Vietnamese Noodle Bowl – or Building a Better Bun

2017-04-08 06.20.18Today was catch up on life day in our house. My husband and I went to our son’s house, which he rents out, to do some painting. Then off and running to the Korean market, grocery store, bank and home again. I decided to do some cooking.

We have both Passover and Easter coming up this week, and since we celebrate both, I planned on making the brisket today, and picked up a lovely spiral ham for next Sunday. That said, we needed something for dinner and it was experimentation time in our house tonight. We love ethnic foods, particularly, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Italian, Mexican and Texas BBQ, not necessarily in that order. Yes folks, that is intended as a joke.

So, I searched the internet and decided to attempt one of our family favorites, the Vietnamese Bun which is a combination of vegetables, rice noodles, meats and Nuoc Cham which is a seasoned fish sauce. Sounds awful; tastes delicious. In an effort to experiment though, I decided to make a House Bun, as in most Chinese or Vietnamese menues, a House anything, means it is a combination of everything except the kitchen sink. So today, so I could try out different flavors, our bun had pork, chicken and shrimp. My next creation will also include home made Vietnamese Spring rolls – for a later date.

To make sure each meat tasted as it was supposed to, I made 3 separate marinades and used measured amounts of meat for each, approximately 1 to 2 oz. of each protein per person. I’m going to give ingredients for each marinade, and ask forgiveness now, since I forgot to take pictures as I made the shrimp marinade.


  • 1/4# thin sliced pork butt (I found this already sliced in the market and used 3 slices per person)
  • 1 Shallot, peeled and cut into thin slices
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce, 1 tsp. if you use a thick or dark soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. fish sauce (You can find it in any Asian market and most US markets
  • 3 Tbsp. brown sugar (I used regular sugar – brown sugar would be my preference)
  • 3 Tbsp. neutral oil, i.e. NOT olive oil. Corn, Vegetable, Canola or even Peanut Oil will work
  • 1/4 Tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic

Stir it all together in a container. Put the pork slices in one at a time and make sure they are coated with the marinade. Refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 24.

NOTE: You can use any kind of pork you want, though pork tenderloin will not have enough fat to flavor the meat. If you are slicing your own, partially freeze the meat so you can cut sliver thin pieces. You can also buy meats cut for shabu shabu, either pork, chicken or beef, are often available.


  • 1/2# Thin sliced boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 2 Cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. Fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. neutral oil (see comment above)
  • 1 stalk of lemon grass, white part only bruised and sliced into large chunks to be removed later

Mix together, add the thin sliced chicken and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.


  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. neutral oil
  • 1 Clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp. Sriracha
  • 1 Stalk lemon grass, white only, bruised and chopped
  • 3 peeled raw shrimp per person, tails left on

Mix it all together and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.

You’ll notice that each marinade is a little different. You do not need to make all three and much of the time, the buns in a restaurant have just chicken, pork or shrimp. This was more of an experiment than anything, though it was tasty.

RICE NOODLES: You can buy these dried or fresh at the Asian market. Cook following the directions, drain and run under cool water to bring to room temperature and to prevent them sticking together.2017-04-08 06.01.27

Now we get to Build the Bun:

  • Shredded lettuce, iceberg or romaine work fine
  • Julienned carrot
  • Julienned daikon or pickled daikon
  • Fresh bean sprouts
  • English cucumber, washed, cut in half lengthwise and cut into slices
  • Scallions, cleaned and sliced thin
  • 1/2 C dry roasted, lightly salted peanuts, chopped

In a bowl, please about 1/2 to 3/4 C shredded lettuce.2017-04-08 05.49.14

Then take a handful of cooked noodles, about 1 Cup, and place it on top of the shredded lettuce.2017-04-08 06.13.50Then put bean sprouts, carrots, cucumber and daikon on top of the noodles.2017-04-08 06.18.32

To cook the meats, heat a griddle pan, coated in just a little oil, to very high heat, not smoking, but almost. Do the pork first, then the chicken,  then the shrimp and plate them. Then put a little of each on top of each bowl. Top with some fresh scallion and chopped peanuts and serve.

2017-04-08 06.20.18

The final feature of a Vietnamese Noodle Bowl, is the Nuoc Cham Sauce. Every restaurant makes their own, and each varies a little. This is what we used:

  • 8 oz. water
  • 4 tbsp. fish sauce
  • 3 tbsp. table sugar
  • 3 to 4 tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 4 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 serrano, jalapeno or red birdseye chili, chopped fine
  • OPTIONAL: 2 cloves or garlic, diced fine &/or Fresh ginger, sliced really thin.

Mix this all together and make sure the sugar dissolves, and let it sit for the flavors to meld. This can be made the day before.

Serve about 1/4C of the Nuoc Cham to each person to dip the meat or to pour over the bun.

There is a lot of sugar used in the preparation of this dish, though most of it is in the marinades to give the meats a lovely carmelized finish. Don’t omit it. It makes a world of difference in the flavors and presentation of the meats.



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