Being based in North-East London, I have the luxury of living a stones throw away from Kingsland Road. This road is miles long, but as you get closer to the Hoxton/Shoreditch end, you will come across multiple Vietnamese restaurants side by side. Spoilt for choice, I have tried almost all of them at some point and they all have their strengths. But, with the situation how it has been the past few months, I haven’t been able to get my Vietnamese fix as often as I normally would. Instead, I decided to create a bit of Vietnam in my kitchen.
This Vietnamese bun bowl is the perfect summer meal, with juicy lemongrass chicken thighs on a bed of vermicelli noodles, beansprouts, carrots, cucumber and radishes, topped off with a delicious Nuoc Cham sauce.
Nuoc Cham is the sauce that is served with a lot of Vietnamese dishes and yet it’s so simple to make! Some recipes add rice vinegar into the sauce, but I found that I preferred to add more lime for extra tang! I used a standard red chilli for my sauce, but if you can get hold of Thai birds eye chillis, these will really add an extra kick. You can usually find these in your Asian supermarkets, but I know some bigger supermarkets also sell them so keep your eyes peeled! I recommend keeping extra limes to hand as you may find that you need to add more juice if your limes aren’t super ripe yet! Avoid bottled juices and try to use fresh limes as much as you can!
This dish is also great for dinner parties! You can prepare pretty much everything in advance and cook the chicken either in the oven or even on the BBQ if you have that fired up and want to avoid frying! All you need to do is prepare the vegetables, set them out in the middle of the table and let your guests build their own bun bowls. It’s that easy! If you want to change up the protein, why not try pork loin or even tofu if you want a veggie option! I would highly recommend marinating your chicken overnight so it soaks up all the deliciousness of the marinade!
Vietnamese Bun Bowl with Lemongrass Chicken
Prep time: 20 mins + marinading
Cook time: 20 mins
Total time: 40 mins + marinading
4 Chicken thighs, boneless & skinless
2 Tbsp Vegetable oil
1-2 Lemongrass, based & outer leaves removed, finely chopped
1-2 Garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp Soy sauce
1 Tbsp Fish sauce
2 Tsp Brown sugar
Juice 1/2 Lime
Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese Sauce)
2 Tbsp Sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp Fish sauce
1 Red chilli, deseeded and sliced
2 Garlic cloves, roughly chopped
150g Vermicelli rice noodles
1 Carrot, julienned
1/2 Cucumber, julienned
1 Radish, thinly sliced
1 Lime, to serve
Combine the marinade in a small bowl, place the chicken thighs into a deep dish and pour over the marinade. Ensure ever piece is submerged, cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to overnight.
Prepare the Nuoc Cham sauce by combining the water and the juice of half a lime and the sugar. Taste and if the lime flavour is faint, squeeze in more juice. You want it to taste a little like a lemonade (but with lime!). Add the fish sauce a tablespoon at a time, stir and taste. If you like more pungent, add some more. I find that 2 1/2 Tbsp is perfect. Add the chilli and garlic, for a spicier sauce, don’t remove the seeds and add more! Stir and set aside.
Place a large frying pan on a medium-high heat. Add vegetable oil and scrap off any pieces of lemongrass from the chicken thighs. Fry the chicken thighs for 7-8 minutes per side until slightly caramelised and cooked through. In the last minute, pour in the remaining marinade and allow it to reduce and caramelise. Remove the chicken and set aside to rest whilst you assemble your bowl.
Meanwhile, cook your rice noodles accordingly to the packaging - be careful not to over cook them as they will fall apart.
Blanch your beansprouts in the same water for 1 minute and now assemble your bowl!
Place your rice noodles into a bowl, slice up 2 chicken thighs per person, add some carrots, cucumber and radishes if using. Top with fresh mint and coriander and serve with the Nuoc Cham on the side. Pour as much sauce as you like into your bun bowl or simply use as a dipping sauce.
If you’re catering for anyone who is gluten free, ensure your soy sauce is a gluten free version!
The Nuoc Cham sauce can be kept in an air tight container for upto a week, so the perfect excuse to try another Vietnamese dish and use it if you have leftovers!
If you want to bake your chicken, preheat the oven to 200℃ / 180℃ Fan, place the chicken pieces on a lined baking tray and bake for around 20-25 minutes until slightly charred around the edges and completely cooked through.
Change up the vegetables and try something different each time including sugar snap peas or red peppers.