Bun Chay is a Vietnamese rice noodle salad, with lots of fresh herbs and veggies, topped with delicious Nuoc cham. Nuoc cham is a sauce made from lime, chilies, lemongrass, and garlic. It is a little bit sour, sweet and spicy and it compliments the savory tofu and spring rolls perfectly. This is one of my favorite dinners of all time, because it is healthy with lots of vegetables, but also incredibly flavorful. Bun Chay can be made with all kinds of toppings. You can use Vietnamese meatballs, lemongrass marinated and grilled pork, thinly sliced beef, shrimp, or anything else. I like to make this tofu version for a break from meat, and it is one my meat loving family will still be happy to eat. You can find the bird’s eye chilies at any Asian market and they freeze super well since they are so small, so I buy a big package and keep them in my freezer and pull out a few at a time. You really don’t need much – they pack some serious heat. Fish sauce is integral to nuoc cham, you can also find it at the Asian grocery or here on amazon. The three crabs brand is the one my Mother in law swears by and it is the one I use.
For the nuoc cham:
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp lemongrass finely chopped
- 2 thai bird’s eye chilies, sliced
- 1 garlic clove, chopped fine
- 2 tbsp water
Combine all the ingredients and whisk to combine. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the meal.
For the bun chay:
The rice noodles used in this salad are also available at Asian markets, sometimes at regular groceries stores in the international section, or on trusty Amazon
- 8 oz rice vermicelli
- 2 carrots, julienned
- 1 bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 cup sliced cucumbers
- 1 cup cilantro leaves, sliced
- 2 cups chopped romaine
- 1 cup Thai basil leaves, sliced
- 1 cup mint leaves, sliced
- 1 cup chopped peanuts
- lime wedges
Boil the noodles according to package. Drain and rinse under cool water. Mix with a little sesame oil to keep from sticking. Divide into 4 serving bowls.
For the tofu and spring rolls:
- 4 tbsp oil
- 1 or 2 packages of firm tofu (dpending on how much tofu you want), cut into 1/2 thick rectangles
- 4 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1-2 cooked springs roll per person
Mix the soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, garlic powder and 2 tbsp of water in a bowl. Place the tofu on a sheet pan or a shallow baking dish and pour the sauce over the top. Let the tofu absorb the sauce, flipping occasionally, for about 20 minutes. Heat 1/2 the oil over medium heat and lay tofu in a single layer in the pan. Don’t crowd the pan too much. Let the tofu brown about 5 minutes per side until it has a nice gentle golden color to it, but don’t let it burn. Flip and brown the other side.
For the spring rolls, you can make your own, or you can buy some decent frozen ones and cook according to the packaging first. I used frozen ones today as I didn’t have time to make homemade. They are pretty good either way.
To your bowl of noodles, add the tofu and spring rolls cut in half. Top with veggies and herbs and chopped peanuts and pour a few tbsps of nuoc cham over the top, serving with the extra nuoc cham on the side (we usually add more while eating), and some sriracha or other hot sauce you like.
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