One of the great things about living in East London is the bottom of Kingsland Road, where lines of cheap and authentic Vietnamese restaurants cluster and clamour for your attention. It was here that I tried my first bún – cold vermicelli noodles topped with refreshing salad and hot grilled pork / beef / seafood / chicken / spring rolls, into which you mix a tangy dipping sauce called nước chấm. I love it so much that it’s the only dish I order when I go for my regular Vietnamese.
- Vermicelli rice noodles (enough for 2-3)
- 300g field&flower steak strips
- 1/2 Iceberg lettuce
- 2 handfuls of bean sprouts
- 2 spring onions
- Handful of mint leaves
- 2 lemongrass stems
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 birds eye chilli or similar
- 1 red onion
- Fish sauce
- Rice vinegar
- 1 lime
- White pepper
- Handful of peanuts
There are five simple steps to making the noodle salad, and the nice thing is that there’s no pressure on timing, as only the beef needs to be hot.
- To cook the noodles, I covered them with boiling water and left to stand for five minutes. Then I thoroughly rinsed with cold water and left to drain. Once done, this can be divided into bowls and topped with the salad: shredded lettuce, thinly sliced spring onions, cucumber ribbons and bean sprouts. I’m dubious about eating raw bean sprouts ever since the e-coli outbreak, so I chose to cook these.
- At the same time, I made the nước chấm dipping sauce. I brought three tbsps fish sauce, three tbsps rice vinegar, half a cup of water and two tbsps sugar to a boil in a pan, then set it aside to cool. Once cool, I added a chopped bird’s eye red chilli, two crushed cloves and the juice from one lime.
- To prepare the beef, I cut the steak strips into matchstick shapes, and marinaded in two tbsps fish sauce with the finely chopped lemongrass stems and two chopped cloves of garlic. Ideally I would have marinaded this for a few hours, but as it was it was more like 30 minutes. When it came to cooking, I softened the red onion (very finely chopped) in a hot wok, then added the beef and seasoned with white pepper and sugar. You won’t need salt as fish sauce is salty enough.
- Finally, I crushed some peanuts and toasted them in a pan until they release a toasty smell.
- Stack your salad to impress guests. Start with your vermicelli at the bottom, arrange the tossed salad on top, garnish with the hot beef and sprinkle your crushed peanuts over the top. Then pour plenty of dipping sauce through your salad and mix it all up!
All in all, a very delicious and refreshing salad, with lots of flavour at play – tart, salty, sweet, spicy. If I had any learnings it’s to make sure your noodles are fully drained and to keep them at room temperature – mine were a touch too cold and soggy.
Ingredients were £8 and steak strips are £4.53 from field&flower. For three hungry eaters that’s £4 per serving.