An entire meal in one bowl is a brilliant system. They're also very easy to assemble. You can put a bowl together without any heavy lifting, and at the end of your assembly line, you have happy eaters.
Here is a riff that I like to do on Vietnamese "bún" – one of the original meals in a bowl! This is a cold salad of vermicelli rice noodles, chicken, fresh herbs and vegetables, and a tangy rice vinegar dressing.
How to Make a Great Noodle Bowl
Rice vermicelli noodles are now widely available at most grocery stores, or you can find them online.
The two noodles look similar, but mung bean noodles tend to be sticky once cooked and are better suited to other dishes. Rice vermicelli separates into fine threads after cooking, which are easier to pick up with chopsticks or a fork.
The meat for making bún is often grilled, but for an easy weeknight meal, I like to just cook it in the oven. First I coat the chicken with a mix of oyster sauce and hoisin (a combination that I like), then I bake it covered with foil. This helps keep the chicken moist as it cooks.
When it’s done, I sear the breasts quickly in a skillet to caramelize the outside and add some charred flavor.
By the way, if you do want to grill your chicken, I recommend using bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. Cook it without sauce over high heat, then transfer to low heat, baste with the sauce, and finish cooking.
The chicken noodle bowls are finished with a simple rice vinegar dressing seasoned with ginger, and garnished with fresh mint, cilantro, scallions, and chopped peanuts. (Many bún recipes use lime in the dressing, but I like squeezing fresh lime over the top instead.)
You get crunch and sweetness, a hit of vinegar, a soft pillow of noodles, and bites of caramelized chicken – all in one bowl. This is a "meal in a bowl" at its best!
Make a Customizable Noodle Bowl
Let everyone customize their own noodle bowl by keeping the salad ingredients, chicken, and dressing in separate bowls. Give each person a bowl with the cooked noodles and allow them to add the ingredients as they want.
In addition to the ingredients in the recipe, try one or a few of the following:
- Shredded cabbage
- Sliced cucumber
- Extra limes to squeeze onto the bowl
How to Store Vietnamese Noodle Bowls
This cold dish is great for meal prep. The ingredients will last in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. Store the cooked chicken, dressing, vermicelli (toss it in a small amount of oil to keep it from drying out and sticking together), vegetables, and peanuts in separate containers or in meal prep containers.
Easy Recipes to Serve With Noodle Bowls
- Vietnamese Style Sticky Chicken Skewers
- Miso Glazed Chicken Wings
- Shrimp Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce
- Sweet Potato Pancake Lettuce Wraps
- Jamu (Indonesian Turmeric Ginger Drink)
Vietnamese-Style Noodle Bowls with Chicken
If you need to make this recipe gluten-free, be sure to check your bottles of hoisin and oyster sauce to make sure they are gluten-free.
This recipe calls for seasoned rice vinegar, which includes sugar and salt. If you are using unseasoned rice vinegar, the dressing will taste very tart. You may need to add up to 8 teaspoons of additional sugar. Keep adding it a little at a time until it tastes nicely balanced.
2 tablespoons granulated sugar, or more to taste
1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 piece (1-inch) fresh ginger, cut into 2 thick slices
1 clove garlic, halved
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce (see recipe note)
2 tablespoons oyster sauce (see recipe note)
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
8 ounces rice vermicelli noodles
2 carrots, grated
2 cups fresh bean sprouts (6 ounces)
1 jalapeño or other chili pepper, cored and thinly sliced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup peanuts, coarsely chopped
1 lime, quartered, for garnish
Make the dressing:
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar, rice vinegar, fish sauce, ginger, and garlic. Cook, stirring often, just until bubbles appear at the edges and the sugar has dissolved. (Alternatively, microwave in 30-second bursts until the sugar has dissolved and the dressing is hot.)
Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. With a slotted spoon, remove and discard the ginger and garlic.
Taste the dressing for seasoning and add more sugar, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, if you like. The dressing should be a nice balance of vinegary and sweet.
This can be prepared several days in advance; keep refrigerated.
Bake the chicken:
Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a bowl, combine the hoisin and oyster sauces with the canola oil. Add the chicken and turn well to coat all over.
Arrange the chicken in an 8x8 baking dish in one layer. Cover with foil and cook for 35 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the middle of the breasts registers 165°F.
While the chicken bakes, cook the noodles:
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Remove from heat, add the noodles, and let stand for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the noodles are tender when you taste one.
Drain into a colander, rinse with cold water, and shake the colander to remove excess water. (If the chicken isn't quite ready yet, cover the noodles with cool water to keep them from drying out. Drain before serving.)
Sear the chicken:
Heat a large nonstick or well-seasoned cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Arrange the cooked chicken breasts in one layer and cook 2 minutes. Turn and cook 2 minutes more. Watch carefully so they do not burn.
Remove from the pan, and allow to cool briefly. Slice the chicken thinly, keeping the slices together if possible.
Assemble the salad:
Divide the noodles among 4 large bowls. Top with sliced chicken, carrots, bean sprouts, jalapeno, and scallions. Sprinkle with a few spoonfuls of dressing, then garnish with cilantro, mint, and peanuts. Serve with lime and remaining dressing on the side.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 13g||17%|
|Saturated Fat 2g||8%|
|Total Carbohydrate 39g||14%|
|Dietary Fiber 5g||19%|
|Total Sugars 13g|
|Vitamin C 39mg||193%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|