Serving anything in a bowl is the trend these days so this is my version for summer, a Vietnamese Rice Noodle Bowl. This particular one is topped with chicken, pork and shrimp all in the same lemongrass marinade. The rice noodles, fresh vegetables and herbs, plus nuoc cham dipping sauce is a classic combination.
This dish takes some advance preparation so organization is the key. But familiarity with the dish is equally as important. I think this bowl is worth the effort but a simpler version can be made by choosing either chicken, pork or shrimp rather than trying all three. Then if you love it, challenge yourself to make the whole bún combo.
Gluten Free Bún Combo
The Vietnamese word for thin rice vermicelli is bún. Vietnamese restaurant menus typically have a whole section for bún, rice vermicelli dishes served in a bowl just like this. Every name starts with the word bún and then includes the name of the meat on top. I like bún with lemongrass chicken. My son and my husband both like the bún combo that includes chicken, pork and shrimp, sometimes with a deep fried spring roll too. For this blog post I made my version of the bún combo. I’m not going to say it was easy, but it was definitely beautiful and amazingly delicious.
In case you didn’t know, many Vietnamese and Thai dishes are naturally gluten free. Some restaurants have figured this out and offer gluten free meals with varying degrees of understanding about cross contamination. So whether you are eating out of eating in, I recommend you experiment and find your favourite version of bún.
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Rice Noodle Bowl By Ingredient
The Noodles – Rice noodles are a pantry staple for Asian soups, noodle stir-fries and salads. I keep my rice vermicelli noodles in a super extra large ziplock bag and break off what I need from the bundle. No noodles spray onto the kitchen floor and the bag goes back in the pantry.
Nuoc Cham – Having the sauce made in advance and ready in the fridge is ideal. It’s easy to make and keeps in the fridge for weeks. This is the same sauce you use for dipping salad rolls, sprinkling on my this pork in tomato sauce, is the dressing for this Cabbage Chicken Salad and is a common Vietnamese condiment.
The Veggies – I use a mandoline to cut perfect julienned carrot and cucumber for this salad but a good knife works too. Vary the recipe here by including any other vegetables you like. For all the bún dishes I have enjoyed carrot, cucumber and lettuce seem mandatory but you can do it your way.
Fresh Herbs – Vietnamese cuisine is all about fresh herbs. Cilantro is a must for me but I always add fresh mint in the summer, picked from my garden. I absolutely love the unique taste of Thai basil so I grow it when I can and buy it when I see it.
The Meat – Today I used pork, chicken and shrimp. You can make this recipe with only one of those choices and beef is an option too. If you like the flavour of chicken satay that is another excellent choice.
The Lemongrass Marinade – This marinade adds flavour to the meat and it is a long time favourite recipe of mine. I buy and store frozen, chopped lemongrass in my freezer. I started doing this long before you could easily buy fresh lemongrass but I like the convenience of always having it available. The fact that it is already cut up is a bonus too.
Think of this Vietnamese Rice Noodle Bowl as a list of suggestions. I gave amounts for the meat, marinade and sauce; the rest is up to you and I’d love to hear about your bún creation in the comments below.
|6 Tbsp lemon juice (2 lemons)|
|4 Tbsp fish sauce|
|2 Tbsp GF soy sauce|
|3 Tbsp sugar|
|1 tsp chile sauce (I like Sambal oelek)|
|½ tsp black pepper|
|3 cloves garlic, minced|
|3 Tbsp chopped ginger|
|2 Tbsp frozen, chopped lemongrass (or 4 fresh stalks trimmed, cut and chopped)|
|THE MEAT (any or all of the following)|
|2 or 3 chicken breasts sliced thin, pounded thin or chicken filets|
|1 or 2 pork chops sliced thin or pork tenderloin cut in pieces and pounded thin|
|12 large shrimp|
|THE NOODLE BOWL|
|thin rice vermicelli noodles|
|carrot, sliced or julienned|
|cucumber, sliced or julienned|
|lettuce, sliced or julienned|
|fresh herbs of your choice - cilantro, mint, Thai basil|
|GARNISH – chopped peanuts|
|NUOC CHAM SAUCE|
|½ tsp crushed chiles|
|½ Tbsp vinegar|
|½ cup fish sauce|
|¼ cup lime juice|
|¾ cup warm water|
|2 cloves garlic, minced|
|½ cup sugar|
- LEMONGRASS MARINADE and THE MEAT
- Combine all ingredients.
- Pour marinade over chicken (and pork if using) in separate dishes. Marinate for 30 minutes or over night.
- If using shrimp marinate for no more than 30 minutes or it will start to cook.
- NUOC CHAM SAUCE
- Combine all ingredients in a large measuring cup or jar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside. Keeps in the fridge for weeks.
- THE NOODLE BOWL PREP
- Place rice noodles in large bowl. Cover with boiling water and let sit for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside. Can be prepared a day in advance.
- Cut carrot, cucumber and lettuce any way you like. Can be prepared a day in advance.
- Cut fresh herbs or pluck whole leaves from the stems.
- Chop peanuts and set aside.
- Cook the meat on a barbecue, broiler or sauté depending on the way you prepared it.
- Fill individual bowls as follows:
- Noodles / carrot / cucumber / lettuce / fresh herbs / cooked meat / peanuts
- Serve nuoc cham on the side.