Bun bo nam bo
What is bun bo nam bo?
The Vietnamese dish bun bo nam bo ( spelled locally as bún bò nam bộ and pronounced as ‘boen boh nem bo’) quite literally means ‘noodles with beef from the south’. The dish first came to widespread popularity after the unification of Vietnam, with the warm noodle salad hitting the right note with its thin rice noodles (the ‘bun’) and marinated, stir-fried beef (the ‘bo’). Now, it’s a dish encountered throughout the country.
The dish is most popular in the Vietnamese capital, where both locals and tourists seek it out as a street food favourite. The noodle salad is particularly well-known as a cooling cuisine that takes the edge of the hot climate of the capital. However, it’s the nuanced flavours that make the biggest impression. There’s a pronounced garlic and lemongrass edge, with a mouth-watering balance courtesy of the sweetened marinate and lime infused sauce.
Vietnamese diners consume bun bo nam bo throughout the day at all mealtimes, and it can be found at both humble street food vendors and the chicest restaurants around.
How to make bun bo nam bo
Opt for bun bo nam bo and you’ve got yourself a satisfying one-course meal. Thin strips of beef are first marinated in oyster sauce, garlic, lemongrass and sugar before being fried. Fresh herbs and vegetables are then covered with a layer of vermicelli noodles, fried beef, followed by fried onions and peanuts for a hint of crunch. A spoonful of nuoc cham, a Vietnamese dipping sauce, adds a kick of spice, sweetness and acidity all at once.
Bun bo nam bo is a so-called ‘dry noodle dish’. Unlike popular noodle soups, it is served without moisture, meaning the herbs and vegetables within the recipe maintain crunch and freshness. A brilliant choice if you’re fond of the aromas and lightness of Vietnamese cuisine, but fancy something other than soup.
Each establishment puts its own spin on this dish for a fresh flavour injection. Your bun bo nam bo might be bolstered with bean sprouts, livened up with lettuce and cucumber, or pimped with papaya or pickled vegetables.
How to eat
Enjoy this dish just as the Vietnamese do. Pour the bun bo nam bo into a bowl, mixing the different layers of sauce, herbs, vegetables, noodles, peanuts and beef pieces. Do this carefully, giving each of the key flavours the chance to intermingle. All you need to do then is grab a pair of chopsticks and you’re good to go.
There’s two types of bun bo in Vietnamese cuisine. Aside from bun bo nam, there is a northern variant, bun bo hue. Consisting of vermicelli, oxtail and pork leg, this take on the noodle soup staple is also occasionally flavoured with coagulated pork blood.