Noodle soups are among the specialties of Vietnamese cuisine, each of which requires a different type of noodle. There are stir-fries, salads, fondues and rice dishes which uses noodles. Flat and round shapes, large and small sizes. The dishes get, depending on the type of the noodle, the words Bun, Pho, Mi and Hu tieu in the dish name. That does not make it easy for the layman.
I’ll mention the most important noodles and vermicelli that are common in Vietnamese cuisine. The packaging contains the manual and times you should follow. It is best to use the manual as a guide and keep an eye on the texture of the noodles while cooking. The cooking time is very dependent on the brand that you have purchased.
Rice noodles | Banh pho, Bun pho, Pho of Hu tieu (flat structure)
Rice noodles are made from rice flour in sizes 1, 3, 5 and 10 mm. I usually use the 3 mm size for the noodle soups. Rice noodles have a flat structure. I preferably soak rice noodles in hot water so the noodles stay chewy. Once the water boils, I turn the heat on the lowest setting, put the noodles in the water, and allow the noodles to soak for about 10 minutes depending on the amount, just keep an eye on the softness. Soaking the noodles in a large bowl with boiled water also works. But then, the water should be refreshed 1 or 2 times with new boiling water. Afterwards, drain the noodles in a colander, rinse with cold water.
Rice vermicelli | Bun (round structure)
Rice vermicelli or mihoen are made from rice flour. At home we use the small and sometimes large version (0,8 – 2 mm) for noodle soups. The size often depends on personal preference, but usually the small vermicelli is used, for example, in the fresh spring roll. Rice vermicelli has a round structure. I put rice vermicelli in a pan with boiling water, depending on the amount 5-15 minutes. Always keep an eye on the structure of the vermicelli while cooking. Here too, the noodles should be rinsed with cold water after cooking.
Glass noodles| Bun tau (round, transparant structure)
Glass noodles, (glass) vermicelli or cellophane noodles are usually sold in bundles and are made of green mung beans, hence the name Bun tau which means ‘Chinese vermicelli’. They are mainly used in meat fillings such as egg fillings, but also in soups or salads. Glass noodles dry out quickly, and then get a tough bite. So don’t use this type in fresh spring rolls. This is the vermicelli that is used in fried spring rolls instead.