A white bowl filled with rice noodles, grilled shrimp, chicken and pork, shredded lettuce and fresh herbs with a dish of nuoc cham dipping sauce beside it.


If you think Vietnamese Rice Noodle Bowls are too much work, think again!

I’m giving you all my tips to make easy rice noodle bowls to inspire you to make one this week. Once you’re making easy bowls then you can make the fancy version for friends.

The number of times you’ve made any recipe is what makes entertaining look easy.

Step By Step Instructions For Rice Noodle Bowls

  1. Make the nuoc cham dipping sauce.
  2. Soften the rice noodles.
  3. Cut the veggies and arrange in an airtight container with fresh herbs.
  4. Chop some peanuts.
  5. Pick the meat or tofu you want.

That’s it, five easy steps to make a rice noodle bowl. Once you’ve done it three times you’ll think this is easy. After ten times it might become a regular on your meal rotation.

Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce for Rice Noodle Bowls

Nuoc cham is that thin, fishy sauce used in almost every Vietnamese and Thai recipe. It contains Asian fish sauce which is an essential ingredient for a gluten free pantry.

If you don’t have fish sauce yet check out either of these posts where I try to convince you it’s essential!

Once you’ve got fish sauce (it will last indefinitely) make the Nuoc Cham dipping sauce in advance. I measure right into a Mason jar, label it and get it in the fridge.

I’ve got other ways to use it so I always make the full recipe. You’ll find links to them at the bottom of this post.

What Are Rice Vermicelli Noodles

The Vietnamese word for thin, rice vermicelli is bún and restaurants have whole sections on their menu for bún. Every name starts with the word bún followed by the name of the meat on top;

The Best Toppings For Rice Noodle Bowls

Everything goes on top but here I’m talking about the meat. For a simple version you can use plain cooked shrimp. Make a vegetarian version using tofu with the same lemongrass marinade (ideally give it thirty minutes to marinate).

When I order a Vietnamese Rice Noodle Bowl from a restaurant I like bún with lemongrass chicken. That’s the marinade I use in this recipe.

My version of the bún combo with chicken, pork and shrimp. I skipped the gluten filled, deep fried spring roll that is often included on restaurant menus in Canada.

When I make this version of my noodle bowl with ‘everything’, I call it my special occasion rice noodle bowl. It’s too much work for an everyday meal but I wanted you to see that you can easily do this.

How To Store and Soften Rice Noodles

I store my rice vermicelli noodles in a extra large ziplock bag and break off what I need from the bundle. This keeps the noodles in the bag and not flying all over an onto the kitchen floor.

In this video I show you how I soften rice noodles with boiling water (5 minutes, set a timer!) and the two sizes I have in my pantry. Thin rice vermicelli noodles are the size I like for this noodle bowl recipe.

Watch on YouTube

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Vegetables for Easy Rice Noodle Bowls

Keep it simple to start. I always have carrots, cucumber and some kind of lettuce and that’s enough for an everyday version. I sometimes use a mandoline to cut perfect julienned carrot and cucumber but a good knife always works.

In the photo below I prepped veggies and noodles to make Salad Rolls. Since salad rolls and rice noodle bowls have similar ingredients this will give you an idea of what you might want.

A green container with all the fixings for salad rolls: sliced peppers and cucumber, grated carrots, shrimp halves, cabbage and rice noodles. Beside are dishes with sesame seeds and chopped peanuts.
Prep the ingredients for salad rolls or rice noodle bowls and they’ll come together quickly. The black and brown sesame seeds are for salad rolls, I don’t use them in a noodle bowl.

The Lemongrass Marinade

This marinade adds flavour to any meat or tofu. I buy and store frozen, chopped lemongrass and love the convenience of being able to make recipes that call for it anytime.

For more on fresh vs frozen lemongrass check out this post (and video), How To Use Lemongrass.

PIN for later…

Vietnamese Noodle Bowl with lemongrass chicken, pork and shrimp

That’s all my tips to make your Vietnamese Rice Noodle Bowl the way you like. Easy somedays and fancy when the occasion calls for it. I’d love to hear about your bowls in the comments below.

What To Make with Leftover Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce

Here are three other recipes that use slight variations of nuoc cham. Use any version on any of these recipes. If you can identify that you like one combination over another then you’re a super taster. (I’m not.)

Vietnamese Rice Noodle Bowl

This recipe can be made simple for an everyday dinner or done up like the Bun Combo you get off a menu in a Vietnamese restaurant. For my 'special occasion' version I used lemongrass chicken, pork and shrimp along with all the herbs; cilantro, mint and Vietnamese basil. Mix and match with what you like and what you have.
Author: Cinde Little
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Marinating and Assembling Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Keyword: Rice Noodle Bowl
Servings: 4 people



  • 6 Tbsp lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
  • ¼ cup fish sauce
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp gluten free soy sauce
  • 1 tsp chile sauce (I use Sambal oelek)
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 3 Tbsp chopped ginger
  • 2 Tbsp frozen, chopped lemongrass (or 4 fresh stalks trimmed, cut and finely chopped)

THE MEAT (any or all of the following)

  • 2 chicken breast halves (or 8 oz chicken filets)
  • 1 pork chop (or 6 oz pork tenderloin, cubed or sliced thin)
  • 12 large shrimp (16-20 count)


  • 250 g thin rice vermicelli noodles (also called rice sticks)
  • 1 cup carrot, sliced thin or julienned
  • 1 cup cucumber, finely julienned
  • 1 cup lettuce, finely sliced
  • 1 cup cilantro, mint and/or Thai basil, chopped (Thai basil is THE BEST. Look for it!)
  • ½ cup chopped, salted peanuts


  • ½ tsp crushed red chile flakes
  • ½ Tbsp rice vinegar (or regular vinegar if that's all you have)
  • ½ cup fish sauce
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • ¾ cup warm water
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup sugar



  • Combine all ingredients stirring until sugar is dissolved.
  • CHICKEN/PORK - Pour over meat using separate bowls for each kind. Marinate at least 30 minutes or overnight. (Advance prep tip - Meat can be frozen in the marinade.)
  • SHRIMP - Pour over raw shrimp and let marinate 15-30 minutes, no more.*


  • Combine all ingredients in a large measuring cup or Mason jar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside. (Advance prep tip - Make the whole recipe, label the jar and get it in the fridge. Keeps indefinitely.)


  • Place rice noodles in large bowl. Cover with boiling water and let sit for 5 minutes. Drain, rinse briefly and set aside. Can be prepared a day in advance.
  • Organize all toppings for quick assembly.
  • Preheat barbecue then cook as follows: Chicken breast and pork chop 6 minutes per side. Shrimp on skewers 2 minutes per side.
  • Alternately cook any meat according to the size of pieces using a broiler, sauté pan or barbecue.


  • Divide ingredients into 4 bowls as follows: Noodles / carrot / cucumber / lettuce / fresh herbs.
  • Top with cooked meat. Sprinkle with peanuts and serve with individual dishes of nuoc cham on the side.
  • Pour sauce over the whole bowl and enjoy!


MARINATING SHRIMP - If fish is left in an acidic marinade for longer than 30 minutes it will start to cook.
VEGETARIAN OPTION - Lemongrass marinade works well on tofu. Marinade for 30 minutes and saute or grill tofu.
VEGAN OPTION or FISH ALLERGY - Use my Fish Sauce Substitute for all recipes calling for fish sauce.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!


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