Much like bún thịt nướng, bún bò xào nam (pronounced more like boon bo sao nam) is a cold noodle salad, originating from the south of the country.
I always break down the translation of the words for myself because I find that the more individual words I recognise in a language, the easier I find it to work out what and how a country eats. In this instance, bún (white rice noodle) bò (beef) xao (fried) nam (southern Vietnam, as in where the dish comes from) Southern-style fried beef with noodles and beansprouts.
Cold rice noodles are served with grilled beef, matchsticks of cucumber, peanuts, tomatoe lettuce and Vietnamese herbs, mint and perilla, doused in nước chấm (pronounced more like nook chum) – a dipping sauce, which blends sweet and salty flavours of fish sauce, palm sugar, lime and sometimes chilli and/or garlic depending on its use.
Like the pork variant bún thịt nướng, the meat is grilled on a high heat, smokey, and caramelised.
In Hanoi, there are several restaurants who sell almost the same dish, known as bún bò nam bò – Southern style beef noodles. Additionally, the well-known restaurants in Hanoi – including an underwhelming experience at one featured in the travellers’ bible, Lonely Planet – have the additional ingredient of pickled papaya to add a sweet and sour element.
A simple, healthy dish with a bit of sweet, sour freshness and the option to add spice.
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