Bun round rice noodles come in various sizes but banh hoi rice noodles come in only one size – very thin. In fact, these delicate Vietnamese noodles are thinner and finer than Italian angel hair pasta. Banh hoi are instantly recognizable as the tiny rice noodles are cooked and presented as rectangular-shaped mats that resemble a thick later of gauzy white cheesecloth. Banh hoi are difficult to prepare and mostly purchased and used as a fresh noodle. Thus, they are pricey compared to other Vietnamese noodles and typically a Vietnamese special-event food (such as weddings and annual death anniversary celebrations). Everyone always grins extra big smiles when banh hoi are served because you know that you’re in for a treat.
I like to describe banh hoi as fine rice noodles so as to distinguish them from the larger bun rice noodles. The photo above shows one piece of the noodle mats compared to the entire mound of them in the package.