This fresh Vietnamese noodle bowl with lemongrass hoisin sauce, vermicelli rice noodles, and crunchy pickled carrots is the perfect dinner for a hot summer day.
When I lived in Nanjing one of my favorite non-Chinese restaurants was a Vietnamese restaurant a few blocks from my apartment. When we were dating, my husband and I would go there at least once a month for date night. The restaurant itself was pretty – simple white plastic chairs and tables with pastel green walls – but the food was so tasty and fresh. I would always get a pork noodle bowl with vermicelli noodles, lemongrass pork, pickled vegetables, fresh mint, and crunchy peanuts on top. This Vietnamese noodle bowl brings me back to the good memories of that restaurant.
I take a few shortcuts in this recipe using ingredients I can find in my regular grocery store since I don’t often drive across town to the International or Asian grocery stores in Nashville. I substitute lemongrass paste for fresh lemongrass. In my local store, the lemongrass paste is right next to the fresh herbs in the produce section. I also use soy sauce in place of fish sauce to make this vegetarian – if you’re not serving this to vegetarians, you could easily substitute fish sauce instead. I can find vermicelli noodles in the Asian section of my store – if you can’t find any, then substitute rice instead. For the meatless crumbles, I used the Lightlife Smart Ground Crumbles, found in the refrigerated section near tofu and other vegetarian items. You can easily substitute other brands or meatless crumbles or the protein of your choice – ground pork, beef, or turkey would all work well. If substituting other meats, just follow the package directions to cook and be sure to drain the excess fat before stirring in the lemongrass hoisin sauce.
How to Make Vegetarian Vietnamese Noodle Bowls
You’ll start by prepping all of your ingredients. One of my favorite parts of the recipe is the pickled carrots. You’ll want to julienne these, which basically means to cut into long thin strips. To make it easier to julienne I used a julienne peeler like this. If you have patience and great knife skills, you could achieve the same thing with a chef’s knife, or just slice the carrots thinly. Then slice the cucumber, mince the garlic (or use something like this, not as good as fresh garlic, but a lot easier!), juice a lime (or use bottled lime juice), wash the mint leaves, and thinly slice the scallions.
After everything is prepped, fill a medium to large saucepan with water and bring to a boil for the noodles. Then in a smaller saucepan combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and 1/2 cup water and bring that to a boil. Since there’s less liquid, the pickling liquid will boil first. When it’s boiling, remove from the heat, add your carrots, cover, and set aside. Prepare the dipping sauce by bringing 5 tablespoons of water to a boil in the microwave. Add the brown sugar and stir well, then add in the soy sauce or fish sauce, rice vinegar, lime juice, garlic, and red chili pepper flakes. Set aside.
When the large pot of water is boiling, remove from heat and add the vermicelli noodles. Cover and let it sit for about 8 minutes. While the noodles are cooking, mix together the lemongrass puree, honey, and hoisin sauce in a small bowl. When the noodles are done, carefully take them out of the water using kitchen tongs and place on a large cutting board. Roughly chop into thirds. I find that this makes the noodles easier to eat – if you prefer super long noodles then just drain the noodles and skip this step. Plate the noodles in large bowls for serving.
The final step is to cook the meatless crumbles or your meat of choice. Follow package directions to cook – for the Lightlife crumbles I sprayed a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray, heated over medium heat, and cooked for about five minutes. When the meat is done (and drained if you’re not using meatless crumbles), stir in the lemongrass hoisin sauce. Then serve. Add the meatless crumbles to the noodle bowls and serve with the pickled carrots, sliced cucumbers, fresh mint leaves, scallions, and roasted peanuts. Serve with the dipping sauce on the side.
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Vegetarian Vietnamese Noodle Bowls
- 6.75 oz maifun rice sticks – vermicelli
- Water to boil
- 3 large carrots julienned
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons lemongrass puree
- 1.5 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
- 12 oz meatless crumbles my favorites are Lightlife Smart Ground and Trader Joe’s Beef-less Ground Beef
- 5 tablespoons boiling water
- 4 tablespoons brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce or vegetarian fish sauce
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons lime juice
- 2 teaspoon garlic finely minced
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes optional
- fresh mint leaves
- roasted peanuts
- scallion sliced thinly
- Add water to a large saucepan for the noodles and bring to a boil.
- Then add the rice vinegar, sugar, and water add the rice vinegar, sugar, and ½ cup water to a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally so the sugar dissolves. When the mixture starts to boil, add the carrots, cover, and take off the heat. Set aside.
- Prepare the dipping sauce by mixing 5 tablespoons boiling water with the brown sugar and then adding the soy sauce or vegetarian fish sauce, rice vinegar, lime juice, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Set aside.
- When the water in the large saucepan is boiling, remove the pan from heat, add the vermicelli, cover, and let it sit for about 8 minutes.
- While the noodles are cooking, mix the lemongrass puree, honey, and hoisin together in a small bowl.
- Then take out a large cutting board and then, using kitchen tongs, carefully take the vermicelli noodles out of saucepan and place on the cutting board. Cut the pile of noodles in thirds (this is just a rough cut and makes them a bit easier to eat). Add the noodles to serving bowls.
- Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and cook the meatless crumbles following package directions. If you’re substituting ground beef or turkey, then cook that now. For the Lightlife crumbles that I used, I coated the pan with cooking spray and cooked for about 5 minutes. As soon as your meat or meatless crumbles are done, add the hoisin lemongrass sauce and mix through. Add the meat mixture to the noodles in the bowls.
- Then using kitchen tongs take the pickled carrots from the pickling liquid and add to the serving bowls.
- Serve with the sliced cucumber, fresh mint leaves, sliced scallions, and roasted peanuts.