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Bun Ga Nuong – Vietnamese Noodle Bowl

May 22, 2015


It’s been several years since our trip to Vietnam and only recently, when I was flicking through my folder of collected recipes, did I find my stained & crumpled pages from a cooking class we did there.

I think it must have been one of the most memorable and fun (and tasty) classes we have done overseas. It was run by the Hoa Sua Vocational Training School in Hanoi, where proceeds go to educating and training disadvantaged kids.

Our teacher was a very stern but beautiful trans-gender chef, who taught us how to make fresh spring rolls, grilled turmeric fish and this dish; lemongrass chicken.

We were introduced to stinkweed (sawtooth coriander), galangal juice and the unusual use of dill and majoram in Vietnamese cooking. And we learnt what a huge difference it makes to grill directly over charcoal, rather than a BBQ.

Sometimes a really good recipe is not so much about the recipe but the assembling of a number of ingredients. I admit that after making this dish in Vietnam, I have never really measured any of the ingredients but thrown it all together to my taste – which is what I would encourage you to do too!

The contrast in temperatures and textures of this dish appeals to me – hot grilled lemongrass chicken, paired with cool crunchy vegetables like cucumber, carrots, bean sprouts or daikon. Fresh aromatic herbs, vermicelli rice noodles and the tangy Vietnamese Nuoc Cham dressing – are a feast for the senses… fragrant, lively and bright.

Assembled as a noodle bowl, known as Bun Ga Nuong, it can be made with grilled chicken or prawns, marinated with lots of lemongrass. Vermicelli rice noodles are traditional in the dish, but for a low-carb option, try substituting daikon “noodles” or shiratake.

I think the fresh lemongrass in this recipe is the star of the dish. It is fragrant and zingy and really can’t be substituted for exact effect. I have some lemongrass in our garden which is struggling a bit – we planted it in an area where it is too dry. Lemongrass LOVES water and heat and I have friends who say that it can take over if not careful. For now, my lemongrass has produced puny stalks so I am resigned to paying for the expensive stuff at the markets.

When I buy a bunch, I peel away the tough outer layers of the lemongrass stalks and separate the white and very light green portions from the green, which I save and freeze. I make a paste with the white/light green parts and use the dark green parts for steeping in soups or tea or steaming in rice.

To make the paste, slice the white & green parts finely (yes, even if you are using your Thermomix!) and then grind on SP 10 with a pinch of salt. It works better if you are using at least 6 stems and the time taken will vary, depending on the coarseness of the stalk. Freeze the pulp in an ice tray and then remove to a jar to keep in the freezer for easy, instant lemongrass.

You can buy lemongrass pulp from the supermarket but it is filled with preservatives and citric acid which changes the taste considerably. I have also tried dried lemongrass powder which doesn’t taste like lemongrass at all!! Just wood shavings!!

250g chicken thigh fillets
1 clove garlic
juice of 1 fresh lime
1 tab fish sauce
1 tab tamari or soy sauce
1 tab coconut sugar
1 tab macadamia oil
3 tabs minced lemongrass, white part only

50g fresh papaya (green or yellow)* optional

Place the marinade ingredients into the TM and blend on SP 6 for 15 seconds. Add the chicken thighs and mix on SP SLOW REVERSE to combine and then set aside to marinate for at least 2 hours, or better still, overnight.

Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce
50g rice vinegar
60g fish sauce
40g coconut or palm sugar (more or less to taste)
Juice of 1 lime
1 red chilli, sliced
50g water
½ teas salt
1 clove garlic

Mix dressing ingredients on SP 3 for 2 minutes at 90⁰C & strain & cool. Adjust to your taste – spicier or sweeter.

To Assemble Noodle Bowl

100g dried vermicelli noodles** or shiratake or daikon
1 carrot, julienned
1 cucumber, sliced
1½ cups shredded lettuce
1 handful bean sprouts
Small handful of mint leaves, preferably Vietnamese, if you can get it
Small handful of Thai basil leaves
Sliced chili & Lime wedges to serve

Soak the vermicelli noodles in hot water for 3 minutes (or according to packet instructions), then drain and rinse under cold water to stop the noodles from sticking together.

Heat your BBQ grill or charcoal grill to hot and cook chicken on each side until brown (almost charred) and chicken is just cooked through. Set aside to rest for 5 minutes then slice thinly.

To serve individually, place noodles in bowl. Then add the chosen vegetables and top with chicken pieces. Garnish liberally with the mint and basil and drizzle with a few tablespoons of Nuoc Cham Sauce and serve with lime wedges.

Often, I will just put everything on a large platter for everyone to help themselves.

* The papaya is a great tenderiser and will give you that “bite-tender” mouth feel that you get in Vietnamese restaurants.

** Look for the ones made in Vietnam as they are finer.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 22, 2016 8:01 pm

    Hi, this looks delicious, but I was just wondering if you could tell me how many servings this recipe makes? Thank you!

  2. Kelly permalink
    March 22, 2016 8:01 pm

    Hi, this looks delicious – I was just wondering how many people it would serve? Thank you!

  3. May 22, 2015 3:58 pm

    Wow, Sarah. This looks fabulous. I love lemongrass.

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