Light, refreshing, fragrant and so yum! This Vietnamese vermicelli bowl with lemongrass chicken (Bun Ga Nuong) is an utter delight! Perfect on weeknights and spectacular for entertaining. This crowd-pleaser salad is flavour-packed and a complete joy to eat.
Aside from the use of amazingly fragrant herbs (lemongrass, mint and coriander), the best part about a Vietnamese noodle salad is the dressing - Nuoc Mam. It's sweet, salty, sour and spicy all at the same time!
To mix things up, you can swap out the lemongrass chicken with Vietnamese Caramelised Lemongrass Pork which will then turn this recipe into Bun Thit Nuong.
Vietnamese noodle salads are super easy to make and suitable for all occasions. Whether it's an easy weeknight dinner or a get-together BBQ, this salad is made to impress. Presentation and taste!
It takes around 15 minutes to oven grill/broil the chicken. The salad with dressing comes together in no time, 10 minutes tops. Just make sure to marinate the chicken for the ultimate juicy and flavoursome meat!
There are 2 parts to making a Vietnamese vermicelli bowl:
- The basic noodle salad with Vietnamese salad dressing (nuoc mam)
- Grilled/broiled the lemongrass chicken
Ingredients for a basic Vietnamese noodle salad
- Nuoc mam is a very widely used dipping sauce in Vietnamese cuisine and it is heavenly. It's the dressing the brings this entire salad together. All you need are 5 ingredients - fish sauce, fresh lime juice, sugar, garlic and fresh chilli mixed with some hot water. The key is getting the balance of these simple ingredients right. The determining factor of 'right' ultimately comes down to personal preferences. My basic recipe for Nuoc Mam is punchy and big on flavour. Taste the sauce and adjust to your liking - does it need more water to dilute the flavour? More fish sauce? Less chilli? More chilli? Play around until you make it yours.
- Fresh mint and coriander are musts! I used basic mint, you can use Vietnamese mint instead. Vietnamese mints are a little peppery compared to normal mints.
- Bean sprouts are widely used in East and South-East Asian cuisine. You can find these inside Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls, on top of Pho, pad thai, etc.
- One thing to note about bean sprouts is that you must look for the freshest sprouts. Bean sprouts are generally sold in bags, in the fridge section. If the spouts are looking a little soft, they're no good to use. Safe to eat but terrible in salads! One handy tip to see whether bean sprouts are fresh is by checking the bottom of the bag. If there is water, they're no good to use. Always look for crisp looking ones without any liquid at the bottom of the bag.
- Sold at most Asian supermarkets and many fruit and vegetable grocers. To my Australian readers, they're also available at Coles, Woolworths and Harris Farm.
- Roasted peanuts add a lovely nutty flavour. Use either salted or unsalted.
Ingredients for Vietnamese lemongrass chicken
- Lemongrass - adds a burst of lemon and citrus flavour with a subtle hint of mint. When cooking with lemongrass, make sure you finely chop, pound or blend the herb to help release its fragrance.
- Fish sauce - widely used South East Asian umami-bomb pungent condiment and adds complexity and saltiness to a dish. Fish sauce is a liquid derived from the fermentation of anchovies, salt and water over a long period of time. On its own, not so appetising. Combined with other ingredients and balanced well, this condiment is a super star! Used in many dishes from stir-fries to marinades to curries to soups, etc. Popular dishes such as pad thai, larb, vermicelli salads and shaking beef all uses fish sauce!
- Onion - substitute: shallots
Step by step instructions
This Vietnamese chicken salad is super easy and does not take much effort or time. Just make sure to give the chicken enough time to marinate.
How to oven grill (broil) lemongrass chicken
If you have a BBQ, definitely grill the chicken on your BBQ.
If you don't have a BBQ, you can still achieve amazing results and guaranteed juicy chicken from grilling/broiling in the oven. This recipe will show you just how easy and fuss-free this method is!
First up, marinate the chicken. To make the marinade, first, wash and trim a stem of lemongrass.
The lemongrass aroma is strongest at the head (the thick, white part). Thus, simply cut off and discard the greener part of the lemongrass, about halfway. Like so in the image below.
To get the most out of the lemongrass, garlic and onions, you've got to release its aroma by cutting it up.
There are 3 ways to do this:
- Use a pestle and mortar - you'll need to finely slice then pound the lemongrass for about 1 minute. Add garlic and onion then pound for a further minute.
- Use a small food processor - the quickest option. Roughly cut lemongrass into chunks then blend for 5 seconds. Add garlic and onion and blend for a further 10 seconds.
- Finely chop with your trusty knife - obviously the most labour intensive method but it gets the job done. Finely chop all 3 ingredients.
Now, tip the lemongrass, garlic and onion mixture into a large mixing bowl. Mix in fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar and oil. The marinade should have a thick texture on the dry side.
With a pair of tongs, mix in boneless, skinless chicken thighs and coat each piece well.
Cover with cling film (plastic) and marinate for 1 hour in the fridge. The chicken's flavour will be even better if marinated overnight so plan ahead! Don't worry, it'll still be juicy and really delicious after just 1 hour.
Take the chicken out of the fridge 30 minutes before you're ready to cook to bring the chicken up to room temperature. This will allow even cooking.
To oven grill/broil, place marinated chicken thighs on a foil-lined baking tray and grill for 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked and lightly charred. No need to flip halfway.
Assemble the vermicelli bowl
To assemble the vermicelli bowl:
- Soak the vermicelli noodles according to packet instructions
- Make a quick 5-minute vermicelli salad dressing - nuoc mam
- Wash and cut vegetables and herbs
- Thickly slice grilled lemongrass chicken
- Divide the noodles, chicken and salads. Neatly place them in 4 serving bowls or 1 large salad bowl/plate.
To serve, sprinkle crushed roasted peanuts and spoon over as much nuoc mum as you want over this Vietnamese noodle salad!
Lastly, before digging in, you'll want to mix everything in the vermicelli bowl up! It'll inevitably ruin the pretty presentation but what is a salad without a little tossing?
So get in there and enjoy!
- Always use the freshest bean sprouts. If you got unlucky and the spouts have gotten a little soft and water, just exclude it from this salad. It's not worth it!
- Use a julienne to grate the carrots into thin matchsticks. The thinner the sticks, the easier the salad is to eat. Otherwise, use a normal grater.
- Make the nuoc mam salad dressing in advance for convenience as they last up to 1 month in the fridge. Even better, make a whole jar so you have it in the fridge whenever you like!
- Marinating the lemongrass chicken for at least 1 hour (up to 24 hours) is key to flavour-packed and juicy chicken.
- Store unused herbs in an airtight container wrapped in a damp teatowel so that they last longer.
Good to know (FAQs)
Yes! This salad is packed with healthy and lean protein, a variety of vegetables and a healthy portion of carbs. The salad dressing has minimal calories at 26cal per serve.
Vietnamese vermicelli noodles (Bun) are dried thin noodles made of ground rice and water. To serve, these noodles are soaked in warm water until hydrated then drained.
This recipe makes 4 generous servings at just under 650 calories per serve.
It depends! Sometimes the noodles are served lukewarm, other times, cold. Generally speaking, this is a lukewarm salad bowl with freshly grilled meats.
Storage or making ahead
Like all salads, this noodle salad is best eaten straight away.
Make ahead by preparing all of the salad ingredients (soak vermicelli, wash and cut vegetables and make nuoc mam dressing) then store them individually in air-tight containers. Chicken can be marinated in advance for up to 48 hours or frozen for up to 9 months. You can also cook the chicken in advance and store in air-tight containers for up to 4 days in the fridge.
On the day of serving, combine all ingredients with dressing.
Made this recipe or have a question? Let me know your thoughts by dropping a note in the comments section below! I'd love to hear from you and will get back to you. 🙂
Happy cooking! - Gen
Vietnamese Vermicelli Noodle Bowl with Lemongrass chicken
- Optional: pestle and mortar or small food processor
For the salad
- 200 g / 7 ounces vermicelli rice noodles soak according to packet instructions, drained
- 2 cucumbers cut to thin sticks
- 1 carrot grated or finely cut to thin sticks
- 2 cups fresh bean sprouts rinsed and drained (note 1)
- ½ bunch fresh mint leaves only, roughly chopped
- ½ bunch fresh coriander leaves roughly chopped, stems finely chopped
- ¼ cup roasted peanuts salted or unsalted, roughly chopped
- nuoc mam (Vietnamese salad dressing)
- lemongrass chicken (below)
For the lemongrass chicken
- 1 kg / 2 pounds chicken thighs boneless, skinless
- 1 lemongrass
- ¼ onion roughly chopped
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon brown sugar substitute: white or palm sugar
- 1 tablespoon neutral tasting oil eg. sunflower or grapeseed oil
To make the lemongrass chicken
- Wash and trim lemongrass, only use the thick part of the lemongrass. (note 2)
- If using pestle and mortar: finely slice then pound the lemongrass until fragrant. About 1 minute. Add garlic and onion. Pound for a further minute until a rough dry paste is formed.
- If using a food processor: blend lemongrass for about 5 seconds. Add garlic and onions, blend for a further 10 seconds.
- Finely chop method: if you have neither of the two above tools, simply finely chop the lemongrass, garlic and onions.
- Place lemongrass mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar and oil. Mix well then add in chicken thighs and coat chicken well with the marinade. Cover and marinate in the fridge for 1 hour or even better, overnight.
- 30 minutes before cooking, take the marinated chicken out of the fridge to bring it up to room temperature for even cooking.
- Preheat oven grill/broiler to 230°C/450°F.
- Place chicken thighs on a foil-lined baking tray and broil/grill for 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked and lightly charred. No need to flip.
To make the vermicelli salad bowl
- This recipe makes 4 servings as a main or 6 as a side. You can either serve it in 4 individual bowls or 1 large salad bowl. If serving in individual bowls, divide the salad ingredients evenly.
- To make the salad, first line the serving bowl/s with vermicelli noodles then top with cucumber, carrots, mint, coriander and bean sprouts. Top each ingredient in sections around the bowl for presentation. Finally, in the middle, top thickly sliced lemongrass chicken.
- To serve, sprinkle chopped peanuts and drizzle with nuoc mam.