I’m yet to meet someone who doesn’t love bun, or Vietnamese rice noodle bowls. And no two bun are the same: the combinations are endless, but one thing remains the same: a good bun is a riot of textures and flavors: crunchy and chewy and salty and sweet and tart all at once.
This lemongrass-heavy version with grilled chicken is my favorite way to make bun at home. Feel free to adjust the ingredients to your liking.
For the nuoc cham:
1/2 cup warm water
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus more to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce, plus more to taste
For the marinade:
1/4 cup roughly chopped lemongrass
3 tablespoons roughly chopped shallot
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 (8-ounce) package uncooked thin rice stick noodles
4 cups lettuce, thinly sliced
1 Persian cucumber, julienned
1/2 cup torn fresh mint
1/2 cup torn fresh Thai or other basil
Vegetable oil, for grilling
2/3 cup unsalted roasted peanuts or cashews, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup crispy fried shallots
1. Make the nuoc cham: Stir together water, lime juice, and sugar in a small bowl until sugar dissolves. Add additional lime juice to taste; dilute with water if flavors are too strong. Stir in fish sauce; add additional fish sauce to taste.
2. Marinade the chicken: Place all marinade ingredients in a food processor; pulse until mixture is pureed. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Add chicken to marinade in bowl, mixing to coat. Cover, refrigerate, and marinade chicken for 2 to 6 hours.
3. When ready to cook, boil noodles in a pot of water until chewy-tender (cook time will depend on brand). Drain and rinse under cold water; drain again. Divide lettuce and cucumber among 4 large serving bowls. Sprinkle bowls evenly with mint and basil. Top evenly with noodles.
4. Heat a grill pan over medium-high. Lightly brush chicken with oil. Place chicken on hot grill pan; cook, turning occasionally, until chicken is slightly charred and cooked through, 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer chicken to a cutting board, let cool for 2 minutes, and slice into bite-sized pieces.
5. Divide chicken among bowls. Top bowls evenly with peanuts and fried shallots. Serve with nuoc cham as an accompaniment.