Bún bò Nam Bộ – Vietnamese vermicelli with grilled beef (Southern style)

This dish is a vermicelli noodle dish served with grilled marinated beef, fresh vegetables, some pickled carrot  and the Vietnamese ‘nuoc cham’. The name that I write is a name that the people from the north call it, literally means ‘Southern beef noodle’. However, if you go to find this dish in the south of Vietnam, just ask for grilled beef noodle. It’s just like there is New York pizza everywhere in Amsterdam but there’s no New York pizza in New York. :)

What I like about this dish is that there is no oil, fat involved, not at all, especially it’s beef filet, it’s just lean meat.  It feels so healthy, green and fresh. And don’t put the temperature in the oven to high, don’t put it long so that you will have the juice of the grilled beef. Two table spoon of ‘nuoc cham’, a blend of fish sauce, lime juice, chili and very little little sweet of flavor makes the noodle taste Vietnamese, not pungent, but tasty and fresh.


The most important step of making Bun bo Nam Bo is marinating the beef, then comes making ‘nuoc cham’ and the pickled vegetables (shredded carrot and papaya). The pickled vegies is crispy, a little sour and a little sweet, which even makes me eat two bowls of the noodle at once. Remember to pickle the carrot (and papaya first, before marinating the beef) since it takes at least 1 hour to get a good flavor on the carrot.

There will be a few how to in this post:

- How to buy good fish sauce and make Vietnamese nuoc cham (dipping sauce)

- How to roast and crush peanuts (and other nuts) without using the oven and a blender

For the beef (2 people):

- 400g beef filet, thinly sliced across the grain (refer to this post for buying and slicing the beef)

- 2 tbsp oyster sauce

- 4 lemon grass stalks, sliced

- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (about 1 tsp)

- 1-1.5 tsp salt

- 1/4 tsp sugar
marinating beef before grill

Remember, thinly slice the beef across the grain. Else it will not be soft. Mix all the ingredients with the beef and marinate for half an hour. Turn on the oven at 170-180 C degrees (325-350 F). After half an hour, putting the beef in a tray and grill it for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, take them out and turn to another side, you can grill them for 10 minutes more. Don’t put too long since you want to keep the juice from the beef. 

If you might wonder I don’t use fish sauce in marinating beef, it’s true. I never use fish sauce to cook directly with the beef, especially with marinating beef because the fish sauce will make the beef turn a bit sour and can make the beef chewy. So, only when I make beef jerky (thit bo kho), I use fish sauce with beef.

Other ingredients:

- Rice vermicelli noodle (or mihoen in Indonesian and in the Dutch supermarket)

- Fresh vegetables: thinly sliced cucumber, mint, coriander (at least 1 of the 2), butter lettuce (boter sla)

- Vietnamese nuoc cham: 3 tbsp fish sauce, 1/2-1 lime (depends on how much juice and your taste), 6 tbsp warm water, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 garlic clove, chopped or mashed, 1-2 Thai bird-eye chili, sliced

- The pickle (do chua): carrot, papaya (optional), white vinegar, sugar, warm water. See this post for how to make carrot and papaya pickle.

- Roasted, crushed peanuts (optional but very nice to have)

So, in the mean time waiting for the beef marinated, boil the vermicelli noodle according to the instruction on the package. You can refer to this post for a better instruction of use. (See how to boil ‘pho’ and the part of ‘Bun’.)

With the fish sauce, stirred in garlic, chili with the sugar. Dissolve the sugar with warm water. Then add the fish sauce and the lime juice. The amount is only for your reference since the flavor of the fish sauce varies across the brand. I preferably use ‘nuoc mam Phu Quoc’ since the place is famous for fish sauce in Vietnam (like Modena balsamic vinegar). Also, a good brand has the nitrogen degree (degree N) on the bottle. It can be from 35-50 (50 is better), but anyway, when you see this, it’s a good fish sauce.

For the roasted peanut, I tend to roast them on a pan instead of putting in the oven to be quick. You can put the fire to medium or more. Finish when the skin turn brown and start to loosening from the peanut. Use a kitchen towel to remove the skin. Or just wait when the peanuts are cool down to remove the skin by your fingers. Then crush it a little in a blender. Or a simple way to do it is to put in a bag. Then you can use a wine bottle to roll over the peanuts for a few times. I use this method to work with hazelnut and almond as well. Using the oven takes a long time since you have to wait for it to warm up. Using a bottle to crush the nuts is good (unless you want it to be like powder) because a lot of nuts have oil, which then makes then blender sticky. Also, you have to clean the tool afterwards.

Assemble the dish:

Lay out the butter lettuce on a big bowl. Then the rice vermicelli. Throw in sliced cucumber and mints. Then add the beef, the pickled carrot and papaya. Use 2-4 tbsp of the dipping sauce (depends on how much you put in the bowl). Top with crushed peanuts. Mix them all together and enjoy it!
bun bo Nam bo

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11 thoughts on “Bún bò Nam Bộ – Vietnamese vermicelli with grilled beef (Southern style)

  1. Delicious!! I found it interesting that you don’t use fish sauce in your marinade – I didn’t know that it made the beef more chewy. You learn something new everyday! I love Vietnamese salads like these – they are so healthy and full of flavour.

  2. Yes, I love the Vietnamese dishes and feel proud of the food since it’s so green, tasty and healthy. We can actually eat a lot but don’t feel guilty that there’s lots of fat or sweet.
    For the beef, I stopped using fish sauce since I saw it was sour. We can still fish sauce to add in after stir-fry the beef though. By that way, it makes the beef has the Vietnamese flavor but don’t affect the marinating process.

  3. I love this dish and will try to make it. However what can I replace the butter lettuce with as this is not available where I live? Can I use romaine lettuce instead

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