A Vietnam Noodle Guide for Foodie Lovers

In Vietnam, noodles are not just a meal option; they’re a way of life. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, noodles are a staple part of Vietnamese cuisine, offering a versatile and flavorful dining experience that captivates locals and visitors alike. From steaming bowls of pho to refreshing summer rolls packed with vermicelli noodles, there’s a noodle dish to suit every palate and occasion.

Vietnam’s vibrant culinary scene celebrates the diversity of noodles, offering a plethora of options to explore. Whether served hot or cold, wet or dry, fresh or fried, each noodle dish boasts its own unique flavors and textures, promising delightful culinary adventures for food enthusiasts. For travelers seeking to embark on a culinary journey through Vietnam, diving into the world of Vietnamese noodles is a must. Discovering the nuances of noodle varieties and sampling iconic dishes offers an immersive insight into the country’s rich culinary heritage. Join us as we delve into the fascinating realm of Vietnam noodle, uncovering hidden gems and must-try delicacies that will tantalize your taste buds and leave you craving more.

The history of  Vietnam noodle

Ha Noi Pho Beef
Ha Noi Pho Beef

The history of Vietnam dates back to around 12,000 BC, with early inhabitants sustaining themselves through hunting and gathering. Six millennia later, evidence shows the cultivation of wet rice, herbs, and fish, with rice emerging as a staple. Influenced by neighboring nations, cooking techniques evolved. From the 2nd century BC, Vietnam fell under Chinese rule for a millennium, during which noodles were introduced. Vietnamese adapted noodle-making methods, crafting diverse and flavorful dishes. And that’s when the Vietnam noodle started its development to become one of the most iconic aspects of the country’s culinary.

Pho noodle soup, a beloved Vietnamese dish, is said to have French or Chinese origins. Some credit the French for introducing beef broth to noodles, while others draw parallels to a Chinese dish. Regardless, Pho has been a staple since the early 20th century, particularly in Hanoi. Following Vietnam’s division in 1954, northern migrants brought Pho recipes to the south, where it evolved. Southerners added fresh herbs and lime to the dish, creating a spicier, tangier broth. This adaptation propelled Pho to international acclaim, cementing its status as a culinary icon. Today, Pho is ubiquitous across Vietnam and beyond, representing the rich culinary heritage of the country.

The varieties of Vietnam noodle

Vietnam noodle stand out as essential culinary experiences in Vietnam. If you’re new to this cuisine, delve into the following guide to discover the diverse array of noodle types in Vietnam and explore the top must-try noodle dishes that promise delightful culinary

Types of Vietnam noodle

  • Pho: 

Pho, the most beloved noodle variation across Vietnam, features flat rice strands and comes in two popular versions: pho bo (beef noodles) and pho ga (chicken noodles). While some credit its origins to French influence, others liken it to traditional Chinese noodles, adapted with beef in Vietnam. Initially ubiquitous in Hanoi, Pho spread further when Vietnam split into north and south in 1954, with northerners bringing their recipes southward. In Southern Vietnam, Pho is often served with herbs, lime, and beansprouts to counter the hot climate, boasting a spicier and tangier broth compared to its northern counterpart.

  • Bun (Rice vermicelli): 

Bun, known as fresh rice vermicelli, is a beloved Vietnam noodle variant. These delicate, soft, and white noodles are versatile, commonly used in noodle soups, spring rolls, and salads. Low in starch, they aid digestion. Popular dishes featuring bun include bun rieu cua (vermicelli with sour crab broth), bun cha, bun thit nuong (vermicelli with grilled pork), and bun bo Hue (vermicelli with sliced beef).

  • Banh Canh:

Banh canh, a type of thick noodle, is particularly favored in the central and southern regions of Vietnam. These noodles can be crafted from rice flour, wheat flour, tapioca, or a combination of rice flour and tapioca, resulting in larger strands compared to regular vermicelli. Banh canh is commonly served in a flavorful broth accompanied by pork knuckles, sausages, and crab. In the Mekong Delta, it’s a breakfast staple, featuring a broth infused with fresh fish, fish, and aromatic herbs. The seasoning of banh canh varies, influenced by the preferences of local chefs and residents in each specific region.

  • Mi trung (Egg noodles): 

Vietnamese egg noodles, known as “mi trung,” are a beloved culinary delight made from a combination of noodles and eggs. These noodles are commonly served either dry or in a flavorful broth. You can find Vietnamese egg noodles at various stalls, where they are typically served with wonton soup, accompanied by toppings such as green onions, shallot broth, char siu pork, and boiled eggs.

  • Hu Tieu (Clear rice noodle): 

Hu tieu, a beloved Vietnam noodle dish originating from Southern Vietnam, is a breakfast staple. Introduced from Cambodia in the 1960s, it typically comprises rice noodles, offal, a quail egg, and shrimp. Additional fillings such as pork, pork ribs, squid, wonton dumplings, and various condiments may embellish this flavorful ensemble. Hu tieu can be served with or without broth, catering to diverse preferences. The dish gained international recognition when featured on the reality show “Master Chef” in 2013, where acclaimed chef Gordon Ramsay praised it as one of his favorites. Competitors were challenged to prepare a bowl of hu tieu, highlighting its significance. Furthermore, in a 2010 TV show, Ramsay was filmed sampling the dish at the Cai Rang floating market in Can Tho, located in Southern Vietnam. This exposure further solidified hu tieu’s reputation as a renowned Vietnamese culinary delight, cherished both locally and globally.

  • Mien (Glass noodles): 

Dried glass noodles are primarily crafted from arrowroot or mung beans, boasting slender strands with a pleasantly chewy texture. Requiring soaking in water to achieve softness, these noodles feature in dishes like glass noodles with chicken or glass noodles with fried eels. Additionally, they serve as delectable fillings for fried spring rolls or banh goi, Vietnamese dumplings containing meat, mushrooms, vermicelli, and diced vegetables.

  • Cao Lau: 

Cao Lau noodles represent an iconic dish in Hoi An Ancient Town, frequented by Chinese and Japanese merchants from the late 15th to the 17th centuries. Some speculate these Udon-like noodles were brought by these traders. Locals prepare the noodles in mineral-rich well water, imparting a distinctive texture and flavor. Served in bowls with beansprouts, they’re doused in a lemongrass sauce, garnished with grilled pork slices, and vegetables.

  • Banh Da Cua: 

Banh Da Cua, originating from Hai Phong, boasts a unique character. Available in white, brown-red, or yellowish-brown variations, these noodles offer a visual treat. Unlike Pho, Banh Da Cua noodles are thinner and more transparent, adding to their distinctive appeal. The noodle’s delicate texture enhances its ability to absorb flavors, making it a versatile choice for various dishes. Whether served in a savory broth or as a base for stir-fries, Banh Da Cua noodles offer a delightful culinary experience cherished by locals and visitors alike.

Typical Vietnam noodle dishes

Vietnamese cuisine showcases a diverse array of noodle dishes, ranging from hot noodle soups to dry noodles and noodle rolls. Each region incorporates unique ingredients and cooking techniques to create distinctive flavors of Vietnam noodle. Hanoi boasts specialties like Pho noodle soups, banh cuon, and bun rieu cua, while Saigon offers delights such as goi cuon and bun bo nam bo. Central Vietnam is renowned for Mi Quang, Cao Lau, and Bun bo Hue. Some dishes, like Hu Tieu Nam Vang and Bun mam, bear foreign influences while retaining their own distinct identity and flavors.

Pho noodle soup

Pho noodle soup, a staple of Vietnamese cuisine, is globally recognized as one of Vietnam’s signature dishes. Consisting of three key elements – flavorful broth crafted from simmered beef bones and herbs, fresh rice noodles, and tender meat (typically beef or chicken) – Pho delights palates worldwide. 

The highlight of Pho lies in its broth, prepared differently in northern and southern Vietnam. Southern Pho boasts a sweeter, richer broth, while its northern counterpart offers a clear and simpler flavor profile. Locals flock to stalls renowned for their exceptional broth, a testament to Pho’s revered status in Vietnamese culinary culture.

Bun Bo Hue

Bun Bo Hue, or Hue beef noodle soup, hails from the historic city of Hue, Vietnam’s former imperial capital. Unlike its counterpart, Pho, Bun Bo Hue features thicker, larger noodles with a slippery texture and a spicier broth. 

To prepare this delectable dish, cooks layer thick round rice noodles with slices of brisket, ham hocks, and cubes of congealed pig’s blood in a bowl. The savory broth is then poured over the noodles, creating a flavorful base. Garnished with green onions, cilantro, and white onions, Bun Bo Hue is typically accompanied by shredded cabbage, banana blossoms, bean sprouts, mint leaves, and lime wedges, enhancing its vibrant taste and texture.

Cao Lau Hoi An

Cao Lau stands as the quintessential noodle dish of Hoi An, celebrated for its distinctive flavors found nowhere else. Exclusive to Hoi An’s Old Town, its broth derives from the renowned Ba Le Well, while fresh vegetables are sourced from Tra Que Village, infusing the dish with local essence. 

Combining roasted pork, herbs, and specially prepared noodles, Cao Lau boasts a flavor profile unique to the region. This iconic dish encapsulates the culinary heritage of Hoi An, offering a taste of its rich history and vibrant culture in every savory bite.

Bun Cha

Ha Noi Bun Cha (Vietnamese dish of grilled pork and noodles)

Bun Cha, a quintessential Vietnamese delicacy, hails from Hanoi and features grilled pork and noodles as its main components. This dish consists of succulent grilled fatty pork served alongside a bed of white rice noodles and fresh herbs, accompanied by a flavorful dipping sauce. Its meat component comprises two variations: meatballs crafted from a blend of lean and fatty pork shoulder meat, and thick slices of pork. 

Marinating the pork in spices overnight is essential to infuse it with rich flavors. Notably, Bun Cha gained widespread recognition after President Obama and Anthony Bourdain savored it during their state visit to Vietnam, further solidifying its reputation as a beloved culinary treasure both locally and internationally.

Mi Quang

Mi Quang, a beloved noodle dish hailing from central Vietnam’s Quang Nam province, is a culinary delight. Featuring thick, wide, yellow rice noodles bathed in a vibrant red-orange turmeric sauce, it offers a medley of protein options like pork, chicken, shrimp, quail egg, mussel, and eel, submerged in a savory beef broth. 

Unlike broth-heavy soups, Mi Quang boasts minimal broth, allowing its ingredients to shine. Toppings include black sesame rice crackers, crunchy banana blossoms, toasted peanuts, cilantro, and green chilies, with a finishing touch of lime juice. The dish’s versatility is evident in its numerous variations, with street food stalls and restaurants showcasing diverse cooking styles and ingredient combinations, ensuring each Mi Quang experience is unique and memorable.

Hu Tieu Nam Vang

Hu Tieu Nam Vang is a beloved noodle soup hailing from Saigon, with its origins traced back to Cambodia before being adapted to local tastes. Typically comprising rice noodles, a medley of pig organs, a quail egg, and shrimp, each bowl offers a flavorful adventure. Toppings range from pork, pork ribs, and pork offal to shrimp, squid, and wonton dumplings, garnished with fried garlic, shallots, and scallions. 

Enhancing the experience are fresh green herbs and zesty chili sauce. Additionally, a “dried” variant boasts chewy noodles bathed in a robust sauce, distinct from the broth-based “wet” rendition. Hu Tieu Nam Vang presents a harmonious blend of textures and flavors, offering a culinary journey deeply rooted in Saigon’s vibrant food culture.

Mien Ngan

Mien Ngan, also known as glass noodle with goose meat, is a flavorful and satisfying Vietnamese noodle dish that showcases the unique taste of goose meat paired with delicate glass noodles. The dish typically consists of tender pieces of goose meat simmered in a savory broth, infused with aromatic herbs and spices. The glass noodles, made from mung bean starch, are translucent and have a chewy texture that contrasts beautifully with the tender meat. These noodles absorb the rich flavors of the broth, creating a harmonious blend of tastes and textures in every mouthful.

One of the highlights of Mien Ngan is the succulent and flavorful goose meat, which is known for its rich and distinctive taste. The meat is often marinated with a combination of spices and then slowly cooked until tender, resulting in a melt-in-your-mouth texture that is both satisfying and delicious. Mien Ngan is typically served hot and garnished with fresh herbs, such as cilantro and green onions, adding a burst of freshness to each bite. Whether enjoyed as a comforting meal on a chilly day or as a special treat during festive occasions, Mien Ngan is a beloved Vietnamese dish that delights the senses with its bold flavors and comforting warmth.

Banh Da Cua Hai Phong

Banh Da Cua Hai Phong, originating from the coastal city of Hai Phong, is a delectable Vietnamese noodle dish renowned for its unique flavors and textures. This dish features brown noodles made from rice flour, resulting in a distinctively chewy and slightly nutty taste. What sets Banh Da Cua apart is its rich and savory crab paste, which infuses the dish with a delightful seafood essence.

To prepare Banh Da Cua, the noodles are typically served in a piping hot broth alongside succulent pieces of crab meat, creating a harmonious blend of flavors. Diners can customize their dish with an array of fresh herbs, lime wedges, and chili peppers to add brightness and heat to each spoonful. Whether enjoyed as a comforting bowl on a chilly day or a refreshing meal on a warm afternoon, Banh Da Cua Hai Phong captivates the palate with its tantalizing combination of seafood essence and chewy noodles, making it a beloved staple of Vietnamese cuisine.

Bun Dau Mam Tom

Bun Dau Mam Tom, a beloved dish in northern Vietnam, offers a blend of simplicity and popularity. Consisting of vermicelli noodles paired with fried tofu, it is served alongside shrimp paste and an array of vegetables. Additionally, diners can enjoy it with various accompaniments such as thin boiled pork belly, pig leg slices, boiled pig guts, Vietnamese sausage, head cheese, pork patties, and fried minced pork with green rice flakes. 

However, it’s worth noting that shrimp paste, with its strong and distinct aroma, can evoke mixed reactions; some adore its pungency while others may find it overpowering. This dish encapsulates the diverse flavors and textures of Vietnamese cuisine, providing a memorable dining experience for those who appreciate its unique characteristics.

Goi Cuon

Goi Cuon, also known as fresh spring rolls or “summer rolls,” epitomizes lightness and healthiness in Vietnamese cuisine. Comprising cooked meat and fresh vegetables wrapped in transparent rice paper, these rolls are visually appealing with vibrant colors peeking through. Typically filled with steamed shrimp, pork, salad, bun noodles, cucumber, lettuce, and mint, vegetarians can opt for mushroom and tofu variations. 

Accompanied by garlic soy dipping sauce or peanut sauce, Goi Cuon offers a harmonious blend of flavors and textures. Its refreshing taste and nutritious ingredients make it a popular choice for those seeking a light and satisfying meal. Whether enjoyed as a snack or appetizer, Goi Cuon exemplifies the essence of Vietnamese culinary artistry and is a delightful addition to any dining experience.

Final thoughts

Vietnam boasts breathtaking natural landscapes, a rich thousand-year history, diverse culture, and vibrant indigenous traditions. However, delving into its culinary delights reveals another dimension of its allure. Vietnamese cuisine is a magnet for food enthusiasts worldwide, earning praise from esteemed chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain. While Pho, the aromatic beef noodle soup, often steals the spotlight as Vietnam’s national dish, the country offers a myriad of noodle varieties beyond Pho.

These noodles, beloved by locals and often enjoyed daily, showcase regional diversity while maintaining consistent broth recipes. From the bustling streets of Hanoi to the Mekong Delta’s tranquil villages, each region presents its own noodle specialties, each a culinary masterpiece.

This article aims to introduce you to the diverse world of Vietnam noodle, allowing you to explore and savor the rich tapestry of flavors on your next trip. If you are considering taking your taste buds for a vibrant adventure, then we have just what you need! Viland Travel’s tailor-made tours can ensure that foodies experience the most authentic local cuisines, guaranteeing a culinary journey that delights the senses and leaves lasting memories. What are you waiting for? Book now and dive into the odyssey of tasty Vietnam noodle.