Knowing your Vietnamese noodles can be extremely helpful, especially if you’re about to order a noodle dish in a Vietnamese restaurant for the first time. Though many Việt noodles are made of rice flour and appear white when cooked, not all these noodles are the same. Most of the larger Việt grocers will have at least one full aisle dedicated to the love of noodles. Certain traditional Việt noodle dishes use it’s standard noodle type, it can be daunting at times to decide which brand, size, type or texture to purchase when you’re wanting to experiment with a new noodle dish of your own. When shopping, preparing or eating noodles, understanding the breakdown of how these noodles are categorized in the store aisles or on the restaurant menu to help you know your noodles a bit more:
Here is our Introductory Guide & simple breakdown for helping you know your Việt noodles :
What is it made of ? Việt noodles are usually made of rice flour, mung bean starch or wheat flour (with or without egg). If it’s white, it’s base is rice flour or mung bean starch. If it’s yellow, it’s made of wheat flour and/or eggs.
What is the shape? Size? These noodles are available in both Round or Flat strands. From there, many different thicknesses are available. Ranging from very small, thin strands, to medium and thicker, wide strands. There are a plethora of sizes to choose from.
How is it available? Noodles will be available 3 forms:
1. Dried – All grocery stores will have noodles for sale in the dried form. Dried, hard noodles can either be cooked directly in hot water or pre-soaked , then boiled for larger, thicker stands.
2. Semi-Dried, Semi-Fresh – These noodles are raw , usually soft and not completely dried. They are easily cooked by blanching in hot water for a few seconds or boiled for just a couple of minutes . They are normally found in plastic or vacuum sealed packages in the refrigerated section of most Việt grocers. Because of their popularity and quick turn over, some grocers will carry them in the fresh noodle sections.
3. Fresh (completely cooked, ready to eat ) – Many Việt grocers in large Vietnamese communities will have access to local, fresh noodle manufacturers. These grocers will carry , fresh, ready to eat noodles in their fresh noodle sections. You don’t have to hassle with hot water! Usually always cooked well and plump, these fresh noodles are a faster, easier and cleaner alternative. They’re more expensive, but if time is of the essence, these fresh noodles will work very well. Because of their freshness and lack of preservatives, these noodles are very perishable and have a very short shelf life. So they should be eaten within 2 days. The better Việt grocers will have fresh deliveries at least every other day. Make sure you check the freshness of these noodles before purchasing.
Identifying Vietnamese Noodle Dishes on the Menu
Việt noodles are prepared in a variety of ways: In large brothy bowels of soups, stir-fried, deep fried, eaten fresh topped with grilled meats or found in wrapped dishes such as fresh spring rolls. A Việt noodle dish is typically named by identifying the noodle first, then followed by the type of dish (stock & meat base) it is prepared in.
For example, seeing “Bún” in a restaurant means that the dish is identified as using bún noodles. The dish will then follow the description of the dish. Just saying that you ate a Vietnamese “Bún” is vague. A Vietnamese person would normally follow up by asking you, “Which Bún are you talking about?” “Bún Bò Huế?” means the classic bun spicy, noodle soup. “Bún Thịt Nướng ” means bún noodles with grilled meat. In this dish, the bun noodles are served like a cold noodle salad, topped with meat, lettuce, herbs and dipping sauce.
The most common Việt beef noodle soup is known as “Phở”. This dish is collectively identified as the namesake of the noodle itself. In other dishes, larger, thicker strands of pho noodles are stir-fried or sometimes deep-fried with meat and vegetables known as “Phở Áp Chảo” or “Phở Xaò”) .
To confuse things even more there’s ” Hủ tiếu” noodle soups. Hu Tieu are a general term for different varieties of noodle soup dishes that use flat rice noodles (looks like pho noodles) and/or a combination of yellow egg flour noodles (“Mì “) or clear glass noodles ( Miến). The base stock ranges from pork, chicken or duck.
If you just see “Mì “, then the noodles are are specifically yellow egg flour noodles and they are prepared in either noodle soup or stir fried dishes.
Now go out and have fun slurping !