Bun Ho (Beef with Fine Rice Noodles)
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Food plays a big role in a Vietnamese funeral. Mourners bring a bowl of rice to place on top of the coffin so that by the end of the wake, there will be so much weight on top that the devil will not be able to get into the coffin. On the 49th and 100th days after the death, the family gathers to remember the deceased with a special meal; bun ho often fits the bill.
In the book Death Warmed Over: Funeral Food, Rituals, and Customs From Around the World learn how 75 different cultures from various countries and religions around the world use food in conjunction with death in ritualistic, symbolic, and even nutritious ways.
Photo Modified: flickr/ goodiesfirst
- 6 Ounces rice noodles
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 medium onion, sliced thin
- 2 inches of lemongrass root, thinly sliced
- 1 Teaspoon salt
- 1 Teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 Tablespoons nuoc mam (fish sauce)
- 1 Pinch of sugar
- 1 Pound sirloin steak, thinly sliced
- 2 Tablespoons peanut oil
- 1/2 Cup mung bean sprouts
- 2 Cups salad greens
- 1/2 medium cucumber, finely chopped
- 1 small bunch mint leaves
- 4 Tablespoons chopped peanuts
Calories Per Serving547
Folate equivalent (total)78µg19%
How to Make Vietnamese Bun Cha, The Rice Noodle Salad Your Lunch Bowl is Craving
This vibrant rice noodle salad boldly features Vietnamese-spiced pork patties, thin rice noodles, fresh vegetables and herbs, spring rolls and a salty-sweet sauce. It’s the lunch bowl you’ll be returning to again and again. The best part? You can meal prep all the components on the weekend, pack them up and enjoy throughout the week. You’ll be the envy of your co-workers!
Buying Rice Noodles
While all this may sound daunting, it’s actually pretty easy to get a good Beef Chow Fun on the table at home if you can get fresh rice noodles at your local Asian market.
It is not the easiest item to find, but all you need to do is ask your local Asian grocer, and they will point you to the right aisle to get the fresh variety.
You can also substitute dried rice noodles, similar to what you would use for pad Thai.
Judy has also published her recipe for Homemade Rice Noodles. Give it a try, and you can make your own any time!
Alison Carroll, who developed this recipe, relies almost entirely on dry pantry staples to build depth of flavor in this superfood broth. Feel free to swap out the vermicelli for your favorite cooked grain or a different noodle—the recipe is designed to be customizable.
Recipes you want to make. Cooking advice that works. Restaurant recommendations you trust.
This tasty little treat is on the more indulgent end of the scale. Bánh gối (or ‘pillow cake’) is pastry stuffed with mushrooms, glass noodles, minced pork and various seasonings, folded and deep-fried. What’s not to love?
Not to be confused with the famous noodle soup (see number one), phở cuốn (also known as gỏi cuốn), means rolled pho. The word ‘cuốn’ refers to the fresh rice paper sheets which are used to roll meat, seafood or prawns, vegetables and fresh herbs, making a sort of fresh spring roll. Phở cuốn is often served as a snack or an appetiser, and is especially popular in the summer. Allegedly, the dish was invented when a street vendor from Hanoi ran out of broth for his pho!
Banh Hoi with Grilled Beef Recipe (Banh Hoi Thit Bo Nuong)
Delicate in flavor with a slight tang, banh hoi rice noodles are a special event Vietnamese food that’s often enjoyed at parties and celebrations. They’re instantly recognizable as the white noodles are shaped like rectangular mats of thick white cheesecloth. They're very thin, finer than Italian angel hair pasta. It’s best to purchase banh hoi (pronounced “baan hoy”) fresh from a Vietnamese market or Chinese barbecue shop in a Vietnamese community where they’re typically sold on Styrofoam trays and wrapped in plastic wrap. For a general low-down , take a read of Vietnamese Noodles 101: Banh Hoi Fine Rice Noodles.
Banh Hoi Rice Noodles with Grilled Beef
Banh Hoi Thit Bo Nuong
If beef is not your meat, feel free to substitute boneless, skinless chicken thigh or pork shoulder.
Serves 4 as a one-dish meal
1 1/4 pounds well-marbled tri-tip (bottom sirloin) steak, well trimmed (about 1 pound after trimming)
2 large cloves garlic, minced and crushed to a paste
1 small shallot, finely chopped (about 2 1/2 tablespoons total)
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Generous 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground preferred
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon light (regular) soy sauce
2 tablespoon oil
1 pound fresh banh hoi fine rice noodles
1/2 cup Scallion Oil Garnish
1 small head soft leaf lettuce, such as red leaf, green leaf, or butter leaf
8 to 12 sprigs cilantro
8 to 12 sprigs mint
1 small English cucumber, seeded and sliced, optional
8 to 12 sprigs of other Vietnamese herbs, such as red perilla (tia to) and Vietnamese balm (kinh gioi), optional (see Vietnamese herb primer)
3/4 cup Nuoc Cham dipping sauce
1. If you have time, freeze the place the steak for about 15 minutes to firm and be easier to cut. Slice the beef across the grain into thin strips, a scant 1/4 inch thick, about 1 1/2 inches wide, and about 3 inches long. You may need to angle the knife to achieve the ideal width. Set aside.
2. In a bowl, combine the garlic, shallot, brown sugar, salt, pepper, fish sauce, soy sauce and oil. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the beef and use your hands to massage the seasonings into the beef, making sure that each slice is well coated. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate at room temperature for 1 hour. Or, refrigerate overnight, letting the beef sit out for 30 minutes to remove the chill before grilling.
3. While the beef marinates, make the scallion oil, if you haven’t done so. Before grilling the beef, prepare the banh hoi noodles. Use scissors to halve each piece of the noodles into pieces the size of playing cards. Arrange them on 2 platters in overlapping layers, with some scallion oil atop each piece of noodle leftover scallion oil can be served on the side for extra richness. Cover the noodles, and set aside to prevent drying while you cook the beef.
Arrange the lettuce, herbs and cucumber on 1 or 2 plates and set at the table. Put the dipping sauce in a communal bowl or individual dipping sauce bowls and set at the table.
4. Prepare a charcoal or preheat a gas grill to medium (you can hold your hand over the rack for no more than 4 to 5 seconds). To broil the beef, position a rack about 4 inches from the heat source and preheat the oven for 20 minutes so it is nice and hot.
5. I usually grill the meat as individual pieces, working the meat with tongs to turn them frequently. If you prefer, skewer the meat on soaked bamboo skewers (soak 16 to 20 skewers in water for 45 minutes) so that the pieces are easier to grill you can serve the meat on the skewers or remove them from the skewers. Whether grilling or broiling, cook the beef for 5 to 7 minutes, turning frequently, until browned and a little charred on the edge.
6. Arrange on a platter and serve with the noodles, lettuce and herbs, and dipping sauce. To eat, invite guests to take a palm-size piece of lettuce, add few leaves of fresh herbs, a piece of banh hoi noodle, and a piece of beef. Bundle up the parcel, dip it into the sauce and deliver to the mouth.
- – details on where to buy, how to store, and how to refresh – the many different kinds, their names, and photos
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Vietnamese Noodles 101: Banh Hoi Fine Rice Noodles
Bun round rice noodles come in various sizes but banh hoi rice noodles come in only one size – very thin. In fact, these delicate Vietnamese noodles are thinner and finer than Italian angel hair pasta. Banh hoi are instantly recognizable as the tiny rice noodles are cooked and presented as rectangular-shaped mats that resemble a thick later of gauzy white cheesecloth. Banh hoi are difficult to prepare and mostly purchased and used as a fresh noodle. Thus, they are pricey compared to other Vietnamese noodles and typically a Vietnamese special-event food (such as weddings and annual death anniversary celebrations). Everyone always grins extra big smiles when banh hoi are served because you know that you’re in for a treat.
I like to describe banh hoi as fine rice noodles so as to distinguish them from the larger bun rice noodles. The photo above shows one piece of the noodle mats compared to the entire mound of them in the package.
How are these fine rice noodles eaten?
Banh hoi are not eaten alone, but rather served at room temperature alongside rich foods such as crisp Chinese roast pork, duck and grilled foods such as shrimp on sugarcane (chao tom) and meats such as lemongrass pork and beef. Right before serving, the noodles are always topped with rich scallion oil garnish, which adds richness and verdant color. At the table, guests encase the noodles and protein in lettuce with fresh herbs. A quick dunk in nuoc cham dipping sauce is the usual final touch before the bundle is eaten.
How are banh hoi rice noodles made?
The fine rice noodles are made of simple ingredients: rice, flour, and a little starch for resiliency. Banh hoi have a slight tang as producers add a bit of the older, fermented batter to the new batter. The noodle batter is thickish and traditionally steamed atop pieces of banana leaves. What we buy in the U.S. is made by machine and very uniform, but they are very tasty compared to ones in Vietnam.
Where and how to buy banh hoi rice noodles?
To be honest, banh hoi noodles are not easy to find outside of the Vietnamese community. Because they are best fresh, they do not travel well far from the place where they were manufactured.
In enclaves such as Little Saigon in Westminster, California, you’ll find the noodles at practically all the Vietnamese markets and barbecue shops (where you’d see roast pork, ducks, soy sauce chickens hanging behind glass). If a Vietnamese restaurant serves the noodles, ask where they get them. (Download a file to learn how to pronounce banh hoi .) In San Jose, California, I buy banh hoi from a noodle maker located on Tully near King (Dai Loi Lo Bun Banh Hoi Tuoi Food Togo (1592 Tully Rd #15, San Jose, CA 95122, 408-223-8255).
Vietnamese bun rice noodle makers usually also make banh hoi. Their shops are labeled “Lò Bún” -- see the name above for an example, which means a place where bun noodles are produced.
Regardless of your source, look for the fresh banh hoi noodles on Styrofoam trays, usually near the baguettes and other rice noodles. Press on the noodles and they should be soft if they are fresh.
How to cook banh hoi rice noodles:
They are precooked and do not require cooking. Very simple and convenient.
How to store and refresh banh hoi rice noodles:
Unfortunately, these noodles harden and stick together once refrigerated. To store, separate each rectangular piece of noodle and layer them between pieces of wax paper as shown below
Slide your stack of banh hoi rice noodles into a zip top bag and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Return them to room temperature, then reheat them in the microwave oven. I usually reheat two layers at time atop a dinner plate, with the wax paper in between each layer. Flick some water atop each layer of noodle to give them some moisture. Also completely cover the plate with wax paper and tuck it under to mimic gentle steaming conditions. Run the microwave oven in short 20-30 second bursts, checking to between each to ensure softness. Once satisfied, let the noodles cool to room temperature and use them as if they were freshly purchased. Keep them covered with plastic wrap and at room temperature to prevent drying. Reheat as much noodles as you like up to 3 hours in advance of serving.
Banh hoi rice noodles serving tips:
Gently handle the noodles as you peel each piece apart. Then use scissors to individually cut them into smaller pieces. I aim for the size of a playing card. Then make overlapping layers on a platter with scallion oil garnish scattered atop each piece of banh hoi rice noodle. You may have to make multiple platters for 4 or more people. Bring them to the table and serve with your protein of choice, lettuce, herbs, and nuoc cham dipping sauce. That’s the typical set up!
Make a light meal of Vietnamese banh hoi rice noodles with grilled beef (a recipe I contributed to the Rasa Malaysia site)
Vietnamese Lemongrass Beef Salad (Bun Bo Xoa)
I love living in Italy and trying ALL the delicious food that is available here. However, you can take the girl out of California but you can’t take the California out of the girl. I am used to a multi-cultural cuisine and I still get a serious craving for food that is NOT Italian. Tonight I am craving Vietnamese Lemongrass Beef Salad!
I was so excited the other day when I was cruising down the “foreign” food isle at my local Italian Supermarket and saw fish sauce of all things. So I snatched up the bottle along with same rice noodles and a small jar of tahini (that will come in handy later when I am having a craving for humus!). Thankfully the rest of the ingredients are pretty easy to find here: butter lettuce, green onions, carrots, cucumbers, peanuts, ginger and thin sliced beef. I did have the good sense to bring a bottle of Sriracha with me from Cali in my luggage along with a bottle of Tapatio and Sesame Oil. These items I have yet to find here in Italy but I will keep looking! Fresh lemongrass and cilantro are also difficult to find, but I found some plants and grow them myself on my patio. Where there is a will, there is a way.
Vietnamese Lemongrass Beef Salad (Bun Bo Xoa)
(prepare at the beginning of the day and allow to marinate all day or at least one hour)
1 pound beef steak (london broil, sirloin, I use any cheap steak available, slice it very thinly)
1 inch ginger, pealed and chopped finely (use half for marinade and half for dressing)
1 stalk lemongrass (mainly the white part chopped finely, use half for Marinade and half for dressing)
2 gloves garlic chopped finely (use one for Marinade and one for dressing)
2 tablespoons fish sauce (available at Asian markets)
1 tablespoon olive oil
A few drops of sesame oil
2 tablespoons sugar (substitute Xylitol for Keto)
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
(Use the remaining ginger, lemongrass and garlic from the marinade)
3 tablespoons fish sauce (available at Asian markets)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Juice from one lime
3 tablespoons sugar (substitute Xylitol for Keto)
A few drops of sesame oil
3 Tablespoon rice vinegar
Rice noodles (very fine rice noodles or vermicelli, mine came from the Asian market) (Omit for Keto)
1 head lettuce (red leaf or butter lettuce is best)
1 carrot shredded
1 cucumber sliced in shreds or matchstick size
1/8 head shredded red cabbage
4 green onions
1/4 chopped peanuts
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1/4 cup coarsely chopped basil
1/4 cup peanut butter
4 tablespoons Sriracha (or chopped red chili’s or dry chili flakes for Keto)
4 tablespoons sugar (substitute Xylitol for Keto)
1/4 cup water
Prepare Marinade early in the day. Since much of the same ingredients are in the dressing you can prepare that at the same time and keep in the refrigerator.
Cook the rice noodles, they cook in a very short time so keep an eye on it!) Rinse and cool the noodles
Stir fry the sliced beef in a hot wok with olive oil, cook until the meat appears to be caramelized and browned in the pan and all moister has evaporated. Set aside.
Assemble the salad:
Layer the torn lettuce, rice noodles, shredded carrots, cabbage, cilantro, basil and cucumber on a plate. Then layer with the cooked beef, green onions and peanuts. Top with a dollop of peanut sauce.
Vietnamese Beef Salad Ingredients assembled
The leftovers from this recipe are also great with spring wraps. Use all the same ingredients but wrap in rice paper. Sometimes I make extra and before cleaning up the kitchen after we have eaten I will wrap up a bunch of Spring Rolls for lunch the next day. I recommend layering a container with damp paper towels before placing the Spring Rolls. Then place a layer of damp paper towels between each layer of Spring Rolls. Cover with a lid. The damp paper towels will keep the Spring Rolls from sticking to each other and keep them from drying out.
Vietnamese Beef Salad with Lemongrass
Note: here in Italy I don’t make the peanut sauce, nope, don’t have peanut butter and I guess I can’t be bothered to make my own (surprisingly) but I think the chopped peanuts on top are enough.
Try these other great dinner ideas from our Archive:
Vietnamese Lemongrass Beef Salad (Bun Bo Xoa) Published March 12, 2018)
Steamed Mussels and Fettuccine (Cozze e Fettuccine) Published May 4, 2019)
Shrimp Risotto (Risotto alla Gamberi) Published June 2, 2018)
Arancini (Italian Fried Rice Balls) Published June 4, 2018)
Vietnamese Grilled Beef Lemongrass Salad, Bun Bo Xoa
How to Soak Dried Rice Noodles
For Thin Noodles: put the noodles into a bowl and pour boiling water over them to cover. Soak the noodles for 1 to 5 minutes, or until they are soft. Test a noodle or two until they are soaked to your liking. Drain, refresh with cool water and drain again. Set the noodles aside and use as directed in recipes.
For Thicker Noodles: Bring a big pot of water to a boil. Stir in the noodles for about 30 seconds, then remove the pot from heat. Let the noodles soak for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are soft and no hard center remains. Drain, refresh with cool water and drain again. Set the noodles aside and use as directed in recipes.
- 1 1/4 pounds (0.6 kg) well-marbled tri-tip, bottom sirloin steak, well trimmed (about 1 pound after trimming)
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced and crushed to a paste
- 1 small shallot, finely chopped (about 2 1/2 tablespoons total)
- 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Generous 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground preferred
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce, regular
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 pound (0.4 kg) fresh banh hoi fine rice noodles
- 1/2 cup Scallion Oil Garnish
- 1 head soft leaf lettuce, such as red leaf, green leaf, or butter leaf
- 8 to 12 sprigs cilantro
- 8 to 12 sprigs mint
- 1 small English cucumber, seeded and sliced, optional
- 8 to 12 sprigs of other Vietnamese herbs, such as red perilla (tia to) and Vietnamese balm (kinh gioi), optional
- 3/4 cup Nuoc Cham dipping sauce
- If you have time, freeze the place the steak for about 15 minutes to firm and be easier to cut. Slice the beef across the grain into thin strips, a scant 1/4 inch thick, about 1 1/2 inches wide, and about 3 inches long. You may need to angle the knife to achieve the ideal width. Set aside.
- In a bowl, combine the garlic, shallot, brown sugar, salt, pepper, fish sauce, soy sauce and oil. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the beef and use your hands to massage the seasonings into the beef, making sure that each slice is well coated. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate at room temperature for 1 hour. Or, refrigerate overnight, letting the beef sit out for 30 minutes to remove the chill before grilling.
- While the beef marinates, make the scallion oil, if you haven&rsquot done so. Before grilling the beef, prepare the banh hoi noodles. Use scissors to halve each piece of the noodles into pieces the size of playing cards. Arrange them on 2 platters in overlapping layers, with some scallion oil atop each piece of noodle leftover scallion oil can be served on the side for extra richness. Cover the noodles, and set aside to prevent drying while you cook the beef. Arrange the lettuce, herbs and cucumber on 1 or 2 plates and set at the table. Put the dipping sauce in a communal bowl or individual dipping sauce bowls and set at the table.
- Prepare a charcoal or preheat a gas grill to medium (you can hold your hand over the rack for no more than 4 to 5 seconds). To broil the beef, position a rack about 4 inches from the heat source and preheat the oven for 20 minutes so it is nice and hot.
- I usually grill the meat as individual pieces, working the meat with tongs to turn them frequently. If you prefer, skewer the meat on soaked bamboo skewers (soak 16 to 20 skewers in water for 45 minutes) so that the pieces are easier to grill you can serve the meat on the skewers or remove them from the skewers. Whether grilling or broiling, cook the beef for 5 to 7 minutes, turning frequently, until browned and a little charred.
- Arrange on a platter and serve with the noodles, lettuce and herbs, and dipping sauce. To eat, invite guests to take a palm-size piece of lettuce, add few leaves of fresh herbs, a piece of banh hoi noodle, and a piece of beef. Bundle up the parcel, dip it into the sauce and deliver to the mouth.
- 1. Make the stock: to ensure the pot is large enough to blanch the bones without boiling over, put the bones in the pot and add water to cover by 1 inch. Then remove the bones and set aside.
- 2. Bring the water to a boil. When it is at a rolling boil, add the oxtails, beef shank, and pork bones. Return the water to a boil and boil for 3 minutes. Drain the bones into a colander and rinse under cold running water. Rinse the pot and return the rinsed oxtails, neck bones, and shanks to the pot. Add the marrowbones and brisket.
- 3. Cut off the pale, fleshy part (the bottom 4 inches) of each lemongrass stalk and discard the leafy tops. Crush the lemongrass with the side of a cleaver or the bottom of a heavy pan and add it to the pot. Add 8 quarts fresh water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the liquid is at a simmer and skim off any scum that rises to the surface.
- 4. After 45 minutes, ready an ice-water bath, then check the brisket for doneness by using the chopstick test: transfer the brisket to a plate and poke it with a chopstick the juices should run clear. If they do not, return the brisket to the pot and continue cooking, checking again in 10 minutes. When the brisket is done, remove it from the pot (reserving the cooking liquid) and immediately submerge it in the ice-water bath, which will stop the cooking and give the meat a firmer texture. When the brisket is completely cool, remove from the water, pat dry, and refrigerate.
- 5. Continue to simmer the stock for another 2 hours, skimming as needed to remove any scum that forms on the surface. Remove from the heat and remove and discard the large solids. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large saucepan. Skim most of the fat from the surface of the stock (leave some, as it gives the stock a better flavor and mouthfeel). Return the stock to a simmer over medium heat.
- 6. In a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, grind the red pepper flakes and annatto seeds into a coarse powder. In a frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the ground red pepper flakes and annatto seeds and cook, stirring, for 10 seconds. Add the shallots, garlic, lemongrass, and shrimp paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more, until the mixture is aromatic and the shallots are just beginning to soften.
- 7. Add the contents of the frying pan to the simmering stock along with the salt and sugar and simmer for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and sugar.
- 8. To ready the garnishes, arrange the basil, perilla, cabbage, lemon and lime wedges, and onion slices on a platter and place on the table. Thinly slice the brisket against the grain. Divide the cooked noodles among warmed soup bowls, then divide the brisket slices evenly among the bowls, placing them on top of the noodles. Ladle the hot stock over the noodles and beef and serve immediately, accompanied with the platter of garnishes.
Reprinted with permission from Vietnamese Home Cooking by Charles Phan with Jessica Battilana. Copyright © 2012 by Charles Phan photographs copyright © 2012 by Eric Wolfinger. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Charles Phan is the executive chef and owner of The Slanted Door family of restaurants. He received the James Beard Award for Best Chef California in 2004, and in 2011 was inducted into the James Beard Foundation's list of Who's Who of Food in America. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and their three children.