What is bun chay?
The Vietnamese dish bun chay (bún chay, pronounced “boon chai”) is a noodle salad made with rice vermicelli noodles (bun), which are served with lots of vegetables and fresh herbs. The chopped peanuts sprinkled over it add extra taste and crunchiness.
The dish is often served with tofu as a source of healthy protein. The tofu is sometimes deep-fried and crispy, sometimes marinated and flavourful, and sometimes mild in taste and silky. Every cook has their own preference.
Bun chay is a favourite summer dish, both in Vietnam itself and abroad. The noodles are served lukewarm or cold, making it more of a salad than a hot meal. With mint as one of your herbs, the dish becomes extra refreshing.
Like so many other dishes in Vietnamese cuisine, bun chay is also a dish of opposites. Soft, slender noodles are opposed to crispy raw vegetables and bean sprouts. The dressing, nuoc cham, is full of flavour thanks to the trinity of sweet, salty and sour. You can add the spicy aspect yourself at the table in the form of fresh or preserved chilli pepper rings.
Did you know...
Bun chay is one of the few vegan dishes from Vietnamese cuisine, but watch out for the nuoc cham, the dipping sauce that is sprinkled over. This normally contains fish sauce. If you really want to eat vegetarian or vegan food, choose a dressing based on soy sauce.
How to make bun chay
The rice noodles are cooked and rinsed under cold water so that they no longer continue cooking and to stop them sticking. The tofu is prepared in the manner chosen by the chef, for example, marinated and baked, or fried. Vegetables and herbs are washed, cut if necessary and prepared to spread over the noodles. Now just the peanuts have to be chopped.
How to eat
Build the dish in your bowl as follows: first noodles, then vegetables. Place the tofu pieces nicely in a fan along the edge. Sprinkle with peanuts and add the dressing. Enjoy your beautiful piece of handiwork for a moment, then mix everything together with chopsticks and spoon and enjoy.
For a more filling vegan version, order cha gio chay (vegetarian Vietnamese spring rolls) and serve sliced on top of the noodle salad.
Bun chay is served in various ways in Vietnam. Bun cha gio is a combination of bun chay and sliced Vietnamese spring rolls (cha gio). For bun thit nuong, the noodle salad is topped with grilled pork.