespoon lime juice
12 ounces dried vermicelli noodles
I gave a lot of substitutes for this recipe as some of the ingredients are hard to find outside of an Asian grocery.
* = DO NOT get SALTED pork belly. It will make everything taste way too salty. Also, the pork belly should be sliced as thinly as bacon. If you cannot obtain thinly sliced, unsalted pork belly, you are better off using sliced bacon.
grill, outdoor is preferable
Serves 6 people. Takes 1 hours 40 minutes.
Mince shallots. Add shallot, pepper, fish sauce, and sugar to first large mixing bowl. Stir with whisk until well blended. Pour half of this marinade into a second large mixing bowl. Put pork belly in first bowl. Thoroughly coat the pork-belly slices with this marinade. Add the ground pork into the second bowl. Use hands to thoroughly knead the marinade into the ground pork. Put mixing bowls in refrigerator for 1 hour.
While pork marinates, dice cilantro, green onions, lettuce, perilla, Thai basil, and Vietnamese mint. Cut the bulb of the kohlrabi into ¼” slices. Put herbs in a large bowl. Mix with fork until well blended.
Form marinated ground pork into patties 2″ across and ½” thick. Spray grilling basket with no-stick spray. Put patties in grilling basket and grill for 4 minutes on each side or until both sides become golden brown. Remove grilled patties. Spray grilling basket again. Put pork-belly strips in grilling basket and grill for 2 minutes on each side until strips turn golden brown.
Mince garlic cloves and Thai chile. Add fish sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, and water to pot. Bring to boil using high heat. Stir occasionally. Pour this dipping sauce into serving bowl. Add garlic, Thai chile, and lime juice. Stir until well blended.
Cook vermicelli noodles as instructed on package.
Place pork-belly strips, pork patties, greens, and noodles onto 4 communal serving bowls. Divide dipping sauce equally into a dipping bowl for each guest. Guests add as desired from the communal bowls.
1) Bun Cha is short for Man Bun Cha Cha Cha, a Cuban dance from the 1950s. It’s associated with the island’s music scene and freedom of expression. Okay, there has been precious little freedom of expression in Cuba since Fidel Castro and his band of fitfully merry communists took over in 1959.
2) There was a reason for Castro’s oppression. The previous government under the dictator Bautista was decadent beyond belief. Government official thought nothing of double dipping tortillas chips into the communal sofrito bowl. Leaders and army officers grew their hair long, tied it up in man buns, and danced the Man Bun Cha Cha Cha. It was a parlous time.
3) Castro and his merry outcasts tried to humiliate Bautista’s regime by defeating its officials in Cha Cha contests. They didn’t. They couldn’t dance worth a lick. That is why they were outcasts. Frustrated, Fido–no it’s Fidel, Fido’s a dog’s name–turned to the United States for support. America ignored him; the White Sox were about to be in the World Series for the first time since. 1919.
4) So, Fidel seized power with support from the Soviet Union and outlawed the man bun. In return, the Soviets got permission to place nuclear missiles in Cuba. President Kennedy objected. We almost had a nuclear war, always a bad thing. So, the man bun is outlawed the world over and the dance is now known only as the Cha Cha. Call it the Man Bun Cha Cha Cha and you’ll get arrested. Wear a man bun as well and you’ll disappear. For good. And don’t name your dog, Fidel.
– Paul De Lancey, The Comic Chef
My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with its 180 wonderful recipes, my newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, and all my other books, are available on amazon.com.