Recipe: Bún Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Noodle Salad)

Recipe: Bún Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Noodle Salad)

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Emily Han
Jul 17, 2009
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy )

Escape the heat, escape from rigid recipes, escape to new flavors ... It's Escapes Month at The Kitchn, and here's one of the most relaxed and refreshing dishes we can imagine.

Vietnamese cuisine excels at contrasts of taste and texture, and bún, or noodle salad, is a shining example. With slender rice noodles, a generous handful of fragrant herbs, crunchy bean sprouts, savory protein, and a salty-sour-sweet sauce, this dish is delightfully complex, yet incredibly simple to make.

Think of this more as inspiration and guide than a recipe. We like serving bún with deep fried tofu, which is quick and easy to cook, and the crispy texture is a nice contrast to the other salad ingredients. However, you could also use marinated tofu to add more flavor, baked tofu for a healthier version, or beef, pork, or shrimp for a non-vegetarian version. Feel free to include more lettuce, omit the cucumber, add a shredded carrot, use the herbs you like and have on hand. Most of all, enjoy your escape!

A note on the sauce: Traditionally, bún is served with a sauce called nuoc cham, which includes nuoc mam, or fish sauce. This is a quick vegetarian version using soy sauce. If you want, substitute real fish sauce or vegetarian fish sauce (available at Asian markets) for the soy sauce.

Bún Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Noodle Salad)

Serves 2

  • Noodles
  • 4 ounces

    dried rice sticks or vermicelli

  • Tofu
  • 1/2 pound

    extra firm tofu

  • Vegetable oil

  • Greens
  • 1 1/2 cups

    shredded lettuce

  • 1 cup

    mung bean sprouts

  • 1/2 cup

    julienned cucumber

  • Large handful of mixed herbs, coarsely chopped or torn (basil, mint, cilantro; if available: rau răm or Vietnamese coriander, tiá tô or Vietnamese perilla)

  • Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons

    fresh lime juice

  • 2 tablespoons

    soy sauce

  • 2 tablespoons

    sugar

  • 4 tablespoons

    water

  • 1 clove

    garlic, crushed

  • Garnish
  • 2 tablespoons

    peanuts, chopped

For the noodles:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add rice sticks. Stir and cook until noodles are white and tender but still firm, about 3-5 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water, fluffing the noodles to separate the strands. Drain again completely.

For the tofu:

Cut tofu into bite-size pieces and press between clean kitchen towels or paper towels to rid of excess water. Heat oil in a skillet and fry tofu until crispy and golden. Drain excess oil.

For the greens:

Prepare the greens and set aside. (May be prepared ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator.)

For the sauce:

In a small bowl, whisk together ingredients for sauce. Set aside. (May be prepared ahead of time kept in the refrigerator.)

To serve:

Divide the noodles between two bowls. Arrange greens and tofu on top and garnish with peanuts. Just before eating, drizzle with sauce to taste and toss.

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