Bún, a traditional Vietnamese vermicelli bowl with vegetables and fresh herbs, is one of my all-time favorite meals. Along with being unbelievably healthful and satisfying, it's also pretty easy to make at home. The key is the salty and totally transformative nuoc cham, a Vietnamese condiment made primarily of fish sauce.
1/2 package vermicelli
1/2 cucumber, julienned
3 carrots, peeled, julienned, and (if you have the patience) blanched in boiling water for 20 seconds
6 leaves romaine lettuce, finely chopped
mint, finely chopped
cilantro, finely chopped
lemongrass, sliced (optional)
basil, finely chopped (optional)
1 chicken breast (optional)
peanuts, lightly crushed with the flat side of a knife (for garnish)
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tbl rice vinegar
3 tbl sugar
juice of one lime
1 clove garlic, sliced
1/2 jalapeño, sliced
First, make the nuoc cham by combining water, fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, limejuice, garlic, and jalapeño. Set aside until serving. (This step can be done ahead of time.)
If you want to incorporate chicken into this dish, simply sear the chicken breast for a few minutes on each side, until cooked through. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the cut.
Cook the vermicelli according to the manufacturer's instructions. Drain and distribute between 2 bowls.
Top each bowl with the chopped carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, and fresh herbs. Garnish with crushed peanuts and top with sliced chicken, if desired.
Pour the nuoc cham evenly over each bowl and enjoy!