Vietnamese Beef Vermicelli Noodles Bun Bo Xao
By Ellen L. Published: 2016-05-07
When it gets hot and muggy (yup, that's right, it feels like summer already here in Hong Kong), there's nothing like a chilled bowl of noodles, amiright? But at the same time why not go for a refreshing green salad? Heck, why not have both at the same time?! One of the best kinda noodles /salads for when you want to cool down and you're in the mood for lots and lots of fabulous flavor is a chilled bowl of Vietnamese Beef Vermicelli Noodles or Bun Bo Xao : tender, chewy noodles cradled in a bed of baby greens, dressed in a tangy sweet spicy sauce and topped with more luscious greens (including mint and basil!), strips of oh so flavorful grilled lemongrass marinated beef and, to top it all off, sprinkled generously with crushed peanuts and crispy fried shallots.
It's not a hard dish to make but it does require quite a bit of prep work which, if you're like me, can become a time for quiet meditation. And you can make a bit more of everything as most of the veg and noodle ingredients can be prepped and then stored in the fridge for a couple of days, no problem. Then, for the next couple of days, you can have this delectable noodle dish for lunch or dinner, needing only to prepare your beef (or whatever meat or seafood you like) on the day of.
The noodle part is a breeze to prepare. Rice vermicelli, or 米粉, which is bought dried, need only to be soaked in boiling water for 5 mins, check for soft and pliable noodles, then a dip under the cold tap to stop the cooking. How easy is that! But take care not to over soak it as that will turn these delicate noodles mushy. You can also use cellophane noodles 粉絲 made from mung bean starch as well, same procedure for the soak.
The part that I love best about this Bun Bo Xao is the lemongrass marinated beef. The lemongrass gives the beef an amazing, unique flavor that is perfect for grilling. It's out of the world yummilicious, this beef! My little girl and I were scrabbling over the last bits of beef on the plate, that's how delicious it was. (I know, shame on me...but it was sooo good and well, I was hungry after all that chopping!)
You can probably use other meats in place of the beef, like chicken or even some shrimp, but the beef is classic and oh so wonderfully good. We used a rib eye steak, sliced into strips and our favorite bits of the meat were the fatty bits, grilled to mouth melting perfection.
The salad part probably takes the most of the bit of time you spend on this dish, cuz you have to wash and dry all the veg, and then julienne your cucumber and carrot, julienne being a fancy french word for slicing into long thin strips. But hey, I like to consider slicing and dicing for dinner and lunch as my meditation times of the day. And then there are all the herbs that are tossed into the mix, mint!basil!cilantro!, which I think is one of the wonders of the Vietnamese cuisine, that they so boldly mix in these strong herbs all together in a single dish to such excellent effect. And I don't even like mint that much, but I love it in this dish.
And drizzled over all is the sauce for the noodles, a of freshly squeezed lime juice and that quintessential of southeast asian cuisine: fish sauce. And then even more flavor and texture for this generous dish, a topping of crushed peanuts and the fried shallots for the lovely golden caramelized bits of crunch. Everything is present, no flavor or texture is missed.
The shallots in the photo above were fried in the normal way, resulting in nice caramelized slices but I later discovered how to make crispy fried shallots which are an even better topping for their golden flavor and crunch. (Will write more on that soon!)
The final touch, the thing that makes this Vietnamese Beef Noodle dish such great fun for the family and friends is the plating. You get to plate it up yourself and it's great fun. All the vegetables, noodles and sauces and toppings are in glorious array on the table, each person gets a empty noodle bowl and off they go! A bit of this, a bit of that. My little girl got creative with her noodles and made a bunny rabbit! (That's the photo of it above, can you see her little bunny's face?)
Try this chill Vietnamese Beef Vermicelli Noodle Salad for yourself on some hot weather day and see if it isn't the perfect dish to cool you down and satisfy every flavor craving that you have!
Vietnamese Beef Vermicelli Noodles Bun Bo Xao Recipe
(makes 4 bowls of noodles, adapted from the NYT recipe here)
Fish Sauce for Noodles
4 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp rice vinegar
4 tbsp fresh lime juice (from 4 small limes)
4 tbsp fish sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp ginger, finely minced
2 chilies, thinly sliced
1/2 cup boiled water, room temp (can substitute 7up or coconut juice)
1 tbsp sugar
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp lemongrass, finely chopped
12 oz thin rice vermicelli noodles (300g)
1 lb ribeye or sirloin steak (450g)
1 head butter lettuce
1 cup bean sprouts
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch fresh basil
1 bunch fresh mint
1/4 cup crushed roasted peanuts
1/4 cup fried shallots
Mix all ingredients for the fish sauce for noodles and set aside.
Place vermicelli in large bowl and pour boiling water to cover by approx. one inch. Let sit for 5 min or until soft and pliable. Strain immediately and then run cold tap water through noodles to stop cooking. Drain thoroughly of water, cover and place in fridge to chill.
Slice beef against the grain into 1/4" slices. For easier slicing, place steak in the freezer to firm up for about 30 mins.
Prepare your fresh lemongrass by peeling off any outer layers that seem tough and dry. Bash the whole length with rolling pin or knife handle to release the aromatics. Slice the lemon grass into thin rounds.
Mix sliced beef, lemongrass, fish sauce, sugar and garlic and let marinate for at least 20 mins. Heat wok to medium high heat, then add 1 tbsp oil. Add a portion of the beef in a single layer, leaving some room between slices so that the beef doesn't steam. Once in, let the beef cook untouched until the bottom is golden brown in spots. Flip over and repeat for second side. Remove immediately when done. Add next batch and repeat. Add more oil as needed.
Wash and julienne carrot and cucumber to 3" lengths. Peel whole leaves off lettuce head. Wash and dry lettuce leaves and bean spouts in vegetable spinner. Wash and dry whole stems of cilantro, mint and basil. You could pluck the herb leaves off the stems but I like to leave this for the diners to do by themselves. Arrange all the salad greens and herbs on a platter.
Place fish sauce, rice vermicelli, beef, salad greens and herbs platter, crushed peanuts and fried shallots on dining table. Provide an empty noodle bowl for each diner. The plating order of the dish should be lettuce leaves first, then noodles cradled in the leaves. On top of the noodles go the beef on one side and the cucumber, carrot, bean sprouts on the other. Herbs, then peanuts and shallots are sprinkled generously over all. When satisfied with the plating of your bowl of noodle salad, spoon a couple spoonfuls of noodle sauce over all, toss it all thoroughly with chopsticks and start eating. Yummilicious!
Tip: Of course you don't have to follow the noodle plating suggested above, you can be creative and do it however you like! If you have children around let them go with their imagination and build their own critter/monster/castle/noodle.
More Cooling Dishes for those Warm Days at The Hong Kong Cookery:
Chilled Bigeye Fish - Chiu Chow Style 潮州凍大眼雞
Chinese Chilled Crab with Vinegar Dip 凍花蟹
Bang Bang Chicken Salad 棒棒雞絲
Chinese Ma Lan Tou (Kalimeris Indica) Tofu Salad 涼伴香乾馬蘭頭
Chinese Steamed Eggplant 蒜蓉蒸茄子