whole food ~ well made

A beef rice noodle bowl recipe with fresh herbs at

Super Summery Grilled Beef Noodle Salad Bowl

If I could do anything, I would hopscotch my way from Vietnam to Cambodia with a side trip to Laos and all the way through Thailand for no other purpose than to eat. Southeast Asia or bust.

There is no more vibrant food–in the bowl or the mouth–in the world to me. It is so fresh, so balanced, so summery. It can capture every taste that Aristotle identified all those centuries ago–sweet, sour, bitter, salty and pungent–in a single bite.

{This is an update of a post from 2010 while I was writing Pure Beef, working on a chapter called “World Beef Cuisine.” I’m so happy that my cookbook is back in print. As part of the relaunch, I did a cooking demonstration last week on Portland’s ABC station KATU. Check out the segment, “How to Stretch a Steak” (6:09).}

I’ve often wished that I was a well-traveled expert of these intoxicating cuisines. Then, I realized that it’s not about replicating a taste from another place.

Like all good cooking, it’s more important to be attentive to the tastes at hand.

A beef rice noodle bowl recipe with fresh herbs at

Practical & Flavorful

This beef noodle bowl recipe (based on the Vietnamese bun) is very friendly to the cook: with a little advance prep work, dinner’s ready in a matter of minutes.

I precooked the noodles, marinated the beef and made the dressing in advance. To serve, all I had to do was grill the beef and cut the vegetables and herbs. Everyone assembles their own bowls at the table just the way they like them!

A beef rice noodle bowl recipe with fresh herbs at

A Model for Meat Eating

One of the reasons I love Asian food is that it is an exemplary model of how to eat meat without either a) giving it up completely, or b) eating too much.

A little can go a long way.

In fact, I enjoy a dish like these noodle bowl with just enough meat to satisfy the craving more than a 12-ounce rib eye. {Though even when I grill up one of those, it gets sliced thin and served with a boatload of greens.} And is hits so many high marks at the same time: crunchy, fresh, flavorful and balanced.

I hope you enjoy eating this dish on a summer evening on your deck. Invite a few friends, open a bottle of crisp and cold white wine. Then, prepare to be transported.


and become a forager

Asian Beef Noodle Bowl

All you really need to know to make an awesome bowl of bun is the simple dressing called nuoc cham. You can use some of the dressing to marinate the beef or just grill it as is. This potent dressing adds all the extra flavor you need. Of course, a dab or two of sriricha is never a bad idea.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Asian
Servings 4 people
Author Lynne


  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1-3 serrano chilies, stemmed and very thinly sliced into rounds
  • 1 small carrot, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 pound lean beef, such as sirloin or flank, cut into 1/2-inch cubess
  • 1 16-ounce package vermicelli rice noodles (maifun)

For serving:

  • 4 large green or red leaf lettuce leaves, separated
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 bunch Thai basil
  • limes, cut into wedges


  • Combine the fish sauce, lime juice, water, sugar and garlic in a small bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves. It should taste balanced, neither too sweet or too sour. Add the chilies to taste and the carrot.
  • Pour 1/4 of the marinade into a shallow dish and marinate the beef for 15 to 30 minutes. Thread the beef onto 4 skewers and grill or broil on high heat, turning the skewers 2-3 times for a total of 4- 5 minutes.
  • Boil the rice noodles in plenty of water until tender to the bite, about 3 minutes. Drain, rinse in cold running water, and drain well.
  • To serve, tear the lettuce into the bottom of 4 bowls. Make a nest on top with the rice noodles and top with 1 of the beef skewers. 
  • Serve the remaining dressing on the side along with the cilantro, basil and lime so that everyone can garnish their beef noodle bowl to their taste.


  1. kathdedon

    I love this! I just had a pork version for lunch yesterday at my favorite Vietnamese restaurant in White Center, WA (bordering on my West Seattle neighborhood). I'll have to try making it at home sometime. Have a great time at the International Food Blogger Conference! Wish I were going, but it was not to be this time.

  2. Abra

    A lovely recipe! Try adding some mint leaves too, really a sprightly flavor. It was great to meet you today and I hope our paths will cross again soon.


  3. The Rowdy Chowgirl

    Looks like this would be the perfect antidote to a weekend of rich food and wine! Lovely to meet you at the conference…

  4. Jane

    Hiya, Lynne! I am officially looking for Asian recipes to cook at home–with me avoiding gluten and Max avoiding dairy, I need some new directions. Thanks for this great basic to start me off. Big squeeze-a-relli.

  5. Jane

    Just made this tonight. Max grunted! Said it's one of his new favorites. Josie would like it if it didn't have very much lettuce. Pippa said it was "too many things" but she ate it all.

    I worried a light-ish salad meal wouldn't be a totally satisfying dinner, especially for Max, who has a long cycle commute. But he was happy. I also worried that the sauce was going to be too sweet and too simple. The flavor developed very well after sitting for just the time it took me to prepare the salad. (I did cut the sugar down to 2T.)

    Thanks again!

  6. Rural Eating

    Fabulous, Jane! So long as the dressing tasted balanced to you, that's all the matters! Glad it worked for all of you. And tell Josie that she can have as little lettuce as she likes.

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