Vietnamese noodle salad – Bun Bo Xao

Bun Bo Xao is a Vietnamese beef and noodle salad. Xao means stir-fry, because original recipe uses beef stir fried with lemon grass.  My recipe replaces beef with egg as it’s much faster and easier to prepare.

I find this salad to be a perfect summer dish. Therefore I don’t want to be bothered with cooking meat.

It brings back memories of Poland. Every time I’m back in my country I visit Toan Pho, one of the most popular Vietnamese restaurants in Warsaw. It was first located in 10th-Anniversary Stadium (Polish: Stadion Dziesięciolecia), opened in 1955 and for decades the largest stadium in Warsaw. Under the Polish People’s Republic, it was one of the most advertised construction sites and a principal venue for Party and state festivities. In the 1980s the stadium became dilapidated. After 1989 it was used mainly as a bazaar called The flea market of Europe, becoming famous as the place to buy a whole range of goods, most notably clothes, software, hardware and media. Its demolition began in September 2008, and the new National Stadium is constructed in its place to serve as one of the venues for Euro 2012.

The 10th-Anniversary Stadium was a place to get all types of food sold by numerous migrants from all around the world, mainly Asia. Toan Pho was among the best local Asian bars. After the stadium was closed, Toan Pho moved to the most trendy neighborhood in Warsaw – Chmielna street – located in the City Center. The place is always crowded and full of interesting, peculiar people. Beside ten types of Pho, the restaurant serves few variations of Bun Salad – Bun with beef, chicken, shrimp, pork, and tofu.

I truly love it. The secret of the Bun Salad is nouc cham. David Tanis from The New York Times City Kitchen writes:

But it is the nuoc cham dipping sauce that pulls it all together. The complex flavor of the sauce belies how simple it is to make. The most important element is amber-colored fish sauce, made from a long fermentation of salted anchovies.

Not all fish sauce is created equal. Connoisseurs agree that Vietnam makes fish sauce of the highest quality, and many swear by the Red Boat brand, which is an “extra virgin” first pressing from Phu Quoc island with a pure light flavor and no additives. Always read the label carefully when buying fish sauce. Cheaper brands often add fructose and other seasonings along with stabilizers or preservatives. The best fish sauce really doesn’t taste fishy at all.

Therefore, invest your money in some good fish sauce, prepare nuoc cham in advance and keep it in the fridge to use whenever you need to.

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Vietnamese Bun Salad – 4 servings

200 g rice noodles (wide ones)

1 1/2 cups of shredded lettuce

1 carrot, thinly sliced

1 cucumber, thinly sliced

1 radish, thinly sliced

1/2 cup mung bean sprouts

bunch of fresh herbs: mint, basil, coriander, dill

1/4 cup roasted peanuts, crashed

3 eggs for omelette

oil for frying

sesame oil (optional)

Nuoc Cham

4 tablespoons Demerara or granulated light brown sugar

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

4 tablespoons lime juice, from 2 large limes

4 tablespoons best quality fish sauce, such as Red Boat

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1-inch length ginger, peeled and minced

1 tsp of chili paste

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Preparation

  1. In a small bowl combine sugar, rice vinegar and lime juice and stir to dissolve. Add fish sauce, garlic, ginger, chiles and 1/2 cup water and stir together. Let sit for 15 minutes for flavors to meld. (May be prepared a day ahead and refrigerated.)
  2. Bring water to boil and cook rice noodles for about 8 mins or more, if needed. Rinse with cold water to stop cooking process immediately after you decide your noodles are ready.
  3. Wash all the vegetables and slice them thinly. Roast peanuts. Crack eggs in a small dish, mix well and transfer to hot pan. Fry for about 2 mins each side. Cut it in 2 cm wide long slices.
  4. Arrange all the ingredients in a deep bowl starting from rice noodles, lettuce, cucumber, carrot, radish, sprouts, fresh herbs, peanuts and slices of omelette. Sprinkle with nouc cham. I often finish it with sesame oil.

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