Bun Thit Nuong: Vietnamese Noodle Bowl with Grilled Beef

One of the most refreshing dishes ever!

Here in LA we had a false start to fall. It got cool for a little while, it actually rained one day, and then for no apparent reason it got blazing hot for three days, a surprising little heat wave with highs in the 90s where I live and even over 100 in “the valley”. I was just getting used to the idea of cooler weather and the accompanying soups and stews and roasts and the like, and then this Indian Summer came and blew that plan to smithereens.

Last Thursday, craving something cooling, I made this classic Vietnamese rice noodle dish, which is basically like a noodle-slash-salad bar that you can individualize according to your tastes. You can pretty put anything you like over the noodles, but a few things are essential — herbs, lettuce, simple vegetable pickles, cucumbers, and some kind of grilled meat or seafood. Crushed peanuts, cooked fried spring rolls, and crispy shallots are also very common. I added avocado, which is not remotely authentic, but fits perfectly with the herbs and sweet-tart dressing. For the meat I marinated a little sliced sirloin with fresh ginger and grilled it. The dressing is nuoc cham, the ubiquitous dipping sauce of Vietnam, made of fish sauce, lime juice, vinegar, sugar, and garlic.

An authentic spread for bun, except for the very Californian addition of avocado.

My spread included:

  • cooked bun, Vietnamese round rice noodles (they take about five minutes to cook, check the bag)
  • Everyday Table Pickles, recipe below
  • fried spring rolls, recipe below
  • Grilled Gingery Beef cut into small pieces, recipe below
  • leaf lettuce, sliced 
  • fresh mung bean sprouts
  • cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • avocado, sliced
  • sliced green onions
  • fresh cilantro leaves
  • fresh mint leaves
  • crushed roasted peanuts
  • Vietnamese fried shallots
  • nuoc cham dressing, recipe below
  • some kind of hot sauce — sambal oeleck or sriracha
My grandmother’s fried spring rolls. You can use my recipe if you like. Link below.

To assemble, put a pile of noodles in a bowl and top with a little bit of everything. Generally savory items will go around the edges of the pile, leaving the herbs and crunchy garnishes in the middle of the pile. For each person pour a couple of tablespoons of the nuoc cham over the bun and vegetables. If you like, spice up the dressing with a healthy dose of the chili paste before pouring it over.

This is great warm-weather food, but frankly it’s pretty awesome whatever the weather is!

One of my all-time favorite summer dishes!
Grilled Gingery Beef


¼ cup lime juice
¼ cup Vietnamese fish sauce (I like 3 Crabs brand)
2 tablespoons canola oil or similar
2 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon sugar
pinch chili flakes
¼ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp finely ground black pepper
1 lb beef sirloin, ribeye, flap steak, or skirt steak, cut into very thin slices (¼ inch thick or less) about 3 inches long

Combine first nine ingredients to make a marinade. This will make more than you need for this recipe as you want to just coat the meats; reserve the remainder for the next time (it’ll last a week or so). Pour just enough marinade over meat to coat evenly, mix well, cover, and marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes up to six hours.

Heat grill to high. I prefer a charcoal grill for this, but a propane grill works fine. However, the grill grates must be very hot when the marinated meat does down otherwise the meat slices will steam instead of charring nicely.

Drain meat of any excess marinade. Grill until lightly charred on both sides, about three minutes a side. 

Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce: 
1/4 cup Vietnamese fish sauce
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup cider vinegar or rice vinegar

1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
1/4 cup finely grated carrot

Combine all the ingredients and shake well in a small jar or whisk vigorously until the sugar dissolves. Refrigerate until ready for use.

Everyday Table Pickles
2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup rice vinegar

1 cups water
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
pinch chili flakes
1 garlic clove, smashed whole
1 slice fresh ginger (about 1 inch long and ¼ inch thick)
2 cups carrots (2-3 inches long julienned or cut into thin rounds)
2 cups daikon radish (2-3 inches long julienned or cut into thin ‘chips’)

Combine vinegars, water, sugar, salt, chili flakes, garlic clove, and ginger in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and add cut veggies. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. Steep for one hour and drain. In a well-sealed plastic container these quick pickles will last about a week, refrigerated.

To make your own crispy friend spring rolls:


1 thought on “Bun Thit Nuong: Vietnamese Noodle Bowl with Grilled Beef

  1. Pingback: Vietnamese Steamed Quiche with Pork & Glass Noodles | OMNIVOROUS

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