Vietnamese Noodle Salad

Vietnamese noodle salad, also known as “bun cha,” is a popular dish in Vietnamese cuisine. This refreshing and flavorful salad is a perfect combination of soft vermicelli noodles, fresh herbs, and savory grilled meat or tofu. The dish is often served with a sweet and tangy dressing, making it a healthy and satisfying meal.

To make a traditional Vietnamese noodle salad, start by cooking the vermicelli noodles according to the package instructions. Then, grill or pan-fry your choice of protein, such as pork, chicken, or tofu, and slice it into thin pieces. Next, chop up a variety of fresh herbs, such as mint, cilantro, and Thai basil, and mix them with the noodles and protein.

Finally, drizzle the salad with a homemade dressing made from fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, garlic, and chili peppers. The dressing adds a burst of flavor to the salad and balances out the sweetness of the noodles and herbs. Whether you’re looking for a healthy lunch or a light dinner, Vietnamese noodle salad is a delicious and easy-to-make option that’s sure to satisfy your taste buds.

Overview of Vietnamese Cuisine

History of Vietnamese noodle salad

Vietnamese cuisine is famous for its fresh ingredients, bold flavors, and unique blend of influences from neighboring countries. One of the most popular dishes in Vietnamese cuisine is noodle salad, which typically consists of vermicelli rice noodles, fresh herbs, vegetables, and a protein such as grilled pork or shrimp. The history of Vietnamese noodle salad dates back to the 19th century when Vietnam was under French colonial rule. The French introduced baguettes and salads to Vietnam, which were then adapted to local tastes and ingredients.

The Vietnamese noodle salad has since evolved into a distinct dish with regional variations. In the south, the salad is often served with a sweet and sour fish sauce dressing, while in the north, it is commonly paired with a peanut sauce. The dish is also known as bun cha in the north and bun thit nuong in the south.

Regional Variations

Vietnamese cuisine is heavily influenced by the country’s geography and climate, resulting in a wide range of regional variations. In the north, the cuisine is characterized by milder flavors and the use of freshwater fish and herbs such as dill and coriander. The cuisine in the central region is known for its spicy and bold flavors, with dishes such as bun bo Hue, a spicy beef noodle soup.

In the south, the cuisine is influenced by the neighboring countries of Cambodia and Thailand, resulting in the use of sweeter flavors and the incorporation of coconut milk and curry. One popular dish is banh xeo, a crispy pancake filled with pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts.

Overall, Vietnamese cuisine is a diverse and flavorful cuisine that continues to evolve and adapt to changing tastes and influences. The noodle salad is just one example of the rich culinary tradition of Vietnam.

Essential Ingredients

Types of Noodles

Vietnamese noodle salad is typically made with rice noodles, which are thin and translucent. These noodles are gluten-free and have a delicate texture that pairs well with the other ingredients in the salad. Other types of noodles, such as wheat noodles or glass noodles, can be used as well, but they will change the texture and flavor of the dish.

Herbs and Vegetables

Vietnamese noodle salad is known for its fresh and vibrant mix of herbs and vegetables. Some essential ingredients include shredded lettuce, bean sprouts, cucumber, and carrots. Other common ingredients include mint, Thai basil, cilantro, and scallions. These herbs and vegetables add flavor, texture, and color to the dish.


Vietnamese noodle salad can be made with a variety of proteins, such as grilled chicken, shrimp, pork, or tofu. The protein is usually marinated in a flavorful mixture of garlic, lemongrass, and fish sauce before being grilled. This adds depth of flavor to the dish and helps to tenderize the protein.

Dressings and Sauces

The dressing for Vietnamese noodle salad is typically a mixture of fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and garlic. This dressing is sweet, salty, and sour, and it complements the other flavors in the dish. Other sauces that can be added to the salad include hoisin sauce, peanut sauce, or chili sauce. These sauces add richness and complexity to the dish.

Step-by-Step Recipe

Preparing the Noodles

To begin preparing the Vietnamese noodle salad, the rice noodles should be cooked according to the package instructions. Once cooked, rinse the noodles under cold water and drain them well. Next, chop the noodles into smaller pieces using a sharp knife or kitchen scissors. Set the noodles aside in a bowl.

Mixing the Salad

In a large mixing bowl, add the chopped lettuce, sliced cucumbers, grated carrots, and sliced bell peppers. Toss the vegetables together until they are well combined. Add the chopped noodles to the mixing bowl and toss them together with the vegetables.

Making the Dressing

To make the dressing, mix together the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, garlic, and chili in a small bowl. Whisk the ingredients together until the sugar is dissolved. Taste the dressing and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Combining Components

Pour the dressing over the noodle and vegetable mixture and toss everything together until it is well coated. Add the chopped herbs and toss again. Divide the salad among serving bowls and garnish with chopped peanuts. Serve the Vietnamese noodle salad immediately.

Overall, this Vietnamese noodle salad is a refreshing and healthy option for a light lunch or dinner. The combination of rice noodles, fresh vegetables, and flavorful dressing creates a delicious and satisfying meal.

Serving Suggestions


Vietnamese noodle salad is a versatile dish that can be served as a main course or a side dish. To enhance the flavors and textures of the salad, consider serving it with some of the following accompaniments:

  • Fresh herbs: Add a pop of freshness to the salad by serving it with a side of mint, cilantro, or Thai basil.
  • Crushed peanuts: Top the salad with a handful of crushed peanuts for added crunch and nuttiness.
  • Lime wedges: Squeeze fresh lime juice over the salad to brighten up the flavors and balance out the sweetness of the dressing.
  • Chili flakes: For those who like a bit of heat, sprinkle some chili flakes over the salad.

Presentation Tips

Presentation is key when it comes to serving Vietnamese noodle salad. Here are some tips to make your salad look as good as it tastes:

  • Arrange ingredients in a colorful and organized manner: Place the noodles, vegetables, and protein in separate piles to create an eye-catching display.
  • Use a large, shallow bowl: A large, shallow bowl will allow the ingredients to be spread out and make it easier to mix everything together.
  • Garnish with fresh herbs and crushed peanuts: Add a final touch of freshness and texture by sprinkling some herbs and peanuts over the top of the salad.
  • Serve with chopsticks and a fork: Vietnamese noodle salad is traditionally eaten with chopsticks, but providing a fork for those who are not comfortable using chopsticks is a thoughtful gesture.

By following these simple serving suggestions, you can elevate your Vietnamese noodle salad to a restaurant-quality dish that is sure to impress your guests.

Nutritional Information

Vietnamese noodle salad is a healthy and nutritious meal that is packed with vitamins and minerals. It is a great option for those who are looking for a low-calorie, low-fat, and low-carb meal.

One serving of Vietnamese noodle salad contains approximately 300 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 25 grams of carbohydrates. It also contains 15 grams of protein, which makes it a good source of lean protein.

The salad is rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, and calcium. It is also a good source of fiber, which helps to keep the digestive system healthy.

Vietnamese noodle salad is a great option for those who are watching their weight or trying to maintain a healthy diet. It is low in calories and fat, and it is a good source of protein and fiber. It is also a great way to incorporate more vegetables into your diet, as it is typically made with a variety of fresh vegetables.

Overall, Vietnamese noodle salad is a healthy and delicious meal that is perfect for any time of the day.

Variations and Substitutions

Vegetarian and Vegan Options

For those who prefer a vegetarian or vegan version of this Vietnamese noodle salad, simply omit the shrimp and replace the fish sauce with soy sauce or a vegan fish sauce substitute. Tofu can be a great protein addition, either marinated and grilled or simply cubed and added raw to the salad.

Another option is to add roasted vegetables, such as eggplant, sweet potato, or zucchini, to the salad for a hearty and flavorful vegetarian meal.

Allergy-Friendly Alternatives

For those with gluten allergies or sensitivities, substitute the rice noodles with gluten-free noodles made from buckwheat or sweet potato starch.

Those with shellfish allergies can omit the shrimp and add grilled chicken or beef instead.

For those with nut allergies, omit the peanuts or substitute with toasted sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds for a similar crunch.

By making these simple substitutions, this Vietnamese noodle salad can be enjoyed by a wide range of dietary needs and preferences.

Storage and Leftovers

Once prepared, Vietnamese noodle salad can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. However, it is best to store the salad and dressing separately to avoid the vegetables becoming soggy.

Leftovers can be enjoyed as a refreshing meal the next day, but it is important to note that the flavors may become more intense as the ingredients marinate together. To freshen up leftovers, simply add a splash of lime juice or a drizzle of dressing before serving.

If you plan on making a large batch of Vietnamese noodle salad, it is recommended to only dress the portion that will be consumed immediately, and store the remaining salad and dressing separately. This will help to maintain the freshness and texture of the vegetables.

Overall, Vietnamese noodle salad is a versatile dish that can be enjoyed as a main meal or as a side dish. With proper storage and handling, the salad can be enjoyed for up to 2 days after preparation.

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