I still remember my first time trying bun. Not ‘bun’ like ‘hamburger bun’ or ‘buns of steel’ but ‘bun’ the Vietnamese dish made of vermicelli rice noodles, veggies, fresh herbs, and meat. I remember swooning over the fresh ingredients, tasty chicken, and tangy/salty/sweet sauce. It was a work trip to Edmonton, where my doppelganger cousin Mel and her Vietnamese hubby Paul had me over for dinner. Always thoughtful, Paul and Mel knew I was craving some healthy home cooking – and ‘bun’ it was. Paul’s a great cook from a family of great cooks (good going Mel) – I’ve tried bun in restaurants but it’s never as good as the homemade version.
I’m no expert on Vietnamese food, but I do know this – it’s delicious and flavourful. Vietnamese food is most commonly associated with pho – a clear beef broth with rice noodles, various cuts of beef or meat, and fresh herbs. Comforting and filling, yet light at the same time, these soupy noodles are normally served in pretty generous portions and are fairly inexpensive (I don’t do beef, so I get the seafood version instead). At home, I find it easier to whip up bun over making pho stock. My version is a slight twist on tradition though – I use a Vietnamese flavoured marinade on lamb steak instead of the usual chicken/pork/seafood.
I marinated the lamb in a variation of a Vietnamese lamb rib recipe from a recent issue of Fine Cooking. I modified the ingredients so they more intensely flavour the meat, and swapped for a lamb steak. The marinade can be whipped up in no time, especially if you have a mini chopper, and would also be great on chicken, steak, or pork. And of course, you can always adjust the spice factor with the chili sauce.
In restaurants, bun is normally served with a few shreds of lettuce, bean sprouts, carrots, and fresh herbs. I like to up the veggie factor and make it more of a salad. When slicing the carrots and cucumber into matchsticks, first cut into thin slices on the diagonal. Then stack a few slices and cut into matchsticks. PS – They had purple carrots at the farmers market. So rad.
The guac nom sauce is crucial for adding flavour – it’s a perfectly balanced blend of tart (lime), sweet (sugar), salt (fish sauce), and spice (garlic/chili). You just pour it over the veggies, noodles, and meat and dig in.
In terms of plating, I squished everything into a bowl here but the bowls were a bit too small. Now when I make this dish, I prefer using a plate which means no pre-cutting the steak. Any way you slice or serve it, this version of bun is healthy, delicious and perfect for hot summer days. (PS – I don’t claim that this is authentic Vietnamese, just yummy).
VIET-LAMB VERMICELLI SALAD (BUN)
- 1/3 cup shallot
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 Tbsp fresh ginger
- 1 Tbsp fish sauce
- 1 Tbsp GF soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp canola oil (plus more for cooking)
- 1 Tbsp lime juice
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp chili sauce or Sriracha sauce (optional)
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 lamb steaks (about 3/4" thick)
Guac Nom Sauce
- 3 Tbsp lime juice
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1/4 cup hot water
- 2 Tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp finely chopped garlic
- 1 tsp chili (optional)
- 2 cups cooked vermicelli noodles (prepare according to package instructions)
- 1/2 cup carrot (cut into matchsticks)
- 1/2 cup cucumber (cut into matchsticks)
- 1 cup romaine lettuce (shredded)
- 1/2 cup radish (thinly sliced)
- 2 sprigs green onion (finely sliced)
- 1/4 coriander leaves
- 2 Tbsp mint leaves
- Chili sauce or sriracha sauce (optional)
- Hoisin sauce (optional)
- To make marinade, puree all ingredients except lamb to create a paste. Add marinade and lamb to a container just big enough for the lamb or large zip top bag. Make sure lamb is fully coated with the marinade and marinate in the fridge for 2 hours up to overnight.
- Remove lamb from fridge about 10 minutes before ready to cook. Add 2 teaspoons of canola oil to a large non-stick skillet on medium-high heat. Remove excess marinade from the lamb and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown. Flip and cook for another 2 minutes. Lower heat to medium and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest in the pan for 5 minutes until ready to serve.
Guac Nom Sauce
- Combine all the ingredients and set aside until ready to serve.
- Place vermicelli in a bowl and arrange half the carrots, cucumber, radishes, and lettuce on top of the noodles. Add sliced lamb and garnish with green onion, coriander and mint. Serve with guac nom sauce - spoon over noodles, rice and vegetables.