For decades I thought that the flat rice noodles that went into pho noodle soup and stir-fries were only available in dried form. That’s how we bought them in the United States. About 15 years ago, those “banh pho” rice noodles (named such in Vietnamese because they go into pho noodle soup) started being sold fresh in Cryovac packages at Asian markets. My mom still bought the dried kind. Then one day, I asked her about fresh versus dried banh pho rice noodles and she responded, “They were always fresh in Vietnam. We had no dried banh pho when we lived there.”
Wait, had I been living a faux pho life all these years? No, child, the dried ones available here are good and convenient to keep on hand when you have a neighborhood noodle vendor around the corner. Duh, like pho. Indeed, go to Vietnam today and you’ll find freshly made noodles sold at markets and used at noodle joints. In the U.S., fresh noodles aren’t as readily available, but there are dried noodles that cook up wonderfully.
Our conversation earlier this week on defining faux pho spurred me to continue my (occasional) series of posts of Vietnamese noodles. Also, a couple of days ago, I noticed a young woman struggle with trying to find banh pho noodles at an Asian market. She got flat noodles but they were made of mung bean starch. I hope this guide will help you buy and use this ubiquitous Vietnamese noodle.