Lemongrass Venison and Vermicelli Salad

(Bun Thit Nai Nuong)
Bun-Noodle; Thit-meat; Nai- deer; Nuong- grilled

In case you've been wondering, I (Jenny) owe my ethnic roots to Vietnam. I grew up eating hamburgers and french fries, like any other American kid, so it wasn't until I got older that I began to appreciate food from my home country. This is a dish my mom used to make all the time, except with beef. Lemongrass is deliciously unique, and I think it works well with the venison. You should be able to find most of the ingredients in the international section of your local grocery store (at least in California). If not, take a venture down to the Asian part of town. People may stare, but don't fret. Contrary to popular belief, not all Asians know kung-fu. Just one in every two. :-)

Servings: 2 
- 3/4 lb thinly sliced venison 
- 1 tbs. sesame oil
- 1 tbs. (to taste) Sriracha Sauce
- 4 tbs. ground lemon grass
- 3 tbs. Hoisin Sauce
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced onion 
- 1 bag rice vermicelli sticks, also called Bun Giang Tay (use half, most bags serve 3-4)
- Olive oil

Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Mam)
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 3 tsp. sugar
- 3/4 cup water
- 2 tbs. fish sauce
- 1 tsp. lemon juice

- Fresh chopped herb/mint leaves, any kind you like. See step 8.
- Sliced cucumber/ cabbage- something with crunch
- Chopped roasted peanuts

Do steps 1 and 2 ahead of time. Rice noodles take awhile to dry. It will keep at room temperature for a day.

1. Soak half of the noodles (if serving 2) in water for about 20 minutes, or until pliable. This makes the boiling process easier. The noodles are more apt to break if boiled right out of the bag. 

2. Bring water to a boil. Cook the noodles for 5-8 minutes, or until tender but still firm. Drain in a colander and flush with cold tap water for one minute. Leave to drain thoroughly before serving. 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 hours.

3. Remove silver skin from venison, slice thinly.

 4. In a bowl, combine the venison, Hoisin sauce, Sriracha, sesame oil, onion, and 3 tbs. of the ground lemon grass. Reserve 1 tbs. for later. 

Note: You can buy lemon grass and grind it yourself. Here is a video on how to cut into lemon grass. Or, if available, frozen pre-ground lemon grass works great and saves a lot of time. It's sold in the frozen section of Vietnamese/Asian supermarkets.

  5. Cover with plastic wrap and let the venison marinate for at least two hours in the fridge. 

 6. Meanwhile, crush chili peppers and garlic cloves into a pulp using a mortar and pestle. Add sugar, about a tsp. or more, to keep the juices from splashing.

 7. In a small bowl, combine water, fish sauce, garlic and chili pulp, 2 tsp. sugar, and lemon juice. If you have the pickled carrots/daikon, put some in there too. Note: This recipe actually makes more nuoc mam than you will need for two people.

8. Before cooking the meat, slice up some cucumbers or cabbage. Chop herbs/mint leaves. 
 Here's a list to help you.  Vietnamese Herb Primer.
Typical herbs that I often see served with this dish are mint (both kinds listed), Vietnamese balm, and purple perilla. 

9. Arrange noodles and greens in bowls.

Vietnamese people have a thing for herbs. I only used mint (Mentha x gracilis) here, but this dish is traditionally served with all kinds of herbs and mints mixed together. It's up to you, how much you want to go crazy with it. Rick's not fussy, and will eat just about anything. Like pigs feet.... Sometimes I wonder... But I'm a little more particular. When I was a kid, all I ate was meat and noodles. Nothing else. But you really lose the whole point of the dish if you do that. This is supposed to be something fresh, cool, and herb-y. Lots and lots of greens!

THE VENISON IS BETTER GRILLED. This dish is traditionally grilled. If you have access to one, please do so!

10. Heat olive oil in a wok, and sprinkle some of the remaining lemon grass. Wait until it browns and becomes aromatic, then add 1/2 of your marinated venison. Cook about 1 minute each side. My mom has always said that the key to making good food is to make it in small batches, not all at once. 

12. Place the cooked venison on top of your noodles and greens in the first bowl. Repeat for the second bowl.

13. Dress with Nuoc Mam (to taste), chopped roasted peanuts (optional), chili paste (to taste), and pickled carrots/daikon. Mix together and eat like a salad. It's a cool meal for a hot summer's day, or any day! Iced tea is good with everything. 

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  1. Amazing how many "family" recipes there are with something as basic as bun thit nuong--I like how you use the hoisin sauce: looks like a winner...and as you say, the venison is DEFINITELY better grilled!

    Here's mine sans the hoisin: http://corksoutdoors.com/blog/bun-thit-nai-nuong-xa-vietnamese-lemon-grass-bbq-venison-noodle-salad-recipe/

  2. Hey Cork,

    Welcome to our blog. My mom puts Hoisin sauce in just about everything. Squirt and you got your sweet flavor. I checked out your recipe. It's interesting that you used brown sugar. I agree. It's made in so many ways.

    So are you from California? I'm rather impressed that you know about bun thit nuong. And from reading your post, I see that you've been to Vietnam, and during the war. Wow. That must've been quite an experience. I went back about three years ago, not that it's the same.

    Anyway, I hope you continue to check back for more recipes. We'll be keeping our eye on yours.


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