Bún Gà Nướng – Vietnamese Cold Noodle Bowl
Though I did not know the proper name for years, bun ga nuong, or a Vietnamese cold noodle bowl with chicken was my first ever taste of that Southeast Asian country’s cuisine. Back in college, when I was a much less culinarily-inclined individual, my friend dragged me to a new Vietnamese restaurant near my house. I knew nothing about the cuisine at the time, and I was skeptical verging on hesitant, but I followed his lead, ordered the noodle bowl, and my world was forever changed.
Nowadays, with a lot more experience in Vietnamese food, this remains one of my favorites: a bowl of cold rice noodles with a salad of lettuce and fresh herbs on the bottom, chicken and thinly sliced vegetables on top, and a bit of dressing. It is hard to beat. Except in the dead of winter, when pho reigns supreme, this is still my number one order.
And it turns out they’re also pretty easy to make at home. There is definitely some prep to get the ingredients in order, but if you just bite the bullet and do a lot of chopping one night, you can throw these together all week. Which also makes them great for car camping trips.
Vietnamese Cold Noodle Bowls
1.5 lbs. Chicken thighs (boneless & skinless)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tbsp fish sauce
¼ cup water
1 lb. vermicelli rice noodles
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and julienned
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
2 cups bean sprouts
4 scallions (green part only)
1 cup basil, roughly chopped
½ cup mint, roughly chopped
½ cup cilantro, roughly chopped
4-6 large lettuce leaves, chopped small
Dressing (nước chấm):
2 tbsp fish sauce
½ cup water
2 tbsp sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp lime juice
1 thai or serrano chili
This is a meal with a lot of prep, but once you are done with that, the construction of the final dish is simple and quick. These bowls should be served cold, so all ingredients can be done ahead of time and kept in the fridge.
Begin by marinating the chicken thighs in the garlic, fish sauce, and water for at least 2 hours. Once marinated, grill them or cook them over high heat for a few minutes on each side to brown the outside and cook through. Once cooked, allow them to rest before slicing into serving pieces.
The dressing should also be made several hours ahead of time to allow the flavors to properly meld. It is quite simple: simply mix all the ingredients together and stir until the sugar dissolves. Cover and keep in the refrigerator until serving time.
If you have not cooked vermicelli noodles before, they cook extremely quickly. Heat water and drop the noodles in for a minute or two until they are tender, then drain and allow to cool. These can also be done well ahead of time.
To assemble the bowls, start by placing a layer of lettuce and herbs at the bottom of a large bowl. This recipe can make anywhere from 4-8 bowls depending on how large you want them, so divide the ingredients accordingly.
On top of the lettuce and herbs, place a large serving of vermicelli noodles–this will make up the bulk of the dish. Next, artfully arrange the bean sprouts, carrots, cucumber, and chicken on top of the noodles. Sprinkle with scallions and dress lightly with nước chấm, but ensure that you keep some of the dressing so that individuals can add more to their bowls more if they would like.