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

Vietnamese Beef and Rice Noodle Salad

Vietnamese Beef and Rice Noodle Salad

5 / 4 votes
Vietnamese beef and rice noodle salad, or bún bò xào, is made with beef marinated in fish sauce and lemongrass and served with rice noodles.
David Leite
Servings6 servings
Calories323 kcal
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Resting Time30 minutes
Total Time1 hour 15 minutes


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


Make the rice noodle salad

  • Bring a pot of water to a boil. Toss in the rice noodles and boil 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.
  • 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.
  • In a large bowl, toss the bean sprouts, cucumber, mint, scallions, and lettuce.

Make the dipping sauce

  • 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.
  • Add the garlic, chile, and lime juice to the mixture.

Cook the Vietnamese beef

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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

  • 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.


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.
Secrets of the Red Lantern by Pauline Nguyen

Adapted From

Secrets of the Red Lantern

Buy On Amazon


Serving: 1 portionCalories: 323 kcalCarbohydrates: 43 gProtein: 21 gFat: 7 gSaturated Fat: 2 gMonounsaturated Fat: 3 gCholesterol: 46 mgSodium: 1296 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 7 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2007 Pauline Nguyen. Photo © 2007 Alan Benson. All rights reserved.

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.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

Hungry For More?

Garlic Butter Steak Bites

These juicy bites of sirloin, smothered in garlic and herb butter, will satisfy any steakhouse craving for a fraction of the price.

25 mins

Seared Skirt Steak with Salsa

Hungry for something flavorful and good-for-you? This seared skirt steak is jam-packed with everything you need.

50 mins

Homemade Corned Beef

Homemade corned beef is crazy easy to make. And it’s not just for St. Patrick’s Day. Although the holiday simply isn’t the same without it.

5 d 3 hrs

5 from 4 votes (2 ratings without comment)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    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.