This Vietnamese fresh rice noodle recipe can be used to make both the rice noodle sheets for the Vietnamese fresh rice noodle rolls known as Hanoi style pho cuon (phở cuốn Hà Nội) and the pho noodles or bánh phở that are used in Vietnam’s world famous rice noodle soup called pho (phở).
This Vietnamese fresh rice noodle recipe is the second in our series of Vietnamese spring roll recipes. We launched with a recipe for fresh Vietnamese spring rolls called Hanoi style pho cuon (phở cuốn Hà Nội) as I’d returned from Vietnam’s capital Hanoi, where I had just finished hosting a 22-day Vietnam Culinary Tour and was missing Vietnamese food terribly already.
If you aren’t able to buy the fresh flat rice noodle sheets locally that are needed to make the Hanoi style pho cuon then you’ll need this Vietnamese fresh rice noodle recipe to make them. And as I said in the intro, this is also a recipe for the fresh pho noodles or banh pho (bánh phở) used in Vietnam’s beloved rice noodle soup, pho (phở) so plan to make both dishes simultaneously.
VIETNAMESE FRESH RICE NOODLE RECIPE – FOR PHO AND PHO CUON
In Vietnam, pho noodles or banh pho are sold fresh daily and dry, and just like any Asian noodles, or, say, Italian pasta, while dry noodles can be used in a recipe, food lovers would agree that fresh is always best. No self-respecting pho noodle cook in Vietnam would use dry noodles for pho soup when fresh noodles are readily available – or they could make the noodles themselves.
If the cook lives in a big city, such as Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, each of which has a population of around 8 million in a country of 93 million people (at the time of writing), where more than one third of that population lives in cities and towns, then they’ll probably be buying fresh rice noodles that have been manufactured in a factory.
It’s very different to here in Cambodia, where the total population is just 16 million and 80% of people live in rural areas, and most living beneath or hovering around the poverty line. Here, most noodle production still takes place in small artisanal home workshops by families of noodle makers.
(By the way, if you’re a noodle lover, on our Cambodia culinary tours and travel and creative retreats we also take participants to rustic family workshops in local villages to see the making of rice paper and rice noodles, as they’ve always made them. People also get to try their hand at making rice paper in the same way it’s done in Vietnam.)
You will still find these fresh noodles for pho and banh pho made by small producers in cities and town right across Vietnam. We have visited similar small cottage industries and these tend to be made for a local market or are sold direct to street food cooks.
And we’ve also come across many Vietnamese cooks and street food vendors who will get up in the wee hours of the morning to make their own fresh rice noodles for their soup or these rice noodle sheets for pho cuon which they’ll see from their own stall or shop later that morning.
When they do, they will pretty much be making this Vietnamese fresh rice noodle recipe fresh rice noodle sheets and soup noodles in the same way that you see in the images in the gallery and outlined in the Vietnamese fresh flat pho rice noodles recipe below.
NOTES ON THIS VIETNAMESE FRESH RICE NOODLE RECIPE
What I love about this Vietnamese fresh rice noodle recipe is that the noodle sheets can be used to make both pho cuon and the quintessential Vietnamese noodle soup, pho, that we all know and love.
If you’re making a Vietnamese meal to be shared amongst a table of friends or family, just double the amounts if you’re making soup and rolls for four people. If you’re preparing a feast for eight, say, then you’ll need to double again, and so on.
Once you’ve made the fresh flat pho rice noodle sheets for the Hanoi style pho cuon recipe you can keep half the noodle sheets aside which you can later cut with a knife or scissors into thin 1cm strips of noodle for your Vietnamese pho noodle soup.
You can keep the noodles for the soup in a bowl in the fridge until your pho broth is ready. We’ll be posting a oho soup recipe at some stage, too.
Both of those can be made the same day, however, this Vietnamese fresh rice noodle recipe, which we learnt to make at the wonderful Red Bridge Cooking School in Hoi An, needs to be started the day before as you need to soak the rice in water overnight.
PREPARING THE STEAMER TO MAKE PHO RICE NOODLES
While this Vietnamese fresh rice noodle recipe isn’t difficult, making the noodle sheets over the steamer can be tricky at first. It’s fiddly and it takes a little practice to get the hang of it.
To make the flat pho rice noodle sheets you’ll need to prepare a steamer using a big pot of boiling water, a piece of cotton or muslin, and string or thick elastic.
You can either boil the water first in a large pot as the Vietnamese do, then carefully cover the pot of boiling water with a thin piece of cotton or muslin, or, if you’re concerned about burning yourself, you can secure the cotton with room temperature water before boiling it.
You’ll also need to make sure that you have a long bamboo stick, which is available from markets in Southeast Asia, or Asian supermarkets and grocery stores if you don’t live in the region. It just looks like a very large wooden cooking chopstick.
Now please don’t be alarmed if your first attempts don’t come out great. Our first ever attempts at cooking school were comical. But, as you get the temperature of the water right and become more confident in spooning out the batter evenly, it will become easier. I find having your phone with a stopwatch on will help you to get the steaming time right once you have a good batch going.
VIETNAMESE FRESH RICE NOODLE RECIPE
- 4 cups white rice - jasmine rice is best
- 8 cups of water
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- To prepare the batter for the fresh flat pho rice noodle sheets, first soak the 4 cups of white rice in a large plastic bowl of water overnight.
- The next day, drain the water from the rice then thoroughly wash the rice in water. Do this at least three times, properly draining the water each time until the water is clear. Ensure the water is completely drained from the rice.
- Put 1 cup of white rice, 2 cups of water, and a pinch of salt in a blender and blend for 10-15 minutes.
- Remove the mixture from the blender and put it in a bowl and leave to rest for one hour.
- Repeat with the remaining rice, 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of water at a time. Leave each mixture to rest for an hour.
- Spread a little vegetable oil onto a flat tray or plate in preparation for the steamed rice noodle sheets.
- To make the flat rice noodle sheets, cover a pot of boiling water with a thin piece of cotton, pulled tautly over the pot and secured with string.
- Using a large spoon (should hold two tablespoons of batter), pour the rice noodle batter onto the cotton, using the bottom of the spoon to move the batter around to form a thin circle-shaped layer that evenly and completely covers the cotton.
- Steam the batter for one minute until you have a firm flat rice noodle sheet.
- Use a bamboo stick to lift the rice batter from the cotton, by sliding it between the rice noodle sheet and cotton at the centre. Place it onto the oiled plate.
- Repeat, stacking the flat rice noodle sheets on top of each other as you go. They shouldn’t stick together but if concerned spread a little vegetable oil onto each sheet.
- Allow to cool
Vietnamese Cookbooks for Spring Rolls and Pho cuon (phở cuốn)
You’ll find more spring roll recipes in these terrific cookbooks.
Vietnamese Street Food by Tracey Lister and Andreas Pohl – the former owners of Hanoi Cooking Centre and authors of several Vietnam cookbooks have ten Vietnamese spring roll recipes in this book, which is one of our favourites. When we last met Tracey she was talking of writing a book 100% dedicated to spring rolls. Fingers crossed.
The Songs of Sapa, Stories and Recipes from Vietnam by Luke Nguyen – the Aussie-Vietnamese chef who splits his time between Sydney and Saigon and owns the excellent GRAIN Cooking Studio has half a dozen different Vietnamese spring roll recipes in this beautiful book that charts his discovery of dishes during his travels through Vietnam.
Street Food Asia by Luke Nguyen – you’ll find some spring roll recipes in this cookbook on street food snacks from Vietnam and beyond.
As usual, we’d love to hear from you if you make our Vietnamese fresh rice noodle recipe. Please let us know how they turned out in the comments below and share a pic with us on Instagram.
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