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Vietnamese lemongrass pork steaks | RecipeTin Eats

This is such a wonderful way to use economical pork shoulder in an exciting new way! A lemongrass marinade infuses with beautiful Vietnamese flavour while a tiny amount of baking soda is the secret to tenderising so the pork steaks are as tender as premium chops.

Use this pork to make bun thit nuong, the popular Vietnamese noodle bowls (coming Friday!), or serve with coconut rice and Asian Slaw for a lovely dinner.

Cooked Vietnamese noodles with lemongrass pork (Bún thịt nướng)

Vietnamese lemongrass pork

Chargrilled thin pork steaks that’s been marinated in a delicious sweet-savoury-lemongrass marinade is a food you see in various forms on the streets of Vietnam. Served with noodle bowls, rice, or in skewer form, noodle soups and inside rice paper rolls (SO GOOD!).

I’ll happily take it in any form but my favourite is bun thit nuong, the popular Vietnamese noodle bowl salads. Rice noodles, topped with this pork, pickled vegetables, lettuce, a smattering of peanuts, lime and served with nuoc cham, that sauce served with “everything” in Vietnam.

On Friday, I’ll share the full noodle bowl recipe. I wanted to publish the marinated pork separately because I think it’s worthy of your attention!

Vietnamese noodles with lemongrass pork (Bún thịt nướng) ready to be eaten

Why you need this Vietnamese pork in your life!

  • Excellent value – It’s made using economical pork shoulder that is tenderised so it’s juicy like premium pork chops!

  • Flavour plus value – The meat is sliced and pounded thinly for maximum flavour penetration and so less meat goes further.

  • Something different but yet so easy, with ingredients you can get from the local shops.

  • Versatile – Serve at your next BBQ with coconut rice and Asian slaw. Or wait until Friday to make Vietnamese noodle bowls!

  • Deliciousness factor is extremely high for relatively small effort

And because I know someone will ask – yes you can make this with chicken, here it is! 🙂

Marinating Vietnamese lemongrass pork
The marinade goes foamy because of the baking soda which is the secret tenderising ingredient!

What you need

Here’s what you need to make this.

Ingredients in Vietnamese noodles with lemongrass pork (Bún thịt nướng)
  • Pork shoulder – Generally, this economical, tough cut of pork is slow cooked until it becomes fall-apart tender. Today, we’re using it in a really different way. Sliced thinly, then marinated with baking soda which tenderises it so when it’s cooked hard-and-fast like steak, it is tender like a pricey pork chop. (Links again for glowing reader reviews who have discovered the wonder of this technique with chicken and beef!).

  • Baking soda – also known as bi-carb / bi-carbonate. As noted in the point above, this is what tenderises the tough pork shoulder meat.

  • Lemongrass – For unmistakable, irreplaceable beautiful Vietnamese flavour!

  • Limes – For tang. A Vietnamese food favourite.

  • Sugar – For sweet and caramelisation.

  • Soy sauce and fish sauce – The saltiness. I like to use both to get the right flavour balance. Only fish sauce = too fishy. Only soy sauce = lacks complexity of flavour.

  • Garlic – Lots!

  • Oil – To increase the volume of the marinade so there is the right flavour infusion for the volume of meat we’re using. (Initially I just had more of all the other ingredients but the pork was too salty).

How to make Vietnamese lemongrass marinated pork

The key to this recipe is to slice and pound the pork as thinly as you can. This serves a few purposes:

  • head start tenderising the flesh

  • opens up the fibres to allow the marinade to penetrate thoroughly

  • increases surface area and flattens the pork to improve surface area char – for optimum real chargrilled street-food flavour!

  • allows us to make this with economical pork shoulder rather than pricey pork tenderloin or chops.

  1. Slice the pork shoulder into eight thinnish pieces – gives us a head start on the pounding. I find it easiest to do this by cutting the pork on 45 degree angle but if you have the right shaped piece, you could just cut straight down.

    PRO TIP: To get even(ish) pieces without pulling out the scales, cut the pork shoulder in half, then each half in half again, then each in half again. Voila – 8 pieces!

  2. Pound to 5mm / 0.2″ thickness thick using a meat mallet (the jagged side) or rolling pin. Cover with go-between or freezer bags to prevent damaging the meat. (Go-between is a purpose made plastic sheet, sold alongside cling wrap. Also useful for stacking foods in the freezer without sticking together).

  3. Post pounding thin pork!

  4. Marinade – Mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl.

  5. Coat pork Add the pork and use tongs to coat well.

  6. Marinate 24 hours – Transfer to a ziplock bag and marinate for 24 hours.

    Why mix separately first? To ensure really good, even distribution of the small amount of bi-carb across quite a lot of surface area. I wouldn’t ask you to dirty a bowl unnecessarily 🙂

    Why a ziplock bag? Because it keeps the meat completely coated in a relatively small amount of marinade. If you prefer a container, use a small one so the meat is as snugly fitted as possible and toss the pork once or twice during the marinading time.

  1. High heat cooking – Cook for 1 1/2 minutes in a hot cast iron skillet OR on your BBQ over high heat. Then cook the other side for 1 minute. Super quick to cook because it’s so thin!

  2. Aim for a nice char – The pork will char quickly because of the sugar in the marinade and that’s what we want, that authentic chargrilled flavour.

    STILL TENDER! Technically, with 2 1/2 minutes of high heat blasting, the thin pork should be overcooked and dry inside, not to mention the tough pork shoulder hasn’t been slow cooked as it should so it should be horridly tough. Nope! The inside is still juicy, and it’s more tender than you ever imagined pork shoulder could be, thanks to the baking soda (read more on this above in the ingredients section).

NOTE: Meat tenderised using the baking soda method will be pink inside even when it’s cooked to well done! It’s just what happens. It happens with beef too. 🙂

As mentioned above, I’ll share the Vietnamese Pork Noodle Bowls recipe on Friday. But think beyond the noodle bowl! Serve it with a side of coconut rice, Vietnamese red fried rice or plain jasmine rice with a side salad. Try one of these:

And just before I sign off, one more sneak preview of this Friday’s noodle bowl:

It’s so good! ADORE the contrasting textures of the fresh vegetables and herbs with the flavourful marinated lemongrass pork all doused in nuoc cham, the Vietnamese chilli-garlic sauce served with “everything”.

What do you think?? Have I convinced you to give this Vietnamese pork a go? I hope so!!! If anything, it’s worth experiencing the magic of the marinade and how tender it makes pork shoulder steaks. Try it!! – Nagi x

Watch how to make it

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Cooked Vietnamese noodles with lemongrass pork (Bún thịt nướng)

Vietnamese Lemongrass Pork steaks (tenderised!)


Tap or hover to scale

Recipe video above. Thin pork steaks infused with flavour with a Vietnamese lemongrass marinade, then cooked over high heat for an authentic char-grill like you get at Vietnamese street stalls! Great way to use economical pork shoulder to make steaks because it’s tenderised using a touch of baking soda. Even if you overcook these pork steaks, they are still tender inside.Use to make the popular Vietnamese rice noodle salad, Bún thịt nướng (recipe coming Friday!), or serve with rice and Asian slaw for a lovely dinner.


  • Cut pork – Cut into 8 equal, thinnish slices of pork. I find it easiest using the knife on a 45° angle, but if you have the right shape piece you can just cut straight down.

  • Pound each steak to 5mm / 0.2″ thickness using the scary side of a meat mallet (jagged, not flat), using go-between (Note 5) or a freezer bag to avoid damaging the meat. (You can use baking paper for rolling pin or the flat side of the mallet.)

  • Marinade – Mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl, it will fizz when the baking soda is added! Add pork then toss well to coat using tongs. Transfer to a ziplock bag and marinate for 24 hours.

  • Remove pork from the marinade and brush off the lemongrass pieces.

  • Cook – Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat until you see wisps of smoke. Add 1 1/2 tbsp oil, then cook half the pork for 1 1/2 minutes on one side and 1 minute on the other side until nicely charred. Remove onto a plate and cook the remaining pork.

  • Make bun thit nuong Rice Noodle Bowls (below) or with coconut rice and an Asian Slaw!

Bun thit nuong – Vietnamese noodle bowls with grilled pork

Recipe Notes:

1. Pork cut – This recipe is designed for pork shoulder which is a fatty, tough cut of pork that’s usually slow cooked to make it tender. Here, by pounding and using baking soda, it’s tenderised so it’s like premium pork chops once cooked. It’s literally impossible to overcook the inside so it’s tough – you’ll see!
Recipe also works great with pork scotch roast or steaks. A little more expensive cut of meat but widely available in Australia. Doesn’t work as well for lean, more expensive cuts of meat like loin and tenderloin.
2. Lemongrass prep – cut the reedy end off, we’re only using the white and pale green part. Bash with meat mallet so it bursts open slightly to release flavour but mostly holds together. Slice on an angle into large 1cm/0.4″ thick slices so they are easy to brush off the pork before cooking (else they burn).
Fresh really is best here but if you can’t get it, use 1 tablespoon of lemongrass paste instead.
3. Soy sauce – Don’t use dark soy sauce, the flavour is far too intense and will overwhelm. Any all-purpose soy is fine, or light soy sauce.
4. Baking soda, also known as bi-carb, is used to tenderise the pork shoulder meat which is is a tough cut usually used for slow cooking. Same method used for chicken and beef for stir fries – and readers love it!
5. Go-between is a purpose made roll of plastic that’s sold alongside cling wrap, used for pounding meat. Thicker than freezer bags and cling wrap, and not sticky. It protects the meat from becoming damaged.
6. Serving suggestions – Noodle bowls pictured in post coming on Friday! Or make dinner plates with a side of coconut rice, Vietnamese red fried rice or plain jasmine rice with a side salad:

Nutrition per serving, 2 pieces per person.

Nutrition Information:

Calories: 360cal (18%)Carbohydrates: 15g (5%)Protein: 16g (32%)Fat: 26g (40%)Saturated Fat: 3g (19%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 7gMonounsaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 51mg (17%)Sodium: 1578mg (69%)Potassium: 354mg (10%)Fiber: 0.2g (1%)Sugar: 12g (13%)Vitamin A: 14IUVitamin C: 6mg (7%)Calcium: 35mg (4%)Iron: 1mg (6%)

I adore Vietnamese food!


Life of Dozer

When Dozer was in the paper over the Easter break. Specifically, the Good Weekend Magazine!

If you wish to continue to believe I’m an innocent angel, please do not read the article.

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