Vietnamese Bún or Shrimp Vermacelli Dish

May 9, 2012Katie

If you know me, you’ll know I am a Pho freak. I love this Vietnamese soup dish warms me through and through and I have come to crave it of late. I could have been perfectly happy to have stayed with my steady Pho. We would have been blissfully happy for the rest of my life had I not known anything else existed.

But then I went and did it!

I tried a different dish at Pho Hoa called a “Bún”, which I am now ridiculously addicted to as well. Now, I split my attention between two loves and favor the the Bún in the summer when it’s sweltering hot and adore the bowl of steaming pho in the winter.

A Bún is a cold rice vermicelli noodle dish that typically has fresh veggies added into it. The typical staple veggies are shredded carrots, cucumber sticks, shredded lettuce and bean sprouts. You can top it with any variety of proteins, including pork, chicken, shrimp, tofu or even crispy spring rolls. And it usually comes accompanied by a light but flavorful sauce that consists of lime, sugar, fish sauce and sometimes vinegar called nước chấm.

Last night the Wonderful guy and I made this dish and I can’t believe how simple, fresh and easy it is! The version we made is Bun Tom Heo Nuong, or simply Shrimp Bun.

Start by soaking some rice noodles. Rice noodles are becoming more available in most markets now in the Asian section due to gluten free diets. Our Asian Market has scads of these in every size and brand but we prefer the smaller sized ones as they soak quickly. We also use them when we have our Pad Thai parties! They usually come in a large pack of two of these bundles.

One half of this package makes enough noodles for 4 salads, so we went ahead and made some for leftovers, even though there were only two of us.

Put your rice noodles into a large bowl and pour enough boiling hot water to cover them.

Let the noodles soak for 5-7 minutes. The large ones may take a few extra minutes, but, and this is very important – do not let them overcook! They will become sticky and mushy and no good. Do this – after 5 minute sample one – it should have a bit of a bite to it still, but not too much.

Drain your noodles into a colander and immediately run them under cold water to stop the cooking and cool them down.

Let those drain while you prepare your vegetables.

Peel a cucumber and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Slice them thinly and then across in about inch and half pieces.

If you want to, chop up a red or green jalepeno pepper. Red looks pretty if you can find them.

If I could do a redo, I chop instead of slice…that was way too hot for me! You can also leave these out if you’re a heat wimp, because there is a bit of heat in the sauce as well.

Take a head of romaine lettuce and slice across the head to make shreds. I used about half of a small head.

For garnish, and this really makes things delicious, cut a few sprigs of mint, basil and cilantro for each serving. If you can find Thai basil, it’s especially wonderful, but if not, just use regular basil.

Then take a scoop of your noodles and dump it into a nice sized bowl.

Around the edges of the noodles, place a little of each vegetable, and each herb.

Set that in the refrigerator and grill up some shrimp. You could also do this with chicken, or pork or some flank steak of you like.

Thread some medium to large sized shrimp onto skewers. Allow 6-8 per serving.

Brush the shrimp with a little olive oil, sprinkle them with salt and pepper and toss them onto a grill.

Grill them only a couple minutes per side. Shrimp cooks quickly! It should lose it’s transparency and turn white and pink when it’s done.

Slide some of these off and onto your noodle dish.

We’re almost done but first we need to make the sauce. This sauce is a wonderful blend of salty, sweet, sour and spicy and just one example of the reason I love Asian flavors.

In a bowl mix together 1/4 cup of fish sauce, 1/2 cup warm water, 1/4 cup sugar, and 3 tablespoons of lime juice. You can either add red pepper flakes to taste or a teaspoon of Sambal Oelek, a chili paste. If you want to make it pretty, add in some shredded fine carrot, but I usually don’t as there are already carrots in the noodle dish. I also think some chopped green onions would be wonderful.

Both the fish sauce and chili paste are readily available in most markets now in the Asian section.

Pour about 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup of this into small bowls or just drizzle some over top of each noodle dish.

Toss it all up and eat it like a salad. SO good in the summer!

SO good!

Vietnamese Bún or Shrimp Rice Noodle Dish
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4
  • ¼ cup fish sauce (I recommend 3 Crabs)
  • ½ cup warm water
  • ¼ cup sugar (if you like it sweeter)
  • 3 tablespoon lime juice
  • Optional:
  • 1 t. Chili paste (or to taste)
  • ¼ t. red pepper flakes
  • 1 T shredded carrot
  • 8 oz. rice noodles (I like the thinner size)
  • 20 large size shrimp, peel, deveined, tails left on
  • 1 cucumber, scraped of seeds and sliced into thin strips (about 1 cup)
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, shaved thinly (about 2-3 cups)
  • 1 cup carrot, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 c. bean sprouts
  • 1 c. cilantro chopped roughly
  • 1 c. thai or regular basil, chopped roughly
  • ½ c. mint, chopped roughly
  • ½ t. salt
  • ¼ t. pepper
  • Optional: ¼ c. chopped peanuts or cashews
  1. In a large bowl, mix together the water, fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Adjust seasoning, adding more lime juice if too sweet, more sugar if too sour and more fish sauce if it needs more salt. Stir in the remaining ingredients (Best to let set for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to mingle.)
  1. Cook rice noodles according to package directions.Rinse with cold water and drain.
  2. Preheat charcoal or gas grill or grill pan.
  3. Skewer shrimp. Lightly brush shrimp with olive or canola oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill shrimp 2-3 minutes per side, or until they are white and pink and have lost their opaqueness.
  4. Chop vegetables and herbs.
  5. Arrange noodles in bottom of large bowl (as used for pasta dishes) arrange veggies around the edges. Lay shrimp in center on top. Drizzle 2-3 T. of sauce over top. Toss and eat!!


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