Bún is a Vietnamese dish that makes use of rice vermicelli and, as far as I can tell, the kitchen sink– veggies, herbs, meat, egg, fish sauce, you name it. It can come in soup, but the form I’m most familiar with is just the noodles in a bowl, topped with said kitchen sink. It sounds really healthy, right? Rice noodles and mostly veggies? Well, just 1 cup of rice noodles alone will set you back about 500 calories. Top that off with meat roasted in sweet sauce, eggs, and daikon and carrots that were marinated in sugar and vinegar, and as you can imagine, those calories inevitably add up.
I happened to have some konnyaku noodles lying around. Famous in Japan and China as “diet noodles”, they have very few calories and are full of fiber– filling you up without expanding your waistline. You can usually find them at Asian groceries (particularly ones that target Chinese/Japanese folks), but I think I saw some tofu shirataki noodles (similar, but with tofu added and marginally more calories) at Safeway the other day.
These things sound amazing. The problem is that when you first take them out of the package, they smell kinda funky. To counter this, rinse them a lot and boil them. Problem #2 is that the texture is pretty darn rubbery (sort of like eating soft rubber bands), so using them as a substitute for regular pasta isn’t really going to make you very happy.
*Unless*…I thought to myself…you substitute them for rice vermicelli. Rice vermicelli has a little bit of a rubbery texture– not quite as bad as konnyaku noodles, but some nonetheless. What contains rice vermicelli? Bún bowl!
The results were pretty awesome. I’d skip the salted duck egg, myself, because this brand shown in the picture isn’t that great. I’d use a regular chicken egg and subtract about 30 calories. Overall, with the duck egg, the dish came in just under 400 calories and has a lot of vitamin A, fiber, and decent amounts of other vitamins. And it’s a *lot* of food. The key to successful bún is to have the marinated shredded carrots and daikon, usually done with rice vinegar, water, sugar, and salt and let to sit at least overnight. I substituted Splenda and didn’t notice much of a difference. I roughly followed the recipe at Battle of the Bahn Mi, found here.
Low Calorie, Low Carb Bún
Makes 1 *large* low calorie serving
- 140 g of konnyaku noodles (7 bunches, seems to be about 3/4 of a cup)
- Marinated daikon/carrot mixture (see recipe link above)
- 1 chicken sausage (I used Trader Joe’s Chicken Mango), cut into coins
- 2 green onions, chopped finely
- 1 serrano pepper, chopped into thin rings (substitute jalapeño for less spicy, or omit it entirely if you’re a wimp :P )
- 1/3 cup fresh cilantro/coriander leaves
- 1 hard boiled egg, chopped up
- 1/4 lime worth of lime wedges
- 2 tbsp fish sauce (nước mắm)
Rinse, then boil the konnyaku noodles for 5-10 minutes. Simultaneously, brown the sausage. When the konnyaku is done (which can basically be whenever, it doesn’t need much cooking but can take as much as you throw at it), drain it and rinse it with cold water. Let it dry.
When dry, put into a bowl and top with veggies, marinated carrot/daikon, cilantro, sausage, and chopped up egg. Squeeze lime wedges over the top and pour a tablespoon or two of fish sauce. Admire the pretty food, then eat it.
I couldn’t finish the whole bowl…