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Vietnamese Beef and Rice Noodle Salad

The heat of the Vietnamese beef and the scent of lemongrass on cool rice noodles and crunchy bean sprouts is a great example of the balance of hot and cold. I love that I can taste the flavor of the wok flame on the beef.–Pauline Nguyen

LC Cheat Sheet Note

This Vietnamese beef classic, a summery salad of sorts, is a jumble of tastes and textures and temperatures that jolt the senses in the best possible way. Sirloin marinated in lemongrass and fish sauce lends the recipe a wonderful lilt, though we’ve sometimes dispensed with that and instead tossed thinly sliced leftover steak in a skillet until it’s sizzling, then tossed that with the cooling rice noodles, cucumber, bean sprouts, and scallions, and been quite pleased.

Here’s a step-by-step approach to making the assembly of this recipe go lickety split:

  • First get the water going for the rice noodles.
  • Chop and tear and slice and toast everything you need for vermicelli salad, the dipping sauce, and the marinade for the Vietnamese beef.
  • Toss the rice noodles in the water to soften.
  • Finish your chopping and tearing and so forth.
  • Stir together the dipping sauce and marinade.
  • Take a moment to pour yourself a beer and nosh on a handful of peanuts.
  • Assemble the vermicelli salad, toast the peanuts, wok-toss the marinated beef, and put it all together.
  • Grab your fork or chopsticks.

Vietnamese Beef and Rice Noodle Salad Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 30 M
  • Serves 6

Ingredients

  • For the rice noodle salad
  • 8 ounces rice vermicelli
  • 2 handfuls bean sprouts
  • 1 small cucumber (about 6 inches long), thinly sliced then cut into matchsticks
  • 1 handful mint leaves, torn
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 cup firmly packed sliced iceberg lettuce
  • 1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts, plus more for garnish
  • For the dipping sauce
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 bird’s eye chili (or other long, skinny, red chili pepper, such as serrano)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 1 to 2 limes)
  • For the Vietnamese beef
  • 1 pound sirloin
  • 3 slender lemongrass stems, inner white parts only, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 small white or red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch finely ground white pepper

Directions

  • Make the rice noodle salad
  • 1. Cook the vermicelli in a large saucepan of boiling water for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the noodles to stand in the water for 5 more minutes. Dump into a colander and rinse under cold water, then cover with a damp towel and set aside at room temperature.
  • 2. Divide the rice noodles among 4 serving bowls or plates. In a large bowl, toss the bean sprouts, cucumber, mint, scallions, and lettuce, and place on top of the vermicelli.
  • 3. In a dry wok over medium heat, stir-fry or shake the peanuts just until aromatic, warm, and a soft brown color. Crush the peanuts in a mortar until coarsely ground. Sprinkle over the rice noodle mixture.
  • Make the dipping sauce
  • 4. Stir together the fish sauce, rice vinegar, water, and sugar in a saucepan and place over medium heat until just before boiling. Let cool.
  • 5. Add the garlic, chile, and lime juice to the dipping sauce.
  • Wok-fry the vietnamese beef
  • 6. Slice the beef into 1/16 inch strips and combine in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of the chopped lemongrass, the fish sauce, and half the garlic. Set aside for 10 minutes.
  • 7. Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet over medium heat. Working in two batches, stir-fry the onion, remaining lemongrass, and remaining garlic just until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Increase the heat to high, add the beef, and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining onion, lemongrass, garlic, and beef. Return the first batch of beef to the wok, season with the sugar, salt, and pepper, and stir-fry to heat through.
  • 8. Serve the beef on top of the rice noodle salad and sprinkle with the remaining peanuts. Pass the dipping sauce on the side and use it to dip or drizzle.
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