Noodles appear everywhere in Vietnamese culinary culture, from the South to the North, with broth or in a wrap. The locals love eating noodles no matter what time in the day, in the morning, for lunch, dinner, or even as a snack. While the phrase “noodles" in the Western top of mind refers to wheat flour, Vietnamese noodles mostly originate from rice flour; some could combine with tapioca or mung bean flour. Those who are not familiar with Vietnamese food, they might be overwhelmed in the “noodles maze" with a diversity of types, classification by dishes, or ingredients. This article brings you a closer look at this term.
Owning an ordinary rice culture history from a very long time, this category covers a huge collection of Vietnamese noodle dishes. The cuisines are usually balanced with protein like meat or seafood and fiber in green vegetables to form a complete and healthy meal.
- BÁNH PHỞ (Steamed flat rice noodles)
Everybody knows the legendary dish called “Phở" in Vietnamese food culture; and Bánh phở (the steamed flat noodles) is one of the key ingredients. Bánh phở is a rice based noodles. The Rice is soaked in water and ground into flour; the flour mixture then is steamed and cut. Bánh phở is beautifully white, light, tender and has flat thin shape to perfectly absorb the broth and seasonings.
Vietnamese people use Bánh phở to create a long list of superb cuisines. Along with Beef broth Phở which is the most well-known world wide, we can name Chicken broth Phở, Stir-fried Phở, crispy fried Phở, fresh Phở rolls, etc.
Bánh phở can be also used to make Hủ tiếu (Pork/seafood/fish noodle soup) at some places, originated from Chinese people. In Ho Chi Minh City, you can find Hủ tiếu with bánh phở inside at Chinese eateries.
2. BÚN (Steamed round rice noodles)
Bún is also a kind of steamed rice noodle but in round shape. Similar to Phở about main ingredients, though Bún is more versatile depending on the sizes of them.We've known about one of the most popular cuisines in Vietnam called Bún Bò Huế (Hue beef noodle soup). The large and thick form of Bún is used in this cuisine. Moreover, this size of Bún is also used in Bún mắm (fermented broth noodle soup).
For a thinner size, you can easily find them both in broth and no broth, namely Bún riêu (crab paste noodle soup), bún chả (rice noodle with barbeque pork), bún thịt nướng (Charcoal grilled pork on skewers with rice noodle) or gỏi cuốn (spring rolls with peanut sauce).
Another form of Bún you rarely hear about is Bánh hỏi (Vietnamese woven rice noodles), originated from Bình Định Province. The basic steps to make Bánh hỏi is not different from regular Bún yet the rice noodles are pressed till ultra-thin then woven into bundles. Bánh hỏi is usually topped with spring onion oil, crushed peanuts and served alongside with pork or beef.
3. HỦ TIẾU
Hủ tiếu is also made from rice flour but more chewy than Bánh phở or Bún. The varieties of Hủ tiếu include Hủ tiếu Nam Vang (Phnom Penh style), Hủ tiếu Mỹ Tho (Mỹ Tho is a city in Tiền Giang Province), Hủ tiếu Sa Đéc (Sa Đéc is a city in Đồng Tháp Province). Each and every style of Hủ tiếu has its own taste. You should definitely try Hủ tiếu khô (dry mixed Hủ tiếu). The rice noodles are boiled, drained, then mixed with sauce and topped with meat, seafood, pork liver, pork heart (depends on eateries). Hủ tiếu khô is served with a bowl of soup aside.
4. MÌ QUẢNG (Quảng style noodles)
“Mì" means noodles and “Quảng" stands for Quảng Nam - a province in the central area of Vietnam. Mì Quảng is much thicker and larger than Bánh phở. The original Mì Quảng is snow-white. By time, the locals try to diversify by making them more colorful with natural ingredients such as turmeric powder, brown rice, beetroot juice, etc.
Mì Quảng is used in a popular dish of the same name. The broth is simmered with stir-fried chopped chicken, shrimps, pork, etc and a special must-have “Củ nén" (a kind of chives root). Mì Quảng is usually served with concentrated broth which is savory and rich, rice crackers and fresh vegetables. A little touch of chili jam and lime will enhance the flavor.
NOODLES FROM OTHER FLOUR & STARCH
- BÁNH CANH (Udon-like thick noodles)
Bánh canh is thick, slightly chewy and has a round shape. There are 2 main types of Bánh canh:
- Bánh canh bột lọc: made from manioc flour, or mixed rice flour with tapioca flour. Bánh canh made from manioc flour is more transparent and chewy. This is the most popular type of Bánh canh you can find at every corner of Ho Chi Minh City.
- Bánh canh bột gạo: totally made from rice flour, thicker and softer.
Bánh canh is mostly common in the Central area, the South and the West of Vietnam.
Bánh canh cua (crab noodle soup) is a popular bánh canh in Ho Chi Minh City. The broth is simmered with pork bone and whole crab, then bánh canh bột lọc (manioc flour) is dropped directly in broth which makes the soup slightly thick, orange-colored and full of crab flavor. Bánh canh cua is also topped with shrimp, fresh cilantro and spring onion. In Vietnam's Central region, you can find bánh canh (whole rice flour) going well with fish cake and snakehead fish; it's a taste of the sea. Going down West, Bánh canh is beautifully cooked with shrimp, minced pork and coconut milk; this is a signature of Bến Tre Province - a coconut kingdom.
2. MIẾN (Dried glass noodles)
Miến is commonly made by mung bean or arrowroot starch, has long thin shape and is usually dried for preservation. Mung bean glass noodles have a snow-white color and clear smell while arrowroot glass noodles are gray and still smell slightly like an arrowroot plant. After boiling, Miến turns pretty clear and slippery. It's chewy and almost flavorless while eating alone.
Miến is a gluten-free ingredient and can be used in many dishes, both in broth and stir-fried
Miến gà (chicken glass noodle soup) is one of the traditional Vietnamese dishes which can be served from dawn to dusk. The soup is similar to Phở gà (Vietnamese chicken rice noodle soup) yet lighter and sometimes goes with bamboo shoot. Miến gà is a classic cuisine originated from North Vietnam. Another special dish coming from the North is Miến lươn (glass noodle soup with eel). The hearty broth goes perfectly with both fried and steamed eel meat, glass noodles and fresh herbs.
To sum up, noodles are essential parts of Vietnamese culinary culture, especially rice noodles. Vietnamese noodles can be used in countless superb and healthy cuisines, from North to South. If you are traveling to Vietnam, be sure to experience Vietnamese noodles from A to Z and tell us your favorite one!!!