Vietnamese beef sate noodles is a spicy and wonderfully fragrant dish bursting with aromatics like lemongrass, garlic and shallots all simmered in a beef broth and served over egg or rice noodles. You can find it at many Vietnamese restaurants but it’s also fast and easy to make at home.
Do you find yourself ordering the same few items at a Vietnamese restaurant? Probably fried spring rolls and pho noodles? Next time, dive deeper into the menu try a dish called “Sate Noodles” or “TeoChew Sate Noodles”.
As a child, my first taste of Vietnamese satế noodles was at the original Bo Ky restaurant on Bayard Street in Chinatown, Manhattan. My parents knew the owner, Mr. Ngo, long before he and his family opened the restaurant. Newly arrived as refugees from Vietnam, Mr. Ngo’s family and mine lived in the same apartment building in New York.
At Bo Ky, the dish was called “TeoChew Sate Noodles” and my family would always order it with thin egg noodles. They were so cheap, something like $5 for a huge bowl, and I would order one just for myself.
What is Vietnamese Sate?
In Vietnam, sate sauce (written as Sa Tế and pronounced like “sa tear” with emphasis on the second syllable) is a chili sauce that originated from the TeoChew region in China. TeoChew sate sauce is made with red chilis, garlic, shallots, dried shrimp or fermented shrimp paste, and sugar. The sauce is spicy and used for marinades, bbq sauce, soup flavorings, etc.
This is different from “Thai satay” which refers to meat skewers served with a peanut sauce. Thai satay sauce is not spicy and is made with peanuts, coconut milk, red curry paste, fish sauce, tamarind and sugar.
What is Vietnamese Sate noodles?
Vietnamese satế noodles is an entree/main course dish. It is made with ground beef sauteed with TeoChew satế sauce and simmered with lemongrass, shallots, dried shrimp, ground peanuts (or peanut butter) and spices (like 5-spice powder). This simmered sauce (which can be a thick gravy or a thin soup) is then poured over noodles and garnished with tomatoes, cucumber, and fresh herbs like green onions, cilantro, Thai basil and mint.
The noodles that are traditionally used are egg noodles (can be the thin or thick kind) and rice noodles (not the thin kind but the extra wide ones known as “Hu Tieu” in Vietnamese and “Hor Fun” in Chinese). Noodle choice is a matter of personal preference and Vietnamese restaurants should offer you a choice of either noodles.
So on a Vietnamese menu, “Mì Bò Sa Tế” means egg noodles with beef sate (“Mì” means noodles and “Bò” means beef) and “Hủ Tiếu Sa Tế Bò” means wide rice noodles with beef sate (“Hủ Tiếu” means rice noodles).
Vietnamese satế noodles is said to have originated as a fusion dish between Viet and Teochew cuisine. TeoChew (also spelled ChaoZhou, ChiuChow, ChaoChow, 潮州) is a region in China. Many Chinese from TeoChew settled in Vietnam, especially the Cholon area of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City).
TeoChew satế sauce combined with traditional Vietnamese ingredients like lemongrass and fresh herbs = Vietnamese satế noodles.
We make homemade egg noodles for this dish and I find it hard to go back to the dried pre-packaged stuff because the homemade egg noodles are so much more flavorful and have a better texture (some would say a better “mouthfeel”). Click here for my recipe and instructions on how to make your own egg noodles from scratch.
Make Vietnamese Sate Noodles at Home
If you can’t find Vietnamese Sate Noodles at your local Viet restaurant, then try making it at home.
This is an amazingly fragrant sauce made with lemongrass, garlic and shallots – I just love the smell of the simmering broth wafting throughout the kitchen.
This dish cooks up very fast! Once you have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go, you practically just toss everything into a pan and simmer for 15 minutes.
Tip: Use a mini chopper or food processor to speed up the prep process. If using dried shrimp, be sure to soak it for 15 minutes in warm water before draining and tossing into the food processor.
If you don’t have dried shrimp, you can either leave it out or add shrimp paste or toss in a few anchovy fillets when you sauté the garlic and shallots.
By itself, the smell of dried shrimp can be quite strong and off-putting for some (like me!), but once ground up and incorporated into a dish, the flavors blend perfectly with the other ingredients for a wonderfully aromatic dish.
When it comes to the garlic, shallots and dried shrimp, I just toss them into the food processor.
But with lemongrass, I prefer cutting them cross-wise into little rounds first (photo below, left) and then tossing them into the food processor (photo below, right). Otherwise the outer stalks don’t get chopped evenly leaving long thin undesirable strands that are difficult to chew and get stuck between your teeth.
Vietnamese Satế Sauce:
Vietnamese Satế Sauce is a fragrant chili paste made with minced garlic, shallots, dried shrimp and sugar. You can find this already prepared chili sauce in specialty Chinese or Vietnamese supermarkets.
You can substitute anything spicy (like Sriracha, red chili flakes, chili garlic sauce) and then just add a 2-3 extra cloves of garlic and one extra stalk of lemongrass to ingredients list.
This is where you can really have fun with the final dish. Like Vietnamese Pho, this satế is often served with sliced beef that’s cooked until just medium rare and sprinkle with green onions and cilantro.
I love garnishing with thinly sliced cucumbers and tomatoes because they add a fresh element to the cooked dish. Because I had just harvested a ton of cherry tomatoes from my garden, I used those instead of larger tomatoes traditionally used in restaurants.
Other toppings include:
- crushed peanuts
- fried shallots
- lime wedges
- bean sprouts
- fresh herbs like Thai basil and mint
Instant Pot / Pressure Cooker
I love making Vietnamese Sate in my pressure cooker because it cooks up even faster and I feel that the flavors are intensified for an even more fragrant dish.
I start by using the “Sauté” mode to cook the aromatics and the ground beef and then I simmer the sauce on high pressure for 5 minutes with natural release.
Finally, I ladle the boiling sate sauce into my bowls of fresh egg noodles topped with thinly sliced beef. The hot sate sauce cooks the sliced beef (just like in pho preparation) and then I garnish with fresh herbs and squeeze in a bit of lime.
I hope you get to experience Vietnamese Sate noodles whether at a restaurant (alongside your pho) or at home using my recipe.
Let me know how either experience turns out by dropping me a comment below!
Vietnamese Beef Sate with Egg Noodles (Mì Bò Sa Tế)
Vietnamese beef sate noodles is a spicy and wonderfully fragrant dish bursting with aromatics like lemongrass, garlic and shallots all simmered in a beef broth and served over egg or rice noodles. You can find it at many Vietnamese restaurants but it's also fast and easy to make at home.
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 shallots diced (or 1/2 red onion)
- 2 oz lemongrass minced (about 4-5 stalks)
- 2 tablespoons dried shrimp (about 12 g)
- 4 oz ground beef (113 g)
- 1 tablespoon sate sauce
- 2 teaspoons Bo Kho spice powder (or 1 teaspoon 5-spice powder)
- 1 quart beef broth (or water if in a pinch)
- 2-3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce
- 1-2 teaspoons sugar
- 8 oz beef thinly sliced (use tenderloin, ribeye, top round)
- 4 oz egg noodles
- 3/4 teaspoon salt divided
- roasted peanuts roughly chopped
- fried shallots
- tomato slices thinly sliced
- cucumber slices thinly sliced
- thai basil
- scallions chopped
- bean sprouts
- lime wedges
Soak dried shrimp in warm water for 15 min. Then drain and grind finely in mini chopper or food processor.
Heat oil in a pot over medium heat.
When the oil is hot, add the garlic, shallots, lemongrass, dried shrimp and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and saute for 1-2 minutes. Keep stirring the ingredients so they don't burn.
Add the ground beef and sprinkle another 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Break up the beef and cook until browned.
Add the sate sauce and the Bo Kho or five spice powder and mix well.
Add the beef stock (you can use water but of course beef stock is more flavorful), peanut butter, fish sauce and sugar. Mix well and simmer 15 minutes, covered.
Meanwhile, prepare your egg noodles in bowls and place the thinly sliced beef on top of the noodles in each bowl. Pour the boiling soup over the beef so that the hot liquid cooks the meat.
Alternatively, you can cook the raw sliced beef by quickly dipping it in the boiling stock and then placing them in the bowls.
Serve hot and garnish as desired.
- Homemade Egg Noodles - Click here for my recipe on how to make your own egg noodles from scratch and if you have kids, put them in charge of this task.
- Sate Sauce - If you cannot find Vietnamese or TeoChew sate sauce, then substitute with anything spicy (like Sriracha, red chili flakes, chili garlic sauce) to your desired spice level and also add 3 extra cloves of garlic and one extra stalk of lemongrass to the saute step.
- Dried Shrimp - If you don’t have dried shrimp, you can either leave it out or add 1 teaspoon shrimp paste or toss in a few anchovy fillets when you sauté the garlic and shallots.
- Thinly Sliced Beef - You can buy pre-sliced beef from the butchers. If you slice it yourself, freeze the beef for 30-50 minutes to make it more solid and easier to slice.