Like rice paper rolls and banh mi sandwiches, rice-noodle salad bowls—often categorized at restaurants as rice vermicelli bowls or bun (“boon”, the name of the noodles in Vietnamese)—can feature many wonderful things, like grilled lemongrass chicken skewers. To make Vietnamese rice-noodle salad bowls, simply layer the ingredients in a bowl and let diners dress and mix up their own at the table. The vegetables provide refreshing crunch and herbal pungency, the noodles carry flavor, and the main feature and toppings are up to you. Grilled chicken skewers are the highlight here. Nuoc cham unites things with its Viet imprint.

February 2019


Credit: Greg DuPree

Recipe Summary test

1 hr




Make the marinade
  • Place all marinade ingredients in a mini food processor; pulse until mixture resembles a slightly coarse puree, about 10 times. Transfer mixture to a large bowl.

Make the salad bowls
  • Cut each chicken thigh into 3- x 1-inch strips. (Butterfly any thicker chicken thighs first, if needed.) Add chicken strips to marinade in bowl; massage marinade into chicken until coated. Thread chicken evenly onto 10 (5-inch) skewers. Give skewered chicken a gentle squeeze to ensure meat hugs skewers. Place skewers on a large plate; discard remaining marinade. Cover skewers; let stand at room temperature 30 minutes to 1 hour.

  • Meanwhile, boil noodles in a pot of water until chewy-tender (cook time will depend on brand). Drain and rinse under cold water; drain again. Divide lettuce and, if desired, bean sprouts and cucumber among 4 large serving bowls. Sprinkle bowls evenly with 6 tablespoons cilantro and 6 tablespoons mint, basil, and/or dill. Top evenly with noodles.

  • Heat a grill pan over medium-high. Lightly brush skewered chicken with oil. Place skewers on hot grill pan; cook, turning occasionally, until chicken is slightly charred and cooked through, 8 to 12 minutes.

  • Divide chicken among noodle bowls (either on or off skewers). Top bowls evenly with peanuts; fried shallots, if desired; remaining 2 tablespoons cilantro; and remaining 2 tablespoons mint, basil, and/or dill. Place nuoc cham in a small bowl; let diners dress and toss their own bowls.

Make Ahead

Uncooked chicken skewers can be covered and refrigerated overnight; let come to room temperature before grilling. Noodles can be cooked, covered, and stored in the refrigerator up to 3 days; sprinkle with water, and microwave on high for about 1 minute to soften and refresh.


SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: To properly cook meat on a grill pan or grill, you will need skewers. With 5-inch skewers, you’ll fill about 10 of them; with 10-inch ones, you’ll need 4 or 5. If using wooden skewers and cooking over a live fire, soak the skewers in hot water for 20 minutes before using.

NOTE: Fried onions (like those used for Thanksgiving casseroles) are a great supermarket sub for fried shallots. They enrich the bowls but are totally optional.