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Easy Vietnamese Meatball Noodle Soup--inspired by Bun Cha

Easy Vietnamese Meatball Noodle Soup

Adapted from John Gregory-Smith.
Course Entree
Cuisine Vietnamese
Author TheSpicedLife


For the broth:

  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 4-6 cups good quality chicken stock, preferably low sodium (use more if you like a brothier soup)
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1 2-inch stick cinnamon
  • 9 scallions, thinly sliced (separate the green from the white--the green ends will be used later)
  • 2 lemon grass stalks, lightly smashed
  • 4 t sugar
  • 6 T fish sauce, plus more to taste
  • juice of 1 lime, plus more to taste

For the meatballs:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 small bunch of cilantro, chopped (I used a half bunch because mine was large)
  • 1 small bunch of mint, chopped
  • 2 T of the reserved sliced scallions, green ends only
  • 1 T fish sauce
  • 2 t vegetable oil

For assembling the soup:

  • 1 lb dried rice vermicelli cooked according to package directions and rinsed with cold water
  • the remaining green ends of the sliced scallions
  • cooked meatballs
  • small handful of chopped cilantro
  • small handful of chopped mint
  • small handful of chopped Thai basil
  • lime wedges
  • shredded carrots
  • sliced baby Persian cucumbers


  1. Heat the oil in a medium sized pot over medium heat. Add the peppercorns, star anise and cinnamon stick. When the cinnamon stick starts to unfurl and the spices are fragrant, add the chopped white parts of the scallions.
  2. Cook the scallions for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken stock and lemongrass and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer while preparing the rest of the dish.
  4. In a large bowl, gently mix all of the meatball ingredients. When they are evenly incorporated, divide the meat and then divide each half yet again. Make 4 evenly sized meatballs out of each quarter to end up with 16 meatballs of roughly the same size.
  5. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. I used enameled cast iron and was confident the ground beef had enough fat to not need any oil, but if you are using stainless steel or a leaner ground beef you may want to brush the skillet with a little vegetable oil. Cook the meatballs in batches--you want the heat high enough to brown the meatballs but low enough that they will not burn while the centers are cooking.
  6. While the meatballs are cooking, prepare the noodles and make sure all of the remaining garnishes are prepped.
  7. Add the fish sauce, lime juice and sugar to the cooking broth. Taste for more of any of those.
  8. When the meatballs are all cooked, assemble the soup: place some noodles in the bottom of a bowl. Add a sprinkle of each kind of herb. Ladle as much broth as desired over the noodles, and last add the meatballs and the carrots and cucumbers (you want to add the carrots and cucumbers last so they stay crunchy). Serve with lime wedges and extra fish sauce on the side.