My husband and I fall into 2 different categories when it comes to eating out. He has his order picked out before we even go because it’s always his favorite item on the menu. On the other hand, I’m always vying that we should try something new – I mean… there’s whole world of flavor out there just waiting to be explored. But… I think he’s rubbing off on me over time because now I have favorites too, and it’s getting harder and harder to branch out.
Today’s Vietnamese Saté Chicken Noodle Bowls, (Bun Vermicelli) fall into that comforting category of menu favorites that you simply never get tired of! Whenever we’re in Calgary, we always go to our favorite Vietnamese restaurant (Basil Vietnamese). And… since it’s always been awhile since I’ve been there, I peruse the menu only to order the same thing… yet again.
There’s something about the sweet spice of the saté chicken that’s completely addicting when it’s combined with the slight tang of pickled carrots. Then there’s the satisfying chewiness of rice noodles bathed in Nuoc Cham to consider, and top that all off with copious amounts of chopped fresh herbs. It’s really not too hard to see why this is my favorite Vietnamese dish, (although Banh Mi and Vietnamese Yellow Curry are close seconds). Coincidentally it’s my husband’s favorite order on their menu as well, so every time we go to eat at Basil, I always feel a bit sheepish when we place the same order again and again, but some things just never get old.
I couldn’t find the traditional size of rice noodles used in this Bun Vermicelli preparation, (one small drawback of living in Montana). I ended up using Pad Thai noodles instead, and they worked just fine but I’d recommend looking for the right size. I think the smaller noodles traditionally used in this dish are just a bit better because they soak up the sauce and the overall flavors of the dish. Vermicelli rice noodles are more like the thickness of angel hair pasta, where Pad Thai rice noodles are similar to the width of fettucini.
When I first started trying to make Bun Vermicelli at home, I couldn’t figure out why my Nuoc Cham dipping sauce didn’t taste anything like the ones from any Vietnamese restaurant I’ve ever been too. It finally occurred to me that the homemade recipes were way stronger in flavor than anything I’ve ever had out to eat. So to solve this little problem, I simply watered down the sauce a bit and it was restaurant magic!
As a side note, I don’t know why every picture of grated carrots I’ve ever shot looks like it’s glowing neon – anyways… moving on. I like to use my food processor to grate carrots because it’s takes 10 minutes of work and chews it up in 2 seconds flat.
I don’t know how authentic this recipe is per se, but it’s the simplest most delicious version I’ve ever come up with. I always grill the saté chicken because I love the flavor it imparts – you can see where the grill touches the chicken it caramelizes as it cooks, and it makes for some seriously good eating.
Whenever I make this dish, I always make extra of the pickled carrots and marinate a second batch of meat to use a couple of days later. It really cuts down on the prep time to make this twice in one week, and I guarantee you’ll want to eat this again and again.
And here’s just a little more Vietnamese inspiration in closing!Print
- 1 pkg boneless, skinless chicken thighs – 1 1/2 pounds
- 1 Tablespoon sambal oelek chili paste
- 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 Tablespoon Grade A maple syrup
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup fish sauce
- 1 Teaspoon sambal oelek chili paste
- 1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons Grade A maple syrup
- 1/3 cup water
Quick Pickled Carrots:
- 1 small bunch of carrots, about 1 pound
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
Noodles and Salad Ingredients:
- 1 head of Butterhead lettuce, washed and shredded
- 1 small bunch of basil, chopped – 1/2 cup
- 1 small bunch of cilantro, chopped – 1/2 cup
- 1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
- 1 pound of vermicelli rice noodles
- Start by combining the chicken thighs with their marinade and place the mixture in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, overnight yields a bit more flavor but it isn’t necessary.
- Combine all the ingredients for the Nuoc Cham and set it aside.
- Peel the carrots and grate them in a food processor or by hand. Place them in a bowl, and sprinkle them with the rice vinegar. Set them aside to ‘pickle’.
- Prepare all the salad ingredients and set them aside.
- Preheat your grill over high heat until the temperature reaches 400ºF. Place the chicken on the grill and immediately lower the heat to medium. You want the temperature to stay between 350ºF to 400ºF. If the temperature is too high the marinade will burn before the chicken cooks. Cook the chicken for 6-8 minutes, or until the chicken doesn’t stick the the grill and you can easily turn it over. After you turn the chicken, cook for an additional 6-8 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink in the center. The timing will depend on the thickness of your chicken thighs.
- While the chicken is cooking, cook the rice noodles according to package directions. When the noodles are just tender, drain and rinse them in cold water to stop the cooking process.
- When all everything is prepared, you can assemble the bowls individually by layering the salad ingredients, noodles, and carrots. Then top the bowls with saté chicken and the Nuoc Cham dipping sauce.
- You can also chop the grilled chicken into bite sized pieces, and toss all the ingredients together like a salad in a large bowl!