Vietnamese Stir Fried Macaroni with Beef, or Nui Xao Bo, was one of my favorites growing up! Macaroni pasta is stir-fried with onions, tomato paste, peas, and ground beef in an umami-rich sauce. It's an easy, comforting, and budget-friendly dish that's great any time of the day!
What is Nui Xao Bo?
Nui means pasta or noodles, xào means stir-fried, and bò means beef. Together, nui xào bò translates to stir fried pasta with beef. It commonly refers to a fusion pasta dish with a glaze-like sauce and tomatoes, soy sauce, and oyster sauce. My mom would always buy me a little take out container whenever she went to Phuoc Loc Tho, the Asian Garden Mall in Westminster, CA. It was my favorite after-school meal!
Nui Xao Bo is the perfect recipe for when you're out of ideas or need something to eat stat. Not only is it extremely quick and easy, but it's budget-friendly with almost all pantry staples. This dish is always a big hit with kids too!
In this recipe, marinaded ground beef, onion, and garlic are cooked together for savory goodness. Then perfectly al dente pasta, tomato paste, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and peas are stir-fried together all at once. A splash of pasta water creates a silky tomato sauce that coats the noodles. And that's it! It's really that easy!
Why You'll Love It
- This recipe has minimal prep and a very quick cook. All you need is 30 minutes from start to finish!
- We only use a quarter pound of ground beef in this recipe, making it very economical and budget-friendly. The remaining ingredients are mostly pantry pulls!
- Nui Xao Thit Bo is satisfying on its own, but it's also a great accompaniment to large entrees as well.
- It's versatile enough to enjoy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Growing up, I always enjoyed it as an after-school snack.
- It's kid-friendly! It's a fun twist on pasta but with familiar flavors.
- Elbow pasta: You can use any shape or kind of pasta you'd like but the version I grew up with always had macaroni pasta. Just make sure to cook it a little shy of al dente since we'll be stir frying it as well. And save the pasta water! It'll help make a really silky sauce at the end.
- Lean ground beef: I use a 88/12% blend. If you use a fattier blend, you can drain some of excess fat before adding the pasta.
- Soy sauce: To add salt and umami. It's also the primary seasoning for the beef. I use a low-sodium brand to keep the salt content to a minimum.
- Cooking oil: Avocado oil is my favorite oil to cook, fry, and sauté with because of its high smoke point (500°F) and neutral flavor.
- Onion and garlic: Classic aromatics.
- Tomato paste: Unlike traditional Italian pastas, we don't caramelize the tomato paste in this recipe. We add it directly with the pasta to add a bright red hue, body to the sauce, and a little sweetness. Some recipes use ketchup but I prefer the thickness and flavor of tomato paste.
- Oyster sauce: An Asian pantry staple! It's the star ingredient in this dish. It adds umami, sweetness, a little funkiness, and a pretty shine to the sauce.
- Frozen peas: For green color and another layer of texture and sweetness.
- Green onion: for garnish
What's Oyster Sauce Made Of?
Oyster sauce is a very common Asian ingredient. It's a thick, dark brown condiment made from oyster, salt, sugar, water, and monosodium glutamate (MSG). MSG has a bad rep but it's naturally present in several proteins, cheese, and vegetables. As always, I believe in consuming everything in moderation. MSG is a great flavor enhancer and adds delicious umami.
You can find oyster sauce at almost any Asian market. It can also be found in large grocery stores now, including Costco. My family's favorite brand is Lee Kum Kee Premium Oyster. We love using it in stir fries because of its rich umami flavor and thick consistency.
How To Make It
- Season the beef. Do a quick marinade by seasoning the ground beef with soy sauce and pepper. Lightly stir but be careful not to overmix it or else it'll be tough.
- Cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then generously season with salt. We want it to be as salty as broth (not the sea) since we'll be using some of it for the sauce. Cook it for about 1-2 minutes less than what the box instruction says. Reserve some of the pasta water, then drain and set aside.
- Cook the beef. Heat oil in a large pan or wok. Then dd the beef and use your wooden spoon to break it up into small pieces. Add onion and sweat lightly, stirring often. Cook until the beef is no longer pink, then add garlic and quickly stir to prevent it from burning.
- Stir fry the remaining ingredients. Add the tomato paste, oyster sauce, soy sauce, cooked pasta, pasta water, and frozen peas. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Then, over high heat, constantly stir until everything is evenly combined and the water is absorbed.
- Serve. Season to taste and top with sliced green onion. Serve warm.
- Mise en place! This Vietnamese pasta recipe moves very quick, as do most stir fry recipes. Make sure to have all the ingredients chopped, measured, and ready to go before you turn the stove on.
- Cook the pasta 1 minute shy of al dente. Since we'll be stir frying it in the sauce as well, we only want to par-boil it so it doesn't become overcooked and mushy.
- Save the pasta water. The starch in the pasta water helps thicken the sauce and makes it cling onto the pasta. The end result is a silky sauce with flavor-rich noodles.
- Stir fry over high heat. Make sure to use a large skillet or a wok. A large surface area and constantly stirring is important in stir frying to allow the food to be in constant contact with the hot surface.
Substitutions and Variations
- Feel free to use any shape or kind of pasta you'd like. I've successfully made this with brown rice and whole wheat pasta too! Penne pasta is also very commonly used in Nui Xao.
- Substitute ground beef with ground chicken, pork, lamb, or tofu. You could also use thinly sliced or cubed steak, like in Nui Xao Bo Luc Lac. Since it's a quick cook, I'd recommend a tender cut like rib eye, strip, flat iron, filet mignon, or flank steak.
- You can try ketchup in place of tomato paste but it'll be sweeter and more saucy. Try 2 tbsp ketchup, ½ tbsp oyster sauce, and a little more pasta water.
- Add an egg to it! Nui Xao Bo Trung is a common variation with a fried egg on top of the pasta. You could also stir in small pieces of scrambled eggs, like in fried rice.
Storing and Freezing
Storing: Let the Vietnamese pasta cool down completely. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Freezing: This is a great recipe to batch prep and freeze for later! Let cool completely, and transfer to freezer-safe zip-top bags or containers with as much air removed as possible. I like to freeze individual servings for easy reheating. It'll keep in the freezer for 3 months. Don't forget to write a "Reheat By" date as well.
Freezing will slightly alter the taste and texture of the pasta but it should still taste great.
Reheating: Microwave for a couple minutes, stirring halfway, until heated through. If reheating directly from frozen, it'll need more time and stirs.
I love to enjoy it on its own! But you serve it on the side of steak, like Bo Luc Lac, or Vietnamese Chicken Curry. I honestly think this dish goes well with everything.
Add it to any Asian dish you're making! I love it in stir fries like Beef and Broccoli, noodle stir fry, or even in noodle soups for a richer broth. A little goes a long way so start small and adjust as preferred.
You can try adding fresh tomatoes to the stir fry! Or try shallots, broccoli, carrots, bok choy, or chilies for spice.
Looking For More?
Nui Xao Bo is one of my most nostalgic dishes from my childhood! I love re-creating Vietnamese recipes I grew up on. Some of my favorites are:
- Vietnamese Shrimp Toast
- Vietnamese Turmeric Fish with Dill (Cha Ca La Vong)
- Vietnamese Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage (Xoi Lap Xuong)
- Instant Pot Chao Ga (Vietnamese Rice Porridge)
- Vietnamese Chicken Curry (Ca Ri Ga)
Vietnamese Noodle Stir Fry with Beef (Nui Xao Bo)
- To a bowl, add ground beef, 1 tsp soy sauce, and ¼ tsp pepper. Very lightly mix together, then set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add enough salt to make it salty like broth, then add pasta. Cook 1-2 minutes less than what the box says, reserving ¼ cup pasta water. Drain and set aside.
- In a large pan or wok, heat oil over high heat. When hot, add onion and ground beef mixture. Sauté for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, until no longer pink. Then add garlic, cooking for 30 more seconds until fragrant.
- Add cooked pasta, tomato paste, remaining 1 tsp soy sauce, oyster sauce, frozen peas, and ¼ cup pasta water. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Stir continuously over high heat until pasta water is absorbed. Season to taste.
- Garnish with sliced green onion.
- The number of servings will depend on the size of your meal. It serves about 4 for a small meal or snack and about 2 for a full meal.
- Storing Leftovers: Let cool completely and store in an air-tight container in the fridge for 5 days.
- Freezing: Let cool completely and store individual servings in a freezer-safe zip-top bag or container, removing as much air as possible. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
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