Vietnamese cuisine has a wide variety of noodles, all shapes, and sizes. So it can be overwhelming to navigate through the noodle aisle at your local Asian or Vietnamese market. The guide below will explain different types of Vietnamese noodles, how to use them, and our recommendation for each type.
I choose to include in this post the most commonly used type of Vietnamese noodles. But it is, by no means, the complete list of noodles in Vietnamese cuisine. Different regions in Vietnam offer unique noodle dishes like my Quang from Quang Nam that typically use yellow noodles, or banh canh cua from Hai Phong that use brown flat rice noodle.
You can make most Vietnamese noodle dishes from the famous pho to the spicy bun bo Hue with the noodles listed below. And hopefully, it can make your next trip to the grocery store a bit easier to stock up on some good Viet noodles.
Flat Rice Noodle or Rice Sticks
Flat Rice Noodle or banh pho in Vietnamese is what you need for Pho. The noodles are thin, flat, and wide. The width of flat rice noodles varies from brand to brand. Some prefer thinner noodles strands, while others look for medium width.
You can find flat rice noodles, both fresh and dried, at Asian markets. However, the fresh one is usually the Chinese flat rice noodles with a large width, use for stir fry dishes like stir fry rice noodles with beef.
Some Vietnamese market carries banh pho tuoi – fresh flat rice noodle for pho. But they are not that “fresh” compared with the real deal sold in markets and used at pho places in Vietnam.
So unless you are in Vietnam, where you can easily find fresh rice noodles, the safe choice is to go with dried flat rice noodles to make pho at home. They are readily available at most grocery stores and cook up nicely.
How to use flat rice noodles?
Apart from the infamous pho noodle soup, flat rice noodles can be stir-fried or deep-fried, served with beef or seafood.
You can use fresh flat rice noodles right away, while the dried rice noodles should be soaked in water before using.
I always look for Acecook brand rice noodles. Personally, I prefer flat rice noodles with medium width strands for pho. Once cooked, the Acecook brand rice noodle’s both texture and taste are great for pho. They are available at most Asian and Vietnamese markets.
Rice noodle – hu tieu is popular in the South and Mekong-Delta region. It has a similar appearance to pho in terms of the flat and thin strands. Hu tieu dai – chewy rice noodle is made from rice starch. The quality of the rice will directly affect the quality of the noodles.
It is believed that hu tieu dishes had influences from the Chinese and Cambodian communities in Vietnam. The Vietnamese then develop the recipe and make their own version of hu tieu.
How to use rice noodles?
Hu tieu is used in famous dishes like hu tieu bo kho – beef stew noodle soup, hu tieu Nam Vang – Phnom Penh noodle soup, or hu tieu My Tho. You can also find hu tieu xao – stir-fried rice noodles with pork or seafood in various street stalls.
Hu tieu or rice noodles can be used in noodle soup or dry noodle dishes. The broth is mostly made from pork and dry seafood. For hu tieu kho – dry/mixed noodle dish, the mixing sauce can be made from soy sauce, lard, sugar, and fried garlic. You can also use them in deep-fried and stir-fried noodle dishes.
I use Asian Boy or Ocean Swallow – Hai Yen brand. Look for hu tieu dai on the package, dai means chewy to distinguish it from regular rice noodles. I love how the texture is chewier, and the noodle strands hold up well (The noodles from some brands get mushy pretty fast when you cook them).
Rice vermicelli – bun is thin, round shape rice noodle strands. It is one of if not the most used type of noodle in Vietnamese cuisine. On every Vietnam market, it is easy to find fresh rice vermicelli, wrapped between layers of banana leaves ready to go.
Vietnamese use rice vermicelli in bun cha – rice vermicelli with grilled pork, bun ngan – rice vermicelli goose soup, bun oc – snail rice vermicelli soup.
Overseas, you can find rice vermicelli noodle bowls in most Vietnamese restaurants. It comes with grilled pork, chicken, or prawn toppings. A small portion of rice vermicelli is also added to fresh spring rolls or salad rolls.
Thicker strands of rice vermicelli are used in bun bo Hue – beef rice vermicelli noodle soup from Hue, a Central Vietnam city.
How to use rice vermicelli?
Rice vermicelli can be used in noodle soup, stir fry, or served along with other cooked meats, seafood, and salads.
If using rice vermicelli for stir fry, you only need to soak it in warm water and drain before cooking instead of boiling the noodles.
My go-to rice vermicelli brand is Acecook. Be careful not to mistaken rice vermicelli with vermicelli. They have different textures and are used for different dishes.
Thin Rice Vermicelli
Banh hoi is thin rice vermicelli woven into small bite-size bundles. It is often served with crispy roasted pork, spring onion oil, and roasted peanuts.
Banh hoi originated from Binh Dinh Province, in the South Central Coast region of Vietnam. It is hard to find banh hoi in Northern Vietnam.
How to use thin rice vermicelli?
Banh hoi is made from super-thin strands of rice vermicelli. Instead of boiling, you only need to soak banh hoi for a few minutes in warm water until they are soft enough to eat. Put them on a sieve to drain before serving.
Duy Anh Foods and Asian Boy are my go-to for banh hoi. The texture is nice, and as with other banh hoi, so easy and fast to prepare.
Vermicelli – mien is made from mung bean starch. They turn almost translucent when cooked with a good chew in every bite. Vermicelli can be used in both soups and stir fry dishes. It is also an ingredient in filling for Vietnamese deep-fried spring rolls or steamed buns.
How to use vermicelli?
If using vermicelli as a filling ingredient for deep-fried spring rolls, egg rolls, or steamed buns, you only need to soak vermicelli in warm water for 20 to 30 minutes and drain. Using scissors, make a few cuts to shorten the strands, and they are ready to mix with other ingredients.
For noodle soup like mien ga – chicken vermicelli noodle soup or stir-fried dishes, soak vermicelli in tap water for 30 minutes and drain before use. If you add dry vermicelli directly from the package, it will take longer to cook.
I like mung bean vermicelli as it has a bouncy-chewy texture. With mung bean vermicelli, quality is not that much difference between brands. So you can get what is available at your local store.
Egg noodle – my trung is generally made from flour, egg, and water. Egg noodle has a distinct yellow color and is mostly used in making wonton noodle – my hoanh thanh or stir fry with seafood, meat, or vegetable.
How to use egg noodles?
For noodle dishes, cook egg noodles on a separate pot, drain before adding to broth or mix with sauces.
For stir-fried egg noodle dishes, add fresh noodles directly to the wok per instruction on each recipe. If using dried egg noodle, you need to soak the noodles to soften it up and drain before use.
You can find both fresh and dried egg noodles at Asian markets. I prefer fresh egg noodles as the texture is often better than the dry variety. If you are making braised duck with egg noodles, look for fresh “wonton noodle” in the refrigerator. For stir fry dishes, egg noodles that are a bit thicker are more suitable.
Tapioca Noodle – banh canh is thick, round noodle strands made from rice flour and tapioca flour. The different ratios between these two flours will change the texture of the noodle. Banh canh with a high percentage of tapioca flour tend to be chewier and more translucent in color once cooked.
Famous dishes using tapioca noodle including banh canh gio heo – pig’s trotters tapioca noodle soup or banh canh ca – fish tapioca noodle soup. Banh canh cua – crab tapioca noodle soup is one of the most beloved tapioca noodle dishes with thick broth, topped with crab meat, crab balls, quails egg, and shrimp.
How to use tapioca noodles?
Unlike other types of noodles in Vietnamese cooking with multiple uses in soup, stir fry, or dry noodle bowls, tapioca noodle is made specifically for tapioca noodle soup dishes. I guess the noodle’s thick strands and unique texture make it suitable only for specific types of broth and toppings.
Tapioca noodle is often boiled till soft, drain, and add to the broth before serving.
It is best if you can find fresh tapioca noodles. If not, you can find frozen or dried tapioca noodles in Vietnamese markets. Use the directions on the back of the bag as a guide for the preparation method but cook, taste-test till it reaches the texture you want.