Vietnamese Lemongrass Beef Noodle Bowls, also known as Bun Bo Xao, are a perfect meal for hot summer days. The noodles are eaten at room temperature with fresh vegetables, herbs, and a splash (or glug) of nuoc cham. The steak can be added hot from the skillet, chilled, or at room temperature.
A bit about Vietnamese food...
I have been obsessed with Vietnamese food ever since I enjoyed my first steaming bowl of pho (you can see evidence of my #phobsession in my Instagram feed).
Like other Asian cuisines, Vietnamese seeks to strike a perfect balance of sweet, sour, salty, spicy, and umami. The broths are clear and rich, evidence of French cuisine's influence during France's colonial rule in Vietnam. What really stands out to me, though, is the riot of textures and flavors introduced by loads of fresh vegetables and herbs. I love that no two bites taste exactly the same.
About the sauce...
Vietnamese food also introduced me to nuoc cham—and its major ingredient, fish sauce. Nuoc cham is a dipping sauce that's ubiquitous in Vietnamese food, consisting of fish sauce, garlic, lime juice, sugar, and chilis. Although I gagged the first time that I smelled fish sauce, I now use it in almost everything—even in Italian sauces. It's really not fishy at all, but instead confers an amazing umami in the background.
I now douse my pho and bun in liberal amounts of nuoc cham. I've convinced Phil too: he asks me to make up a batch of it almost weekly.
That being said, to some people, fish sauce is heinous, and they just can't get past it. If you fall into that category, skip the nuoc cham and try using a a few dashes of sweet chili sauce and tamari. It won't be the same, but it will still be delicious.
Making Vietnamese Lemongrass Beef Noodle Bowls: meal prep
Meal prep is your friend here. The vegetable chopping can be a bit time consuming, so I love to do it all in advance. I use a mandolin to slice the carrots and cucumbers, and then I cut the slices into matchsticks.
The pickled red onion can be prepped in advance as well: this is just a great garnish to have on-hand anyway; it will save in your fridge for about a month.
I like to use flank steak for this dish, but you could also use sirloin or even ribeye. The marinade is simple and citrusy: I mix it all in a gallon-size ziploc bag. Based on some intelligence garnered from America's Test Kitchen, I've recently incorporated a tenderizing step before I marinate the meat: I immerse the steak in a weak solution of water and baking soda for 15 minutes at room temperature, then rinse well and add to the marinade in the ziploc (note: if you use ribeye, you will not need this tenderizing step).
I sometimes add the flank steak to the marinade whole so that I can grill the entire steak. This gives it some really great char, which you can reproduce in a grill pan or even a cast-iron skillet. After a rest, I slice the steak across the grain into thin strips, and then cut the strips into bite-sized pieces. Other times, I slice and dice the steak before adding it to the marinade, and then stir-fry after marinating. I leave it completely up to you.
If you plan to eat the meat cold, you can stir-fry, grill, or sear it the night before.
The noodles take only about 7 minutes to cook. I've prepped them the night before and eaten them cold the next day without any problem: I just make sure to rinse them well so they don't stick together.
Vietnamese Lemongrass Beef Noodle Bowls: a vibrant office lunch
Since you can do everything ahead of time, this is the perfect meal-prep office lunch. It's fun to pack all of the vibrant vegetables and herbs, sauce, meat, and noodles in their own little containers and assemble everything in a bowl at work. (If you do this, prepare for a wave of office lunch envy.)
And that's it! Vietnamese Lemongrass Beef Noodle Bowls are essentially a cold noodle salad loaded with beautiful herbs and vegetables—perfect for the hot days of summer, or for an exotic picnic. I hope you love them!
I'm linking my Vietnamese Lemongrass Beef Noodle Bowls up with:
- #CookBlogShare, a great food blogger recipe-share at Everyday Healthy Recipes.
- #CookOnceEatTwice (coming soon!), for recipes that are just as good left-over as they are when you made them, hosted by Searching for Spice.
- #RecipeOfTheWeek hosted by A Mummy Too.
- #BrillBlogPosts, a link party with a variety of lifestyle reads hosted by Honest Mum.
OPTIONAL TENDERIZING STEP:
- 1 cup water
- 2 tsp baking soda
BEEF AND MARINADE:
- 1 lb flank steak, sliced across the grain into ~¼" slices, then cut into bite-size pieces
- 2 tbsp lemongrass paste
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed
- 2 tbsp ginger, sliced (this will be approximately a 1-inch cube of ginger)
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
FOR THE BOWLS:
- 12 oz dried vermicelli noodles, (also called bean threads)
- 1 cup English (seedless) cucumber, julienned
- 1 cup carrots, peeled & julienned
- 1 cup scallions, julienned in ~1 ½" sections (or just slice them if you're pressed for time)
- 1 cup Thai basil, (use sweet basil if you can't find Thai)
- 1 cup cilantro, chopped
- ½ cup pickled red onion, (optional, see Recipe Note #1)
- lime wedges, for serving
- sriracha, (optional)
- tamari, (optional)
- ½ cup raw peanuts, (roasted and chopped)
- ¼ cup Fresno chilis, sliced (optional)
- lime wedges, for serving
FOR THE NUOC CHAM (optional):
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- 4 tbsp lime juice
- ½ cup water
- 1 tbsp sugar
- ½ tbsp chili-garlic sauce
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
OPTIONAL TENDERIZING STEP:
- Mix the baking soda into the water until dissolved. Submerge the steak in the solution for 15 minutes at room temperature (it may be necessary to use a gallon-sized ziploc with as much air squeezed out as possible so that the solution is in contact with all surfaces of the meat. (See Recipe Note #2)
- Rinse carefully in cold water and pat dry with paper toweling before adding the meat to the marinade.
FOR THE STEAK:
- Add the marinade ingredients to a gallon-sized ziploc bag and massage to mix. Add the flank steak, squeeze as much air out of the bag as you can, zip to close, and massage the marinade into the meat. Refrigerate at least 2 hours to overnight.
- Remove the steak from the marinade, scraping off as much of the marinade as possible (if you have stir-fry prepped the meat, drain the meat in a colander). Grill, sear in a cast-iron skillet, or stir-fry until done to your preference.
FOR THE NUOC CHAM:
- Add the nuoc cham ingredients to a small jar and shake well. Keep in the refrigerator until use, up to 1 week. (See Recipe Note #3)
ASSEMBLING THE NOODLE BOWLS:
- Cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse well with cold water.
- For eating the noodle bowls immediately: divide noodles into 4 bowls. Add ¼ cup of each veggie (except pickled onion) into each of the 4 bowls, arranging ingredients separately around the outside of the bowls. Pile in several whole leaves of Thai basil (let your guests tear them over the top of the dish) and ¼ cup cilantro (or to taste). Add 1 tbsp each of pickled onion and Fresno chili (if using) and ½ cup of steak to each bowl. Finish with a sprinkling of peanuts (if using) and lime wedges. Serve with nuoc cham sauce in a ramekin on the side for guests to pour on (or leave out) to their liking.
- For packing a lunch: the noodles and steak can be packed together in a plastic container. Pack nuoc cham and pickled onion (if using) in separate spill-proof containers. Sliced veggies can either be packed into a single plastic container or (if you want it to look pretty with the vegetables separated) into their own containers or baggies. Herb leaves can be packed together into another baggie. Refrigerate. Just before leaving for work, add ice packs to your lunch bag (take particular care to place an ice pack in contact with the container of steak and noodles). Be sure to bring a large, empty salad or soup bowl for assembling the final dish (follow steps for assembling above).
- For the pickled red onion: add 1 small sliced red onion, ⅓ cup rice vinegar, and 2 tbsp of sugar to a microwave-safe container. Microwave for 30 seconds. Store in a screw-top container, shaking occasionally. The onions will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks: they're great as a condiment for meats, salads, and more.
- You can opt to marinate the steak whole (for grilling or searing in a skillet) or to cut it up for stir-fry. If you opt to cut it up, do so after the tenderizing step: slice across the grain into thin (~¼ inch) strips, and then cut the strips into bite-size pieces.
- If you can't get past a fervent dislike of fish sauce and want to skip the nuoc cham, use a few dashes of sweet chili sauce and tamari. It won't be the same—by a long shot—but it WILL be delicious.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Unsaturated Fat: 0g
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