Guidebook Never forget the noodles

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Never forget the noodles

What’s better than the moment you receive a steaming, aromatic bowl of noodles, asks Jeanne Cheung in Marriott Traveler? “Is it when you add the garnishes and that squeeze of lime that somehow always ends up on your face … or is it that blissful moment when you finally get to eat the noodles, when it’s just you and the noodles and no one else?” In Vietnam, she says, “noodles are the thread of daily life … from flat rice noodles (bánh phở) in the morning to rice vermicelli (bún) in the afternoon, from rolled noodle sheets (bánh cuốn) as a quick street snack to thick, plump cylindrical noodles (bánh canh) at the end of the night, all kinds of noodles are enjoyed as a staple.” Noodles are “here, there and everywhere,” no matter where you are in the country, says Momentum. “Not only are noodles vital to the diet, the dishes made with them represent place, celebrate culture and preserve tradition.”

Cao lau is the history of the city in a bowl, writes Carolyn Caldicott in The Guardian. The signature noodle dish of the the ancient riverside port of Hoi An in central Vietnam, cao lau “brilliantly reflects the influence of waves of traders who came here to seek their fortune.” Fat rice noodles are given “a distinctive soft yellow tinge and chewy texture by the addition of wood ash and calcium-rich well water … the aromatic juicy slices of stir-fried pork, marinaded in star anise and cassia bark, add a very definite Chinese twist.” But it’s the “handfuls of fresh herbs, lemongrass, bean sprouts, crispy fried rice cracker croutons and crunchy pork crackling” that makes it “unmistakably Vietnamese.”

Noodles in Vietnam go way beyond pho, explains Leah Cohen in Saveur. Here are some of the that “could give pho a run for its money”:

Bun bo hue: “the broth is made from beef bones, pork knuckle, lemongrass, and chiles, and the noodles are thicker and more cylindrical than those used in most other Vietnamese noodle dishes.”

Mien luon nuoc: “you can order it two ways: dry, or as a soup. I prefer the soup, which consists of glass noodles, crispy eel, and poached eel served in an eel broth. Herbs, shaved banana blossom, and bean sprouts are served on the side.”

Bun rieu is “served with rice noodles, a crab paste with a texture similar to tofu, and blood cubes … the soup is almost always served with a side of fresh herbs, shaved banana blossoms, and bean sprouts.”

Bun bo nam bo “has stir-fried beef with lemongrass and flavored beef stock and is served over bun noodles … it's brothy but not quite a soup … garnished with peanuts, crispy shallots (my favorite!), herbs, bean sprouts, lettuce, pickled carrots, and papaya—there are a lot of amazing textures going on here.”

Bun moc: “there are 5 different forms of pork pâté served in the soup which also comes with bun noodles … bun moc is super hearty—but not heavy—and makes a great breakfast or early lunch.”

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