Skip to main content

A Bowl of Bun, My Favorite Vietnamese Dish

A few years ago, when I was working in Indianapolis, I told my co-worker about missing my favorite California Vietnamese restaurant so he told me about this hole-in-a-wall place in a gritty part of Indianapolis. For about a year and almost every week, I would buy two takeout dishes and would portion them so that I would have enough meals for two days. As a creature of habit and because they were good, I would go for the fresh spring rolls and “bun” with grilled pork barbeque and fried spring rolls.

Now the restaurant has gotten more prosperous and has moved to a bigger building, a few miles from its old location. I still try to go to the restaurant and often, I would always go for the “bun”. I think I even know the number on the menu: 92.

Bun is quite easy to make but like any other Asian dish, it can be time consuming and best prepared when you are feeding several guests.   It is composed of four separate components: the daikon/carrot pickle, the barbeque pork, the fried spring rolls and the actual noodle bowl itself.

First,  start with the fried spring rolls first. They can be done ahead of time and frozen. Then frying the frozen rolls can be done when the “bun” bowl is ready to be prepared.  Follow the link to recipe in this website.

Second, make the daikon/carrot pickle.

Combine the following in a glass jar:

1 cup warm water

½ cup white sugar

1 cup rice vinegar

2 tsp salt

Mix well until sugar is dissolved. Cut 2 carrots and ½ large Daikon (Japanese radish) into matchstick sizes. Put them in the vinegar mix. Refrigerate until ready to use, after 2 hours.

Third, make the barbeque marinade. This marinade has many variations in the Philippines but the consistent ingredient is the 7-up. Some people use ginger ale but it is up to you if you want 7-up in your marinade.

For the meat, I use a small package of pork loin, since I want to use some of the loin for my Vietnamese spring roll (another project). This cut is lean and tender. For parties, most people use pork shoulder or butt. The marinade is enough for 2 pounds of meat.

½ cup soy sauce

6 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced

1 spring onion, minced

1/8 cup lemon juice

¼ cup 7-up

½ tsp ground pepper

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup banana ketchup, regular ketchup is fine

Add sliced pork pieces and marinate for at least 2 hours.

Marinade for pork barbeque











Fourth, make the Nuoc Cham Sauce for the bun.

½ cup boiling water

1/8 cup fish sauce

1/8 cup sugar

1 tbsp lime juice or lemon juice

½ tsp chili paste or Sriracha

Then it is time to put together the ingredients for the bun.

Preparing your “bun” bowls. Make 4 large bowls.

  1. If you do not want to use the grill, drain the pork barbeque and fry on a hot cast-iron pan. Heat an oven to 400°. Put the cooked meat on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil. Put in the oven for about 10 minutes.

  2. Heat cooking oil to around 350° and fry your frozen spring rolls (around 10 minutes).

  3. Put your rice noodles (1/2 lb) in boiling water. Immediately drain the noodles. Set aside.

  4. Slice 2 small cucumbers thinly. Clean and drain 4 pieces of lettuce (Red leaf is good) and cut into bite-size pieces.

  5. Layer the bowl with lettuce, cucumber, noodles, pickled daikon/carrot, barbeque pork and the fried spring rolls. Drizzle the noodles with nuoc cham (to taste).



Nelia Hostetter

Nel Hostetter was born in the Philippines and came to the United States in 1977. She spent over 20 years in the information technology field but left a management job in California in 2006 to go to culinary school in New York city. She owned Sweet Claire Bakery in downtown Bloomington for five years but moved her commercial kitchen to Spencer in 2015. She specializes in international bread and pastries and sells her baked goods at the Farmers’ Market in Bloomington. Nel’s recipes are influenced by her travels to other countries and a childhood filled with memories of food and cooking.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: