A couple weeks ago I put out a question on Instagram asking what people wanted me to make and many people said that they wanted more easy meals. Well I heard you. Here is an easy meal that feeds a small family. Luckily, so many Vietnamese dishes do make easy meals with little cooking involved. This dish Bun Bo Xao or Vietnamese Beef Noodle Salad is a fresh take on normal comfort food. When I look at this dish, I think spring and sunnier days to come, and it just makes me happy when I eat it.
What is Bun Bo Xao?
Bun Bo Xao is a Vietnamese noodle dish made with marinated flank steak, vermicelli noodles and fresh vegetables all topped with toasted peanuts and Vietnamese dipping sauce (nuoc cham). This is one of the lesser known vermicelli noodle dishes, but it is relatively common in Vietnam. The core flavor component of the dish revolves around the flank steak. It is marinated in oyster sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, salt, pepper, garlic, and oil, and then cooked with thinly sliced onions. Lemongrass is also included in some recipes, but I didn’t have any, so I made due with what I had. It still turned out great!
Ingredients, Substitutions, & Adjustments
- Flank Steak
- Flank steak – A traditional bun bo xao is made with flank steak, but I have made it with other cuts of steak as well like the sirloin, strip, and rib eye.
- Garlic – Garlic helps mask the unappetizing flavors of beef.
- Oyster sauce – This sauce is made with oyster extracts, sugar, salt, and water. It adds a distinct umami flavor to the marinade. I like using the oyster sauce from Lee Kum Kee.
- Corn starch – Corn starch is a great way to tenderize the steak.
- Soy Sauce – Adds umami flavor to the marinade. I absolutely love my Kikkoman Soy Sauce.
- Brown Sugar – Balances out all the salty and umami flavors of the oyster sauce and soy sauce. Good Vietnamese food always has a balance of salty and sweet.
- Seasonings (salt & pepper) – Any kind of salt and pepper should work for this recipe.
- Yellow onion – I would recommend using a yellow onion for this recipe. A good substitute would be a white onion.
- Noodle Bowl Components
- Vermicelli – This dish works best with vermicelli noodles, but if you can’t find vermicelli, any kind of thin rice noodle should work. One brand of vermicelli noodles I like to use is the Three Ladies Brand vermicelli noodles.
- Lettuce – Red lettuce or green lettuce should work.
- Toppings (Mint, Carrots, Cucumbers, and toasted peanuts) – These are the toppings I like to eat in my vermicelli bowls, but you can substitute or leave out any of these ingredients.
- Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham) – I have a separate post that details how to make this sauce. This is an absolute essential for this dish.
Making bun bo xao
I have to say this dish is extremely easy to make, but the prep does take some time. First marinade your flank steak in soy sauce, corn starch, brown sugar, oyster sauce, vegetable oil, salt, and pepper. Let it sit for 30 minutes. While it is marinading, prepare the rest of your ingredients. Cook your vermicelli. Toast and cut your peanuts. Thinly slice your onion, cucumber, and carrot. Make your Vietnamese dipping sauce. Once you’re done prepping the rest of your ingredients, the steak should be done marinading.
Next cook your steak. Add a tablespoon of oil to a large pan. Cook your onions until shiny and soft. Add in your steak and cook for 5-10 minutes until your steak is cooked through. The last step is to assemble your noodle bowl. Add a handful of vermicelli noodles to a bowl. Follow that with lettuce, mint, cucumber, and carrot. Finally, top it all with peanuts. Drizzle your Vietnamese dipping sauce over the top to taste and serve!
Tips on how to make the best bun bo xao
- Make sure to thinly slice your flank steak – I slice my flank steak really thinly against the grain to get the softest, chewiest texture. The thinner you slice the steak, the easier it will be to cook and eat.
- Prep your toppings ahead of time – When I went to make it for this blog post, I spent about 30 minutes slicing all the toppings. It was honestly sort of exhausting lol. To make it easier on yourself when you’re trying to just get dinner on the table, prepare the toppings a day ahead of time and store them in the fridge. It helps with a quicker cook to table time.
- Tips on how to cut your cucumbers and carrots – I didn’t learn how to cut my cucumbers and carrots appropriately til recently, and I want to share what I learned with you. To achieve the shape pictured above, thinly slice your cucumbers lengthwise. Then stack the thin slices on top of each other. Cut them width wise (straight across) into the length you desire. Lastly, cut them length wise again to get the thin strips. Repeat this process for carrots. I would recommend using a mandoline for the first cut to thinly slice the carrots. It’s difficult to do with a knife.
- Add lemongrass to the steak marinade for extra flavor – I didn’t include lemongrass in my marinade because it’s not how I grew up eating it, and I couldn’t find any. Definitely include it if can because you can never have too much flavor! Use one stalk of lemongrass if you choose to include it.
Did you make this dish?
If you made this dish, I would love to see!
Vietnamese Beef Noodle Salad (Bun Bo Xao)
- Marinade your flank steak in soy sauce, corn starch, brown sugar, oyster sauce, vegetable oil, salt, and pepper. Let it sit for 30 minutes.
- While the steak is marinading, prepare the rest of your ingredients. Cook your vermicelli. Toast and cut your peanuts. Thinly slice your onion, cucumber, and carrot. Make your Vietnamese dipping sauce. Once you're done prepping the rest of your ingredients, the steak should be done marinading.
- Now it's time to cook your steak. Add a tablespoon of oil to a large pan. Cook your onions until shiny and soft. Add in your steak and cook for 5-10 minutes until your steak is cooked through.
- Assemble your noodle bowl. Add a handful of vermicelli noodles to a bowl. Follow that with lettuce, mint, cucumber, and carrot. Finally, top it all with peanuts. Drizzle Vietnamese dipping sauce over the top to taste and serve!