When I share a recipe of Vietnamese dish, I usually have to find its English name commonly used by foreigners. I realized that there usually have confusions between a dozen types of Vietnamese noodle. This post is to explain some common types of Vietnamese Noodle, including Pho rice noodle (sợi phở), Rice vermicelli (bún), hu tieu noodle (hủ tiếu), thick noodle (sợi bánh canh), Quang noodle (sợi mì Quảng) and glass noodle (miến).
Pho Rice Noodle (Pho)
Pho is the most famous Vietnamese noodle dish, known for its rich and aromatic broth. Nowadays, pho is sold around the world, becoming a pride of Vietnamese cuisine.
The noodle used in Pho is Pho Rice Noodle (in Vietnamese: sợi phở). This is a flat, 3-4mm wide rice noodle. The ingredients in Pho Noodle is mainly rice flour, with a bit of tapioca starch/corn starch. The more tapioca starch, the chewier Pho Noodle is. Pho Rice Noodle is made by steaming a very thin layer of the flour mixture, then cutting into strips.
Beside Pho, in Vietnamese cuisine, Pho Noodle is also used in Pho Tron (Vietnamese Beef/Chicken Rice Noodle Salad) or Pho Xao (Vietnamese Stir-fried Pho).
If you are looking for Pho Noodle, choose the flat, wide rice noodle with rice flour as the main ingredient.
Rice Vermicelli (Bun)
Rice Vermicelli is also a very popular type of rice noodle in Vietnamese cuisine, beside Pho Noodle. The ingredients of Rice Vermicelli is nearly the same with Pho, mainly rice flour and a bit of tapioca starch. However, the difference is the shape and how it is made.
Rice vermicelli is the round strips, made by dropping the flour mixture into boiling water. There are several sizes of rice vermicelli, from big-size for Beef Noodle (Soi Bun Bo), to medium/small size for a plenty of dishes. Here’s are several typical dishes using medium to small-size rice vermicelli: Bun Bo Nam Bo, Bun Thit Nuong (Vietnamese Grilled Pork and Rice Vermicelli), Bun Rieu Cua (Vietnamese Crab Noodle Soup), Bun Dau Mam Tom (Tofu & Rice Vermicelli with Fermented Shrimp Sauce), Bun Cha (Meatballs & Rice Vermicelli), Bun Oc (Escargot Noodle Soup), Hot Pot, etc.
I also would like to mention “banh hoi” here. For me, banh hoi is also a type of “rice vermicelli”, because the method to make banh hoi is the same. However, banh hoi vermicelli is really “tiny”, so it can’t form into strips like normal vermicelli but pieces.
Hu Tieu Noodle (Soi Hu Tieu)
Hu Tieu is another type of Vietnamese rice noodle, but less popular than Pho Noodle and Rice Vermicelli. In general, the ingredients and process of making Hu Tieu Noodle is quite similar to Pho. The significant point to differ Hu Tieu from Pho is the size of each strip. Usually, each strip of Hu Tieu Noodle is 1-2mm wide. Some most popular variations of hu tieu is hu tieu Nam Vang (with pork and shrimp), hu tieu muc (with squid), hu tieu Sa Dec, or hu tieu kho (without broth).
Thick Noodle (Soi Banh Canh)
Soi Banh Canh (Thick Noodle) is another special Rice Noodle of Vietnam. It is wider and thicker than the typical rice vermicelli above. They are often flat to round, and resemble wide, chewy ribbons. The components in thick noodle can be rice flour, tapioca starch, or a mix between rice and tapioca stach.
These noodles have from soft to chewy texture, depending on the ratio of rice flour and tapioca starch. The softness comes from rice flour, while tapioca starch contributes the chewiness for the noodle.
This type of noodle is used in Quang Noodle, a special dish of Quang Nam Province in the Middle of Vietnam. From Quang Nam, it became popular accross the country. Quang Noodle has similar appearance with Pho Noodle, which is flat, 3-4mm wide, but in a vibrant yellow color instead of white color like Pho. It’s thanks to curcumin powder added in the noodle. The aroma of curcumin powder makes Quang Noodle unique among various types of rice noodles in Vietnam.
Glass Noodle (Soi Mien)
Cellophane Noodle, Fensi or Glass Noodle are one. Different from all noodle above, which is mainly made of rice flour, glass noodle’s main ingredient is starch. It can be mung bean starch, potato starch, sweet potato starch, tapioca starch or canna starch. Not only in Vietnam, this noodle is popular across Asia.
The name “glass noodles” is due to their translucent appearance when cooked. Glass noodle is slightly chewy, and is available in various thicknesses, ranging from very thin to wider strands.
In Vietnamese cuisine, canna and mung bean glass noodle are the most common. People use Glass Noodle to make Cha gio (Fried Spring Rolls), Chicken Glass Noodle (Mien Ga), Goose Glass Noodle (Mien Ngan), or Stir-Fried Glass Noodle (Mien Xao).
Through these information, I hope you are able to distinguish all types Vietnamese Noodles! Each type of noodle has its unique taste, texture and appearance. Enjoy!