This Vietnamese noodle bowl or bun bo nam bo is full of fresh herbs and veggies, topped with marinated beef and served with nuoc cham – an incredibly easy dipping sauce! To make a vegetarian version, substitute tofu for beef!
Bun bo xao, also called bun bo nam bo, is a classic Vietnamese dish. The recipe is made with marinated beef, rice noodles, fresh herbs and veggies and topped with roasted peanuts and crispy fried onions. This delicious noodle bowl is often served with a simple dipping sauce – nuoc cham – which really brings the whole meal together! The best part – this dish comes together very quickly and can be easily modified to use the veggies you have on hand!
I tried this dish for the first time at a Vietnamese restaurant at a small food court in Prague. There was no description – just the words bun bo nam bo above a picture of noodles topped with an array of colorful veggies and marinated meat. I tentatively tasted the nuoc cham dip and then immediately poured the whole container over my lunch! Since moving to Nebraska, I’ve only been able to find one restaurant that serves something vaguely similar to bun bo nam bo so I decided it was time to learn how to make my own!
A useful tip I learned during my first attempt at making this recipe – not all fish sauces are created equal! I highly recommend splurging on a higher quality fish sauce. Currently, I use the Red Boat brand, which seems to have a more complex flavor compared to the overwhelmingly fishy (for lack of a better word) taste and smell of other brands I’ve tried.
- vegetable oil for frying
- thin rice noodles 200 g (8 oz)
- beef 500 g (1 lb)
- (skirt steak, sirloin and flank steak work well)
- onion 1 large
- garlic 3 cloves
- lemongrass 3 tbsp
- sugar 2 tbsp
- fish sauce 1 tbsp
- oyster sauce 1.5 tbsp
- sesame oil ½ tbsp
fish sauce dip nuoc cham
- garlic 1 clove
- fish sauce 1.5 tbsp
- lime juice 1 tbsp
- rice vinegar 1 tbsp
- sugar 2 tbsp
- warm water 115 ml (½ c)
- chili sauce (optional) to taste
- - bean sprouts
- - pickled carrots and daikon radish
- - cucumber, cut into strips
- - lettuce
- - mint leaves, chopped
- - cilantro, chopped
- - peanuts
- - crispy fried onions
- Slice the meat very thinly across the grain. Tip: chilling the meat in the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour makes it easier to cut into thin strips!
- Dice the onions and mince the garlic and lemongrass. Mix all the ingredients for the marinade making sure to entirely coat the meat and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- While the meat is marinating, mix together the ingredients for the fish sauce dip until the sugar has completely dissolved.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet and cook the meat on high temperature for approximately 2-3 minutes on each side. Make sure to not overcrowd the pan - cook in batches if necessary.
- While the meat is cooking, prepare the rice noodles according to package instructions.
- To assemble, place rice noodles in a bowl and add meat and fresh vegetables and herbs. Top with peanuts and crispy fried onions. Finish the dish by pouring some of the dipping sauce over the noodles.
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