Vietnamese Beef and Rice Noodle Salad

This Vietnamese beef and rice noodle salad, also known as bún bò xào, is a classic made with seared steak piled atop rice noodles, cucumbers, lettuce, and bean sprouts. Fast, easy, and way better than takeout.

A bowl filled with Vietnamese beef and rice noodle salad, with chopsticks resting on the bowl, and a small dish of peanuts beside it.

This Vietnamese beef classic, a salad of sorts made from noodles and fresh vegetables, is a jumble of tastes and textures and temperatures that jolt the senses in the best possible way. Sirloin steak is marinated in lemongrass and fish sauce and lends the recipe a wonderful lilt (though we’ve sometimes taken a shortcut and skipped the marinade and instead used thinly sliced leftover steak). The hot steak is then tossed with cooling rice noodles, cucumber, bean sprouts, and scallions. We gotta say, we’re particular about our Vietnamese fare, and we’re quite pleased.–Renee Schettler Rossi

Vietnamese Beef and Rice Noodle Salad

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 30 M
  • Serves 6
5/5 - 2 reviews
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Ingredients

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  • For the rice noodle salad
  • 8 ounces rice vermicelli
  • 2 handfuls bean sprouts
  • 1 small cucumber (about 6 inches | 15 cm long), thinly sliced and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 handful mint leaves, torn
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 cup firmly packed, thinly 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 granulated 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. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Toss in the rice noodles and boil for 5 minutes.
  • 2. 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.
  • 3. In a dry wok or large skillet 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.
  • 4. In a large bowl, toss the bean sprouts, cucumber, mint, scallions, and lettuce.
  • Make the dipping sauce
  • 5. In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together the fish sauce, rice vinegar, water, and sugar and heat until bubbles just begin to form. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  • 6. Add the garlic, chile, and lime juice to the mixture.
  • Cook the Vietnamese beef
  • 7. Slice the beef into 1/16 inch strips and combine in a bowl with 2 tablespoons chopped lemongrass, the fish sauce, and half the garlic. Let marinate for 10 minutes.
  • 8. In a wok or large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil. Working in 2 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 beef but leave it in the wok or skillet.
  • 9. Return the first batch of beef and the vegetables to the wok, season with the sugar, salt, and pepper, and stir-fry until warmed through. Remove from the heat.
  • Assemble the salad
  • 10. Divvy the rice noodles among 4 bowls or plates, top with the vegetable mixture, and sprinkle with the crushed peanuts. Pile the beef on top and sprinkle with the remaining peanuts. Pass the dipping sauce on the side for drizzling or dipping. Originally published July 5, 2011.

What You Need To Know About Making This Recipe As Quickly As You Can

  • Because we know weeknights can be harried, here’s a step-by-step approach to maximizing your time and making the assembly of this recipe go lickety split. It’ll be done in less time than it takes you to learn how to properly pronounce its Vietnamese name, bún bò xào. 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.

Recipe Testers Reviews

Delicious! Tastes just like it came from a Vietnamese restaurant. It requires a lot of prep work but once everything is ready, the dish comes together very quickly. The combination of cool rice noodles and vegetables with spicy dipping fish sauce is perfect for hot weather. The flavor of the beef was also great marinated with lemongrass and onions.

The flavors were great in this rice noodles dish. I will definitely make it again. It took a lot of prep work but then went together quickly once I started cooking. One warning: I didn’t chop the lemongrass finely enough, or maybe I used too much of the green portion, so that was kind of unpleasant.

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Comments

  1. This does require a lot of prep work of various ingredients but it is totally worth it. The sauce that you pour over the dish is really simple to make and completes the overall dish. The layers of flavor are amazing and totally made my day! Next time, I would cut the amount of noodles in half. I had a tremendous amount of leftover noodles but all the other ingredients were just enough to serve four.

  2. Do you think this would work using tofu instead of beef; marinating the tofu in the same marinade. Maybe grill the tofu or bake at a high heat.

    1. Suzi, I think that would work perfectly! As you no doubt already do, you’ll want to press the tofu prior to marinating it to release any extra moisture. Then yes bake it at maybe 425°F or grill it, turning it and watching it for scorching due to the sugar in the marinade. Kindly let us know how it goes. But I see no potential pitfalls whatsoever.

  3. I’m very interested in trying this recipe out but am allergic and can’t consume the fish sauce; can you advise what would the best substitute for the fish sauce in the dipping sauce and in the beef recipe, please?

    1. Robert, I love that you want to try this salad with tweaks to accommodate your needs. We haven’t tried these substitutions, so I can’t guarantee they will work, but a common substitution for fish sauce is soy sauce with a splash of lime, and I think that would work quite nicely here. I’d suggest you try a low-sodium soy sauce and, as with all dressings and dipping sauces, go ahead and taste it and then adjust the ingredients to taste so you get just the right ratio of sweet to salty to acidic that you like. Kindly let us know how it goes!

      1. Renee, thanks so much for your response! I’m looking forward to trying out your suggestion, I will try to get back to you let you know how it goes, so others with fish allergies might see this too! :-) All the best

          1. Hi Renee, I wanted to follow up to let you know your suggestion was spot on, the low sodium soy sauce with a splash of fresh lime juice went very well with the dish, everyone really enjoyed the flavors and the unique meal. Thanks again for taking time to reply! Keep up the great work, you’re fantastic!

            Happy New Year! All the best, Robert

            1. Magnificent to hear, Robert! Can’t tell you how pleased I am to hear that it worked out well! I so appreciate you taking the time to let me know. Wishing you and yours all the magic of the season…

  4. This dish is amazing! We absolutely love it and have it at least once a week. The first time we made it it took a while but after you have done it once and know your way around the recipe it is much quicker. We have made it with chicken and also with prawns which has now become our favorite.

    1. Ah, Gina, this is one of my favorite things to eat as well. I love slipping into that familiarity with a recipe–it’s nice to speed up the process and then you can experiment without fear of making something you won’t like! It’s great to hear that this recipe has become a family standby.

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