I’m sharing something really fun with you today: my take on a Vietnamese Vermicelli Bowl (a.k.a. “Bun”) with lemongrass marinated chicken and a tangy dressing.
Here in Portland, Vietnamese food is pretty darn popular. You can hardly drive more than a mile or two in the city without seeing a glowing “Pho” sign in a strip mall. I went once with my mom a few years ago and was entirely unimpressed. Granted, this was before our trip to Thailand when my eyes (and taste buds) were finally opened to the wonders of non-Americanized ethnic food.
As someone who now (proudly) tries new food and recipes on a almost-daily basis, I felt it was time to give Pho another chance. I can’t believe I was such a brat about Vietnamese food for so long! It was like the sushi revelation all over again (side note: I only started eating sushi a year ago – gasp!).
Now, the husband and I have a new routine of getting Pho on Thursdays before our weekly grocery shopping trip. The husband usually gets a beef Pho (a noodle and broth soup), while I get chicken or tofu Bun (a cold noodle salad).
I love all of the vibrant and contrasting flavors in Vietnamese food. The broths are incredibly complex and savory, while the salads are bright and acidic. If you haven’t given it a try yet, now’s the time!
To make this dish, you’ll want to plan ahead as the chicken needs a bit of time to marinate and absorb the lemongrass flavor. If you’re in a hurry, you could marinate the chicken for a little as 30 minutes, but I like to let mine sit overnight to really soak up the flavor.
I buy my lemongrass for $0.99 for four or five HUGE stalks at the local Asian supermarket. You can also usually find it in the herb and produce section of your supermarket. It is a little more expensive that way, but if you aren’t brave enough to venture into an international grocery store, you’re going to have to cough up the extra dough. If you REALLY can’t find it, you can order it online here.
I wouldn’t recommend using dried lemongrass as it just doesn’t have the same vibrancy as fresh. Luckily, you can freeze lemongrass for several months, so if you find a good deal go ahead and stock up on it! It’s used in a lot of Thai dishes as well.
Someday I want to have a sun room where I can grow my own lemongrass and wild lime trees. Unfortunately, I have a serious black thumb so I may be better off continuing to make my weekly trips to the Asian supermarket!
To make the marinade, peel away the tough outer layers of the lemongrass stalks and finely mince the white and very light green portions. Save the dark green portions in your freezer. The white/light green parts will become tender enough to eat once they are cooked, while the dark green parts should be used for steeping soups or tea and removed before serving.
When I make this, I put the white and light green parts in my mini-food processor along with the rest of the marinade ingredients and grind it to a pulp. Toss with the chicken and some oil and let it marinate!
Once you’re ready to cook, just heat up a pan and toss in the chicken. I like to use a good non-stick pan for this chicken, like my favorite everyday pan. Cook the vermicelli noodles according to package directions, chop up all your veggies, and whip up a quick dressing. (Note: Look for vermicelli noodles which say “made in Vietnam” on them – you want really thin ones made of rice!)
The leftovers keep really well in the fridge and make for an excellent lunch!
Ready to get going?
Here’s Your Recipe!
45 minPrep Time
15 minCook Time
1 hrTotal Time
- 1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
- 1/2 c. finely chopped lemongrass, white and light green parts only
- 1/2 c. shallots
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp. fish sauce (or salt)
- 1 tsp. brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp. ground Chinese five spice
- 1/4 c. peanut (or canola) oil
- 8 oz. vermicelli rice noodles, cooked according to package directions, drained, and rinsed with cold water
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
- 1 English cucumber, halved and sliced into half circles
- 1 daikon radish, cut into matchsticks
- 1/2 c. chopped fresh mint leaves
- 1/2 c. chopped roasted peanuts
- 1/4 c. fresh lime juice
- 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
- 2 Tbsp. water
- 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 small green or red chile, seeded and minced
- Placed the sliced chicken breasts in a large bowl. Place the chopped lemongrass in the bowl of a food processor and grind into a very fine mince. Add the shallots, garlic cloves, fish sauce, brown sugar, and five spice. Pulse until a thick paste forms. Transfer the paste to the bowl of chicken, add the quarter cup of oil, and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, but preferably overnight.
- When ready to cook, heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Place a quarter of the cooked noodles in the bottom of a bowl. Top with a quarter of the cooked chicken, red pepper, cucumbers, and radish. Garnish with mint and peanuts, then drizzle a quarter of the dressing over the top. Enjoy!