Your Noodle Guide to Vietnam

From pho, to bun to mi. It is all about the noodles.

Vietnam is blessed with amazing food. I’m not being bias when I say that either, am I? From rice plates to spring rolls, savory crepes to delectable snails, not to mention the various types of noodle bowls, we Vietnamese know how to eat and we eat well.

Speaking of noodles, Vietnam is a noodle culture. Each region tends to specialize in a certain kind. The challenge is not figuring out what you like, for there are so many to choose from, all different and delicious in it’s own way. No, the challenge is narrowing down one you like more.

This post is your noodle guide to eating right in Vietnam, because Vietnamese noodles are so much more than just “pho”, pronounce “fuh”, not “fo” or “po”. While we’re on that subject, we’ll start here.

Pho

Pho is a noodle soup usually served with rice noodles and thinly slice beef. No culinary visit to Vietnam is ever complete unless you’ve savored a bowl of beefy noodle soup, plus it’s probably the only thing you’d recognize on the menu as it is worldly known as Vietnam’s “national dish”.

pho-slurp-g

To us, it’s comfort food. We grew up on this and it’s our go to meal for every occasion no matter what mood we’re in.

IMG_5621 pho-hanoi-noodles

But did you know pho from the North is different than that in the South? Northern style pho tend to be simpler and served with less garnishes, topped with green onions and accompanied with chili sauce and lime only.

IMG_4425

Southern style is a bit more complex and garnishes include bean sprouts, fresh basil, herbs, chili, plum sauce and lime. My family is from the south so naturally, I like my bowl Southern style with a few add-ons: beef brisket, plum sauce, Sriracha chili sauce and extra lime for a blend of sweet and sour and spicy flavors in the broth.

Bun Cha

Bun cha is grilled pork noodle soup from the North. It’s not hard to find in Hanoi, most restaurants specialize in this dish. The bun (noodles) is accompanied with cha (grilled fatty pork) and other various side dishes such as cha gio (fried egg rolls), pickled veggies, fresh herbs and chili served in a broth of nuoc mam (fish sauce).

IMG_4610

What I like about bun cha is it’s a build-your-own-bowl type dish. Everything comes in separate dishes and you literally build your own noodle bowl to enjoy however you like. I like my noodles drenched in sauce with egg rolls.

bun-cha

Bun Rieu

Bun rieu is a new favorite of mine. Traditionally served with medium-sized vermicelli noodles in a tomato and crab broth with crab meat balls and fried tofu. It’s probably the only seafood noodle dish of the bunch and the best I have had is on the streets of Da Lat near the main market.

bun-rieu-closeup

Blood cakes are also common for this dish, something I still can’t eat, but everything else about it is mouthwatering – it’s mild, tangy and the crab meat balls crumbles into the broth making it extra savory.

bun-rieu bun-rieu2

Bun Cha Gio Thit Nuong

This is Gerard’s go to dish when he craves Vietnamese. Cha gio is a minced pork roll often called egg rolls or spring rolls served with rice vermicelli thin noodles. This dish is meant to be enjoyed without a broth.

bun-thit-nuong

Instead, the noodles are placed on a bed of lettuce and bean sprouts topped with peanuts, thit nuong (grilled pork strips) and a side of fish sauce which you can either dip as you go or pour the whole thing over the noodles, so I suppose the sauce is like the broth depending on how you use it.

Cao Lau

Cao lau can only be found in central Vietnam, specifically in Hoi An. Cao lau is different because of it’s chewy noodles. Also served with thin sliced pork, fresh lettuce and basil, cilantro and mint, and crackly squares of deep-fried dough, all resting on a tangle of bean sprouts and wide rice noodles. It’s drizzled with just enough rich meat broth to wet the noodles.

cao-lau2

I’ll be completely honest, it’s not my favorite of the bunch – slightly dry and strange tasting even for a Vietnamese like me.

Mi Quang

Now, Mi Quang is also a central Vietnam dish and one I can definitely recommend. It’s one of my favorites. Traditionally served with rice noodles that are wide, flat and yellow in color with the use of tumeric. Shrimp or pork are more common in this dish than chicken. Traditionally, very little broth is added to this dish, only enough to wet the noodles, although you might find it more soup-like the further south you go.

mi-quang

It’s served with scallions, fried shallots, peanuts and crispy sesame rice crackers which makes this noodle dish unique and different from the rest. I like the texture the fresh herbs, peanuts and rice crackers add to this dish.

Banh Canh

Banh canh literally translate to soup cake and consist of a thich noodle made of tapioca flour. I love the texture of this noodle – slippery, chewy and of course tasty. You can enjoy this in various ways – with crab, pork, fish cakes and shrimp.

DSC_0331

Bun Bo Hue

Of all the Vietnamese noodle soups there are, this is the one bowl I crave the most, more than pho itself. It’s the first thing I eat when I come home from a trip abroad. Bun bo hue originated, no surprised, in Hue.

bun-bo-hue

My favorite from this dish, other than the rounded vermicelli noodles, perfect for slurping by the way, is in the broth. The broth is simmered beef bones and beef shank seasoned with lemongrass, shrimp paste and sugar. To give it a kick, spicy chili oil is added in.

It’s served with beef shank and pork knuckles that have also been simmered and melts to the bone. Blood cake is also common, but you already know how I feel about that. Add some fresh lime and cilantro and it’s tangy and spicy and what I call, the perfect noodle bowl.

bun-bo-nha-trang

There you have it. Bet you didn’t think there were so many, huh?.. Aww man it was tough not to drool while writing this post. Makes us want to book a flight to Vietnam right now.

One last tip when you finally decide on which bowl to eat, make sure you enjoy it on the streets.. at a piping hot street cart or stand. They may look intimating, but they’re the best bowl of noodle soup you’ll find in Vietnam, made fresh daily.

slurpling-noodles

And don’t forget, slurping is highly recommended and appreciated.

Which Vietnamese noodle are you?


You might like:

Share and Enjoy

Pinterest

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

  • http://twitter.com/GayBackpacker That Gay Backpacker

    Woah – you know your way around a bowl of noodles. Heading to Vietnam for the first time next year – I’m going to try and put this blog on my Kindle so I don’t entirely embarrass myself when I order in a restaurant or market.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Lol, you can’t go wrong. They’re all good! 😉

  • http://twitter.com/GayBackpacker That Gay Backpacker

    Woah – you know your way around a bowl of noodles. Heading to Vietnam for the first time next year – I’m going to try and put this blog on my Kindle so I don’t entirely embarrass myself when I order in a restaurant or market.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Lol, you can’t go wrong. They’re all good! 😉

  • http://www.facebook.com/wendy.truong.184 Wendy Truong

    ahh now I’m craving noodles!!! where is the hu tieu though? lol

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Oh you right, but hu tieu originated from Cambodia.. I think. Can’t remember if we had it on this tip, though. Lol

  • http://www.facebook.com/wendy.truong.184 Wendy Truong

    ahh now I’m craving noodles!!! where is the hu tieu though? lol

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Oh you right, I forgot. But hu tieu originated from Cambodia.. I think. Plus I can’t remember if we had it on this trip, so hehe.

  • http://www.cubiclethrowdown.blogspot.com/ Rika at Cubicle Throwdown

    Wow – if I ever make it off this Vietnam-food-less island, I will definitely venture farther than pho the next time I’m craving noodles. Although I can say I do pronounce it “fuh” :)

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

      Yes, be sure to venture outside of the ‘fuh!’. We crave this kind of food wherever we go.

  • http://www.cubiclethrowdown.com/ Rika – Cubicle Throwdown

    Wow – if I ever make it off this Vietnam-food-less island, I will definitely venture farther than pho the next time I’m craving noodles. Although I can say I do pronounce it “fuh” :)

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

      Yes, be sure to venture outside of the ‘fuh!’. We crave this kind of food wherever we go.

  • Thai Chu

    I knew I could depend on you guys to give a comprehensive list of Vietnamese noodles when I read the title! Very good descriptions. Even I learned a few things I didn’t know about these dishes. Did you know that some people I saw in Hue boil a pineapple into the bun bo hue broth?! Look for it next time!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Pineapple? Yum! I can taste it already.. lol

  • Thai Chu

    I knew I could depend on you guys to give a comprehensive list of Vietnamese noodles when I read the title! Very good descriptions. Even I learned a few things I didn’t know about these dishes. Did you know that some people I saw in Hue boil a pineapple into the bun bo hue broth?! Look for it next time!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Pineapple? Yum! I can taste it already.. lol

  • TammyOnTheMove

    I love Vietnamese food so much. My favourite is Vietnamese pancakes filled with all kinds of goodness and then wrapped into a salad leave with a bunch of herbs to form a parcel, before dipping it in sweet fishsauce with peanuts. Delicious!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Ahhh banh xeo. So glad I’m home – I can go grab that for lunch today. Also a favorite of mine though I like mine wrapped in the rice papers. :)

  • TammyOnTheMove

    I love Vietnamese food so much. My favourite is Vietnamese pancakes filled with all kinds of goodness and then wrapped into a salad leave with a bunch of herbs to form a parcel, before dipping it in sweet fishsauce with peanuts. Delicious!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Ahhh banh xeo. So glad I’m home – I can go grab that for lunch today. Also a favorite of mine though I like mine wrapped in the rice papers. :)

  • http://www.walkflypinoy.com paul | walkflypinoy

    Super great guide, guys. I’ve had six in this list but Bun Thit Nuong is my favorite! Especially the kind with the thick sauce from Hoi An. The thinner northern style is good, too! I love Bun!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      6? You’re more Vietnamese than us! Lol, bun thit nuong is G’s favorite too. 😀

  • http://www.walkflypinoy.com paul | walkflypinoy

    Super great guide, guys. I’ve had six in this list but Bun Thit Nuong is my favorite! Especially the kind with the thick sauce from Hoi An. The thinner northern style is good, too! I love Bun!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      6? You’re more Vietnamese than us! Lol, bun thit nuong is G’s favorite too. 😀

  • Pauline

    I SO wish I knew this before I went to Hanoi earlier this year!! We couldn’t figure out the menu, so most of the time we just stuck with Pho. It was delish, but I would have liked to try the other varieties! Great post!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      All the more to come back, right? Lol.. But you can’t go wrong with pho..

  • Pauline

    I SO wish I knew this before I went to Hanoi earlier this year!! We couldn’t figure out the menu, so most of the time we just stuck with Pho. It was delish, but I would have liked to try the other varieties! Great post!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      All the more to come back, right? Lol.. But you can’t go wrong with pho..

  • Quynh Nguyen

    Hey GQ
    From Quynh – in Hue :) remember me?
    I guess you can add Bun Cha ca – mostly famous in Danang (I think it’s the only type
    of noodles that has pineapple in the broth)

    Gosh, my mouth is watering :(

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Ahh man I don’t think we got to try that.. go eat a bowl for us!

  • Quynh Nguyen

    Hey GQ
    From Quynh – in Hue :) remember me?
    I guess you can add Bun Cha ca – mostly famous in Danang (I think it’s the only type
    of noodles that has pineapple in the broth)

    Gosh, my mouth is watering :(

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Ahh man I don’t think we got to try that.. go eat a bowl for us!

  • http://twitter.com/20YH Tony K + Steph H

    Oh, this looks SO good. Vietnamese food is probably our favorite Asian cuisine, and I’d be lying if I said the food wasn’t the major reason we want to visit the country! Food has been good here in Taiwan, but I don’t think anything can top a good bowl of bun cha!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Food is always a good reason to visit a country.. Hehe

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    Oh, this looks SO good. Vietnamese food is probably our favorite Asian cuisine, and I’d be lying if I said the food wasn’t the major reason we want to visit the country! Food has been good here in Taiwan, but I don’t think anything can top a good bowl of bun cha!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Food is always a good reason to visit a country.. Hehe

  • http://twitter.com/FlashpackerFam Flashpacker Family

    Yum! My favourite is the Bun Cha Gio Thit Nuong. I prefer it to the soupy, slurpy varieties. It tastes fresher and lighter.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Yea Gerard isn’t much of a soup guy either, that’s why it’s his fave. He likes it fresh and light too. :)

  • Bethaney

    Yum! My favourite is the Bun Cha Gio Thit Nuong. I prefer it to the soupy, slurpy varieties. It tastes fresher and lighter.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Yea Gerard isn’t much of a soup guy either, that’s why it’s his fave. He likes it fresh and light too. :)

  • http://expatedna.com/ Edna

    I can’t…I can’t even get through this entire post. Damn you and your food porn.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Haha.. but you’ve got a little saigon in Paris so it’s not that bad. Right?

      • http://expatedna.com/ Edna

        It is that bad. It’s ten euro for a bowl of bo bun that doesn’t even taste super authentic!

  • http://expatedna.com/ Edna

    I can’t…I can’t even get through this entire post. Damn you and your food porn.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Haha.. but you’ve got a little saigon in Paris so it’s not that bad. Right?

      • http://expatedna.com/ Edna

        It is that bad. It’s ten euro for a bowl of bo bun that doesn’t even taste super authentic!

  • Mathew Duong

    Oh my god! I feel very hungry:(. Want to try all. I can’t wait

  • Mathew Duong

    Oh my god! I feel very hungry:(. Want to try all. I can’t wait

  • QUETECOMO.ES

    Preciosa imágenes nos mostráis para aquéllas personas que nos gusta la cocina china.

    En Galicia, destaca la cocina del restaurante chino Shanghai en Vigo (https://www.quetecomo.es/Vigo-restaurante-chino-Shanghai-plaza-de-compostela-27.php).

    Excelente artículo que agradecemos que nos lo hubieras compartido, con cada uno de nosotros.

    Un abrazo, desde la guía de alojamientos, cafeterías y restaurantes en Vigo (https://www.quetecomo.es/restaurantes-en-vigo.php)

  • QUETECOMO.ES

    Preciosa imágenes nos mostráis para aquéllas personas que nos gusta la cocina china.

    En Galicia, destaca la cocina del restaurante chino Shanghai en Vigo (https://www.quetecomo.es/Vigo-restaurante-chino-Shanghai-plaza-de-compostela-27.php).

    Excelente artículo que agradecemos que nos lo hubieras compartido, con cada uno de nosotros.

    Un abrazo, desde la guía de alojamientos, cafeterías y restaurantes en Vigo (https://www.quetecomo.es/restaurantes-en-vigo.php)

  • http://radiantloki.blogspot.com/ Mark Dinh

    Hey GQ,

    Oh man, I haven’t been to Vietnam since I was 7 or 9. I always get pho thit bo vien, though I do occasionally get the thin beef. I just like to deep the beef balls in a mix of hoisin and chili sause. Not a huge fan of the rounded vermicelli noodles but my girlfriend and my mother love it.

    Love the read, it’s so comprehensive on all the varieties… now I’m craving it. D=.
    Thanks guys!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Aww thanks for the love! I use to get bo vien all the time when I was little.. hehe. Not sure why I don’t anymore, now you have me craving them. LOL

  • http://radiantloki.blogspot.com/ Mark Dinh

    Hey GQ,

    Oh man, I haven’t been to Vietnam since I was 7 or 9. I always get pho thit bo vien, though I do occasionally get the thin beef. I just like to deep the beef balls in a mix of hoisin and chili sause. Not a huge fan of the rounded vermicelli noodles but my girlfriend and my mother love it.

    Love the read, it’s so comprehensive on all the varieties… now I’m craving it. D=.
    Thanks guys!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Aww thanks for the love! I use to get bo vien all the time when I was little.. hehe. Not sure why I don’t anymore, now you have me craving them. LOL

  • Coastie64

    Any idea what the flat rice noodle sheets with black specks (like seeds) are? I had them in Hanoi last week for brekky with shrimp cake and I’d like to recreate them at home…

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Hey, just saw this comment. Did you ever figure out what those noodles were? I don’t recall any with black specks, but let me know if you know. Sounds interesting.. :)

  • DanniTwoPeasinaPack

    Oh man we just left Hanoi and we had the BEST bun cha of my life. I also love bun bo nam no with crunchy onions so good. Looking forward to trying all these other types while we’re here. We did a little write up on food/Hanoi/egg coffee if you wanna see :http://twopeasinapack.blogspot.com/2015/03/hungry-in-hanoi.html

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Oh, my friend was just there and mentioned egg coffee — can’t believe we missed trying this. How’d you like it?

      • DanniTwoPeasinaPack

        It’s amazing. It taste almost like hot tiramisu pudding if you can imagine such a glorious thing! Actually I want another…

Email
Pinterest