While fall is my favorite season, this year, I’ve actually found myself fondly holding onto the last few days of summer. It’s not that hard to do here in Texas, because it’s still hot AF. This past summer has honestly been one of the best I’ve ever had: graduation, traveling to Taiwan, Vietnam, Tanzania and Kenya, and some exciting collaborations (involving pizza and the Dallas Farmers Market), with many more exciting projects to come!
With the weather being so warm, I find myself still sticking to refreshing foods full of cooling greens and herbs, like spring rolls and vermicelli bowls. Vietnamese vermicelli bowls (bún) are heavy on veggies, quite easy to assemble, and there is lots of room for improvisation. Traditional Vietnamese vermicelli bowls feature various protein toppings, which include grilled pork (bún thịt nướng), lemongrass beef (bún thịt bò xào sả), eggrolls (bún chả giò, or sometimes lemongrass tofu (bún đậu hũ xào sả). Nowadays, these toppings are easily veganizable. Today I am sharing a vermicelli bowl featuring my five spice beef as the protein!
If you eat a lot of Vietnamese food, you may have noticed that, aside from the protein that may vary, most of the toppings that go in bún are already vegan: herbs, cucumbers, lettuce, đồ chua (pickled veggies), and crushed peanuts. The sauce is also key for this dish–bún is nothing without nước mắm chang, also known as fish dipping sauce (here’s my family’s vegan version). Don’t skimp on the sauce when you make this–I like to drown my noodles in it!Veteran Vietnamese food connoisseurs may also notice that the noodles in these photos are somewhat translucent, different from the traditional rice noodles used for bún. At the time of making this, I used bean thread noodles, AKA cellophane noodles, because that’s what I had on hand. Either noodle type can be used, but I will say the rice noodles have a little more nutritional content (adding 2 grams of protein per serving). This dish is quick to assemble during the week if you make the main components ahead of time over the weekend. If everything is prepped, assembly only takes 10 minutes or less. So I recommend taking a Sunday afternoon to make a big batch of the five spice beef, fish sauce, and pickled carrots + daikon radish.
Vegan Five Spice “Beef” Vermicelli Bowls
makes 4 servings
Total prep time: 2 hours (less time to assemble if you pre-make the toppings)
- one batch of five spice vegan beef (recipe here)
- 225 grams vermicelli rice noodles (found at any Asian grocery store, or get it online here) OR you can use cellophane/bean thread noodles (I used this brand)
- đồ chua, AKA pickled carrots + daikon (you can buy this pre-made at Asian grocery stores, or DIY; The Viet Vegan has a recipe!)
- nước mắm chang, AKA fish dipping sauce (vegan version here)
- 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup peanuts
- 2-3 handfuls of fresh Vietnamese herbs (I use a combination of mint, Thai basil, Shiso leaf–all can be found at the Asian market; I typically buy one bunch of each)
- 4-5 leaves of romaine lettuce
- 2 medium cucumbers
- chili peppers or chili garlic sauce, to your taste
- Prepare the vegan five spice beef, according to this recipe.
- While the beef is simmering and the marinade is reducing, prepare the other key components: the fish dipping sauce and the pickled carrots + daikon (see links above for recipes).
- Cook the noodles according to package instructions and set aside.
- Crush the peanuts, using a mortar and pestle or by pulsing gently in a food processor. Set aside for serving.
- Just before serving, wash and drain all the veggies and prep them:
- Julienne the cucumbers (here’s my favorite method; this is what I was taught growing up).
- To prepare the Vietnamese herbs, after washing, pluck the leaves of the herbs from the stems, so you end up with a big pile of leafy herbs, at least 1 to 2 cups worth. The amount of herbs you use is up to your preference. I like tons of herbs in mine, so I make sure to get a large handful of leaves for my bowl. Some people find Vietnamese herbs to be bitter, so exercise caution, but experiment to see how much you can handle! Chiffonade the herbs and the romaine lettuce (this is how I typically do it).
- Once all the components are prepared, it’s time to assemble the bowls. Each bowl will have the following (order/amount doesn’t matter much because you’ll be mixing everything right before eating, and you can adjust topping amounts based on your taste):
- rice or cellophane noodles (1 serving is typically 1 cup or 56 grams)
- vegan five spice beef
- julienned cucumbers
- chiffonaded herbs and lettuce
- crushed peanuts
- vegan fish dipping sauce (be generous with this–a dry vermicelli bowl is a sad thing)
- chopped chili peppers or chili garlic sauce, if using, to your taste!
- Mix everything well and enjoy!! Add various toppings to your taste; I’ll add more lettuce or cucumber if my bowl feels too salty, or I’ll add more five spice beef or fish sauce if my bowl feels a little lackluster!
I hope you enjoyed this recipe and once again, my experiments in GIF-making. I hadn’t intended on making GIF’s, but it was so fun! Please let me know if you have any questions when making this recipe; I’m happy to help!