Delicate in flavor with a slight tang, banh hoi rice noodles are a special event Vietnamese food that’s often enjoyed at parties and celebrations. They’re instantly recognizable as the white noodles are shaped like rectangular mats of thick white cheesecloth. They're very thin, finer than Italian angel hair pasta. It’s best to purchase banh hoi (pronounced “baan hoy”) fresh from a Vietnamese market or Chinese barbecue shop in a Vietnamese community where they’re typically sold on Styrofoam trays and wrapped in plastic wrap. For a general low-down , take a read of Vietnamese Noodles 101: Banh Hoi Fine Rice Noodles.
Banh Hoi Rice Noodles with Grilled Beef
Banh Hoi Thit Bo Nuong
If beef is not your meat, feel free to substitute boneless, skinless chicken thigh or pork shoulder.
Serves 4 as a one-dish meal
1 1/4 pounds well-marbled tri-tip (bottom sirloin) steak, well trimmed (about 1 pound after trimming)
2 large cloves garlic, minced and crushed to a paste
1 small shallot, finely chopped (about 2 1/2 tablespoons total)
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Generous 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground preferred
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon light (regular) soy sauce
2 tablespoon oil
1 pound fresh banh hoi fine rice noodles
1/2 cup Scallion Oil Garnish
1 small head soft leaf lettuce, such as red leaf, green leaf, or butter leaf
8 to 12 sprigs cilantro
8 to 12 sprigs mint
1 small English cucumber, seeded and sliced, optional
8 to 12 sprigs of other Vietnamese herbs, such as red perilla (tia to) and Vietnamese balm (kinh gioi), optional (see Vietnamese herb primer)
3/4 cup Nuoc Cham dipping sauce
1. If you have time, freeze the place the steak for about 15 minutes to firm and be easier to cut. Slice the beef across the grain into thin strips, a scant 1/4 inch thick, about 1 1/2 inches wide, and about 3 inches long. You may need to angle the knife to achieve the ideal width. Set aside.
2. In a bowl, combine the garlic, shallot, brown sugar, salt, pepper, fish sauce, soy sauce and oil. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the beef and use your hands to massage the seasonings into the beef, making sure that each slice is well coated. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate at room temperature for 1 hour. Or, refrigerate overnight, letting the beef sit out for 30 minutes to remove the chill before grilling.
3. While the beef marinates, make the scallion oil, if you haven’t done so. Before grilling the beef, prepare the banh hoi noodles. Use scissors to halve each piece of the noodles into pieces the size of playing cards. Arrange them on 2 platters in overlapping layers, with some scallion oil atop each piece of noodle; leftover scallion oil can be served on the side for extra richness. Cover the noodles, and set aside to prevent drying while you cook the beef.
Arrange the lettuce, herbs and cucumber on 1 or 2 plates and set at the table. Put the dipping sauce in a communal bowl or individual dipping sauce bowls and set at the table.
4. Prepare a charcoal or preheat a gas grill to medium (you can hold your hand over the rack for no more than 4 to 5 seconds). To broil the beef, position a rack about 4 inches from the heat source and preheat the oven for 20 minutes so it is nice and hot.
5. I usually grill the meat as individual pieces, working the meat with tongs to turn them frequently. If you prefer, skewer the meat on soaked bamboo skewers (soak 16 to 20 skewers in water for 45 minutes) so that the pieces are easier to grill; you can serve the meat on the skewers or remove them from the skewers. Whether grilling or broiling, cook the beef for 5 to 7 minutes, turning frequently, until browned and a little charred on the edge.
6. Arrange on a platter and serve with the noodles, lettuce and herbs, and dipping sauce. To eat, invite guests to take a palm-size piece of lettuce, add few leaves of fresh herbs, a piece of banh hoi noodle, and a piece of beef. Bundle up the parcel, dip it into the sauce and deliver to the mouth.
- Vietnamese Noodles 101: Banh Hoi Fine Rice Noodles – details on where to buy, how to store, and how to refresh
- Vietnamese herb primer – the many different kinds, their names, and photos