Made in 30 minutes or less, this refreshing Vietnamese noodle bowl with lemongrass chicken or Bun Ga Nuong is the perfect example of balance. Savory lemongrass chicken is served with fresh vegetables, vermicelli noodles, and a drizzle of nuoc cham. Perfect for both weeknight dinners and dinner parties.
One of my favorite things about Vietnamese cuisine is that it is full of fresh herbs and vegetables. Even though the cuisine has a lot of intense savory flavors, it is always balanced out with all these fresh vegetables. The dishes that personify this more than any other are Vietnamese noodle salads or bún in Vietnamese. A variety of different proteins can be used to make bún but the one I have been gravitating towards recently is lemongrass chicken. Bun Ga Nuong or Vietnamese noodle salad with lemongrass chicken is so simple to make, and I have to say I really love my recipe. Even my mom loves it, and that’s the best validation.
What is Bun Ga Nuong?
Bun Ga Nuong is a popular type of bún, dishes that are eaten with vermicelli noodles, an assortment of herbs, do chua, and a protein with nuoc cham as a dressing. Some popular bun dishes are bun bo xao, bun thit nuong, and bun cha hanoi. Yes it’s essentially a salad! That’s why the most popular season to eat this dish is in the summer, but Vietnamese people love this dish all year round.
The most traditional way to prepare the lemongrass chicken for this dish is to grill it. “Ga Nuong” literally translates to grilled chicken. The grill imparts yummy earthy flavor to the dish. However, I do not have a grill at home, so in developing this recipe, I chose to use a saute pan. The results were still very tasty.
Ingredients, Substitutions & Adjustments
- Chicken thighs – I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs for this recipe. Use any cut of chicken you want. Chicken breast is a great substitute for thighs.
- Lemongrass – Adds a slight lemon-y taste to the chicken and helps balance out the rich and savory flavors. If you don’t have lemongrass, I would use a tablespoon of lime juice and the zest of 1 lime. The flavor won’t be the same as lemongrass, but it’s a good enough substitute.
- Shallots and garlic – Adds extra flavor the chicken! Shallots can be substituted with sweet yellow onion. I would use about 3 tbsp of onion.
- Fish sauce – Adds umami flavor to the chicken.
- Soy sauce – Adds umami flavor to the chicken. I used low sodium soy sauce for this recipe. Substitute with tamari to make this dish gluten free.
- Vegetable Oil – Helps give the chicken its brown color. Substitute with grapeseed oil or olive oil.
- Honey – Adds sweetness to help balance out the savory flavors from the fish sauce and soy sauce.
- Light brown sugar – Adds sweetness to help balance out the savory flavors from the fish sauce and soy sauce. Light brown sugar can be substituted with dark brown sugar. Note that dark brown sugar is sweeter, so that will make the dish sweeter. If you want to make this dish processed sugar free, use another tablespoon of honey.
The ingredients below are the ones I use in my vermicelli bowl, but you can use whatever vegetables you want.
- Vermicelli noodles – Vermicelli are thin, rice noodles used in all Vietnamese noodle bowls. Personally, I wouldn’t substitute this ingredient with anything because I don’t think there’s a great substitute for it. If you had to substitute with something, I would use thin rice noodles.
- Lettuce – You can use any type of lettuce for the vermicelli bowl. Romaine, green leaf, and red leaf lettuce are a few examples.
- Pickled carrots and daikon – These are optional but they add a nice balance to the rich flavors. Get the recipe for my pickled carrots and daikon here.
- Cucumbers – Another refreshing vegetable to add to your vermicelli bowl! Personally, my favorite cucumbers are Persian cucumbers but use whatever you have available.
- Mint – One of the traditional ingredients in a vermicelli bowl. I usually use green mint but sometimes, I use perilla leaves.
- Peanuts (optional) – Crushed peanuts are served in every vermicelli noodle bowl. If you don’t like peanuts, leave it out. A good substitute for crushed peanuts is fried shallots.
- Vietnamese dipping sauce – This is the “dressing” for this noodle bowl. Get the recipe for my Vietnamese dipping sauce here!
Other kinds of vegetables you can use in this dish
This vermicelli noodle bowl can include a variety of different herbs and vegetables. In addition to those mentioned in the recipe, some others you can include are bean sprouts, cilantro, perilla leaves, and Thai basil.
How to make Bun Ga Nuong at home
This dish is so easy, making it the perfect weeknight dinner. First, add all the ingredients for the chicken marinade to a bowl. Mix and let marinate for 15 minutes.
While the chicken is marinating, prepare your other ingredients. Boil your vermicelli noodles. Cut your lettuce and cucumbers. Make your Vietnamese dipping sauce. Set all of it aside. After the chicken is done marinating, it’s time to cook! Heat a pan over high heat. Make sure your pan is hot before cooking your chicken. That’s what gives it the “grilled look” without the grill. Cook the chicken in batches for 1-2 minutes on each side.
Now you’re ready to make your vermicelli bowls! Add vermicelli noodles to a bowl. Follow with a few pieces of lettuce, pickled daikon, pickled carrots, cucumbers, and mint. Finish it off with crushed peanuts and a drizzle of Vietnamese dipping sauce.
Tips on how to make the perfect Bun Ga Nuong
Use a grill for the best and most authentic flavor
As mentioned above, the most authentic way to make this dish it with a grill. I love making this on the grill (when I have one) because it adds the most amazing flavor to the chicken. Use either an indoor or outdoor grill for this dish.
How to to get that grill look without a grill
As I mentioned above, I don’t have a grill, but as you can see in the pictures, the chicken looks grilled. To get the “grill” look on my chicken, I heated the pan over high heat, and cooked the chicken after the pan gets hot. The heat from the pan will give the chicken a nice dark sear on the outside and also some of that grill flavor.
Marinate lemongrass chicken overnight for the best flavor
I have marinated this chicken for 15 minutes, and I have marinated it overnight. The shorter marinating time works, but the chicken has the best flavor when it is marinated overnight. The flavors of the marinade have more time to penetrate the chicken. I would not marinate the chicken more than 24 hours because the marinade starts to break down the chicken and it becomes a weird texture. It is also unsafe to keep chicken in the fridge for more than 2 days.
How do you store Bun Ga Nuong?
Store all the components for this Vietnamese noodle bowl separately in an airtight container in the fridge. The chicken and noodles will keep up to 3 days in the fridge. The vegetables will keep up to a week, depending on how well you store them.
How do you reheat Bun Ga Nuong?
I would first microwave the vermicelli noodles for ~1 minute and then let it sit for 5 minutes. When you store vermicelli noodles in the fridge, all the moisture from the fridge makes the noodles stick together. Microwaving the noodles helps them come apart, and it also helps evaporate some of that excess liquid. You need to let them cool down because the noodles tend to soak up more dressing when they’re warm, so you tend to overdress the dish when the noodles are warm. The noodles are best served at room temperature.
As you are waiting for the noodles to cool, you can prep the vegetables and microwave the chicken for 1-2 minutes. After the noodles have cooled, I would put it all in a bowl and drizzle on some nuoc cham.
Did you make this dish?
If you made this dish, I would love to see!
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Vietnamese Noodle Bowls with Lemongrass Chicken (Bun Ga Nuong)
- Add all the ingredients for the chicken marinade to a bowl. Mix and let marinate for 15 minutes.
- While the chicken is marinating, prepare your other ingredients. Boil your vermicelli noodles. Cut your lettuce and cucumbers. Make your Vietnamese dipping sauce. Set all of it aside.
- Heat a pan over high heat. Make sure your pan is hot before cooking your chicken. That's what gives it the "grilled look" without the grill. Cook the chicken in batches for 1-2 minutes on each side.
- Now you're ready to make your vermicelli bowls! Add vermicelli noodles to a bowl. Follow with a few pieces of lettuce, pickled daikon, pickled carrots, cucumbers, and mint. Finish it off with crushed peanuts and a drizzle of Vietnamese dipping sauce.
- Lemongrass substitute. If you can’t find lemongrass, substitute with 1 tbsp of lime juice and the zest of 1 lime. The flavor won’t be exactly the same, but it will be good enough.
- Shallot substitute. Substitute with sweet yellow onion. Use ~3 tbsp of onion.
- Soy sauce substitute. Use any kind of soy sauce you can find. Substitute with tamari to make this recipe gluten free.
- Vegetable oil substitutes. Substitute vegetable oil with grapeseed oil or olive oil.
- Light brown sugar substitutes. A good substitute for light brown sugar is dark brown sugar. If you want to make this dish processed sugar free, use another tablespoon of honey.
- Peanuts. This is an optional ingredient, but it’s highly recommended if you want the most authentic experience. A good substitute for peanuts is fried shallots.
- Other vegetables you can use. Bean sprouts, cilantro, perilla leaves, and Thai basil.
- Marinate chicken overnight. For the best flavor, marinate the chicken overnight.
- How do you store this dish? Store each component separately and put it all together when you are about to eat. Chicken and cooked vermicelli noodles can keep up to 3 days in the fridge. The vegetables can last ~1 week.