Recipe by: Linda Le

Source: Family recipe

Serves: 6 – 8

Serve with Nuoc Cham


Note: This is traditionally served with pork instead of chicken. Other than eating it as a noodle dish, it can also be eaten inside the Vietnamese Fresh Rice Paper Roll or wrapped inside some lettuce and herbs with dipping sauce. Traditionally in Vietnam and in restaurants the meat balls will come out with a red colouring as they put 1-2 drops of colour. However we are keeping it natural here.

Ingredients for the meat balls portion (nem nuong) 1 kg of chicken mince

  • 2 whole bulbs of garlic finely minced
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 2 Tbsp of fish sauce
  • 4 Tbsp of sugar
  • 2 Tbsp of ground pepper
  • 1 Tbsp of roasted rice powder *instructions below
  • 2 tsp of single-acting baking powder
  • 4 Tbsp of water
  • 1 Tbsp oil

* If you can’t find roasted rice power – make your own. Take ½ cup of glutinous rice and dry roast it on a pan (no oil/liquids). Stir regularly for 10-15 minutes until its golden brown all around and fragrant. Take off heat and grind roughly with a mortar and pestle or grinder/food chopper/processor. This ingredient cannot be left out of this dish. Leftovers can be kept for 2 weeks in an air tight jar. Be careful not to burn this – your meat balls will turn out bitter!


  • Preheat oven 200 C
  • Place vermicelli in the centre of a noodle bowl and place a little bit of each herb/veg on one side on top. Put to a side
  • For the meat balls, place mince, garlic, salt, fish sauce, sugar and pepper into a large bowl.
  • Knead the chicken mixture until all ingredients are well mixed
  • In another bowl mix the water and baking powder together until it foams up, then pour mixture into the chicken mixture
  • Add the roasted rice powder to the chicken mixture and mix well
  • Cover the chicken mixture and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight to develop the flavours and make it easier to form meat patties
  • Rub a small amount of oil into the palm of your hands so the meat doesn’t stick, form into any shape you like for grilling (2cm thick patties, meat balls, or on skewers)
  • You can either grill it on medium-high heat until both sides are golden brown
  • Or oven bake – brush oil on baking tray and place meat on it. Place tray on middle rack for 15 minutes. Place under grill for 3-4 minutes for the top to turn a nice golden brown
  • Take meat balls out of the oven, when slightly cool, cut into slices and place on top of the noodle bowl
  • Add the nouc cham (separate recipe) over the dish to taste, add cut chili if needed
  • Mix all the ingredients together and enjoy!

Tip: You can mix part chicken/part pork mince if you desire. When picking mince, lean mince will make the meat balls dry and not juicy so pick something with a little fat in it.

Ingredients for the noodles portion (bun)

  • 2 large cucumbers, peeled and sliced semi circles
  • 1 packet of vermicelli noodles, boiled and rinsed with cold water
  • Half a head of lettuce, sliced into small pieces
  • 1-2 bunches of mint leaves (pluck good leaves and rinse in cold water) chop coarsely
  • 1-2 bunches of Thai basil (pluck good leaves and rinse in cold water) chop coarsely
  • 1-2 bunches of coriander leaves/Chinese parsley (cut off roots and rinse in cold water) chop coarsely
  • 1 bunch of chives (rinse in cold water) chop coarsely
  • 1 packet or a few bunches of laksa leaves (pluck good leaves and rinse in cold water)
  • 3-4 Thai red chili

Note: This base can be adapted from all the herb/veg and vermicelli portion of the Vietnamese Fresh Rice Paper Roll (Goi Cuon). This is a very versatile dish. Switch the Nem Nuong with grilled beef, fish, chicken, tofu, pork chops, deep fried spring rolls chopped up… and you’ll have a completely new dish to enjoy!

Tip: Vermicelli doesn’t need to be cooked in a pot – it’s too much hassle and timely to monitor. Also if you accidentally overcook it, it becomes mushy and falls apart. Or if you forget to stir the bottom, the noodles will stick to the bottom of the pot and burn. They work just as well if you place it in a large heat proof bowl, overfill in boiling water, leave it and then drain/rinse with cold water when it’s ready (approx. 10-15 minutes).


Download PDF version here: vienamese-bun-nem-nuong-vietnamese-grilled-chicken-noodles-meat-balls-linda-le