In Vietnam, noodles are the staple food, and you will find different noodle soup dishes on the menus. These noodle soups are prepared differently and served with different accompaniments depending on the history, climate, and personality of every region. One famous noodle dish is Banh Canh. Banh stands for cake in Vietnamese while Canh is soup.
What beats the moment you get your serving of a hot, aromatic bowl of noodles? In Vietnam, noodles are considered the thread of daily life. Ranging from (Banh pho) flat rice noodles to (bún), rice vermicelli and rolled noodle sheets (Banh Cuon) to plump round noodles (Banh Canh), there is always a noodle dish to try out. Though enjoyed at any time, Banh Canh is mostly served for supper.
In this article, you will learn everything about Banh Canh, including its origin, varieties, and how to prepare this delicious and fulfilling dish.
Vietnamese Banh Canh (Origin and Curiosities)
In Vietnam, there is a noodle dish for every meal. For example, Banh Canh ca loc is the popular mid-morning or afternoon snack. It is a mouthwatering marrow and lemongrass-rich snakehead fish soup that is accompanied by hand-rolled noodles, heat, and numerous herbs.
Banh Canh originates from South-Central Vietnam, where it is considered comfort food by the locals. It is a noodle dish made from a mixture of tapioca and rice flour cooked in a pork broth. The soup is served with sausage, sliced pork, fresh herbs, and fish cake. Banh Canh is an amazing soup for winter days, although you can eat it any other day.
Banh Canh has a spring, chewy texture to it. You can buy premade Banh Canh from Asian grocery stores or easily make it at home.
Some people prefer the broth thicker so they prepare it in the stockpot. The secret is to make the starchy noodles absorb all the flavor while the starch thickens the broth.
Banh Canh Tom Cua
Tom means shrimp in Vietnamese and Cua means crab. Banh Canh Tom Cua means noodle soup with crab and shrimp. It is prepared with ground shrimp cooked in the broth, thick chewy noodles, chicken stock, and balls of soft crab. The soup is topped with Thai basil, green onion, chopped cilantro, fried shallots, and bean sprouts which add a fresh twist to the already robust flavor.
Banh Canh Tom Cua has an amazing seafood flavor that tapioca noodles absorb making them mouthwatering. Topping this dish with fresh Vietnamese herbs and crispy onions take the flavor to another level of deliciousness. The soup is orange in color, with the color traditionally coming from the guts and crab roe, also known as crab tomalley.
Banh Canh Vs Udon
Like Banh Canh, udon is Japanese noodles made with water, wheat flour, and salt and served in dashi-based broth. These noodles are two to four millimeters and are made in round shapes or flat. Preparing udon dough is a difficult process and some chefs have to stomp on it to make it relax.
Udon noodles originated in China before being introduced to Japan between 618 and 907 BC during the Tang dynasty. Originally, udon was more of a dumpling than a noodle, and it is still sliced in squares in some parts of Japan instead of the standard long strands.
In the past, people could buy udon in specialty stalls. However, you will this dish sold and eaten all over Japan today, especially by people from the south, including Kyushu and Osaka.
Many people relate Banh to the Japanese Udon soup when describing the former. However, these two noodle dishes are different in various ways and they are from different countries. Firstly, Banh Canh noodles are made from tapioca and rice flour while udon is made from wheat flour.
Secondly, udon is considered more transparent in color than Banh Canh, which has an orange color. Also, udon is more slippery than Banh Canh. Udon noodles are less chewy than Banh Canh which is chewier and feels softer when eaten. The more tapioca in Banh Canh, the chewier they are.
Banh Canh Recipe
You can either buy premade Banh Canh noodles or make them fresh at home. If you decide to prepare a batch at home, here is how to do it.
Banh Canh Noodles
- 2 cups of starch/tapioca flour
- 13/4 cups rice flour
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1/4 tsp. sea salt
- 11/2 cups boiling water
- Spaetzle/potato rice maker with big round holes
- Use your hands or a stand mixer that has a paddle attachment to mix tapioca flour, rice flour, and salt until well combined.
- Add one cup of boiling water and the vegetable oil to the flour mixture. Mix until well combined and continue adding the remaining water as you need until your dough becomes stretchy with a soft texture. If your batter easily comes together from the sides of the kneading bowl, it is too dry and will not pass easily through the spaetzle/potato ricer. In that case, add more hot water.
- Divide your dough into small batches and press it through the potato ricer. These noodles need to drop directly in boiling water. Your noodles should float to the top. Transfer them using a slotted spoon into cold water. In case you don’t have these slicing tools, you can roll out your dough and cut it by hand to make the noodles.
You will need boiling water when working with starch or tapioca flour, and if the water is not hot enough your dough will melt. If you attempt to lift tapioca flour dough at room temperature water, it melts in your hands. Letting it relax even for a moment makes it melt like lava. You are trying to make needles not a science experiment in your kitchen.
Using boiling water stops the melting effect and helps activate tapioca’s elasticity. Ensure that you have your boiling water ready before you start kneading your dough. If you plan on kneading the dough by hand, be careful as the water makes the dough too hot to handle. Start by mixing the dough with a spoon and once it cools slightly, continue kneading with your hands. Once you have completed making your homemade noodles, follow this recipe to prepare your Banh Canh soup to make them a complete meal.
Banh Canh Soup
- 3 liters of water
- 3 lbs pork bones (spare ribs or neck bones)
- 4 shallots and 1 big yellow onion
- 11/2 tbsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. of granulated white sugar
- 1 tsp. of pork stock powder
- 2 lbs Banh Canh noodles
- 1 tsp. of fish sauce
- 1/2 stick Vietnamese Ham
- 2 scallions and a bunch of thinly sliced cilantro
- 1/2 fried fish cake
- Ground black pepper
- Set your oven at 400°F and bake the shallots or onions for around 15 minutes or until they become aromatic. Scrap off charred parts (helps avoid browning your broth) and set the onions aside.
- Thoroughly clean the pork bones and add them to a big pot filled with water to cover the bones by one inch. Add one teaspoon of salt and bring the bones to a boil. Let them boil for five minutes or until a lot of foam starts forming at the surface of the water. Drain all the pot contents into a colander and rinse the bones under cold running water to help keep them clean and retain the stock’s clear color. Rinsing also helps get rid of the bad pork smell.
- Add three liter of water to your pot and bring it to a boil. If you are reusing the same pot, clean it thoroughly before adding the water. Add onions and your blanched bones and reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Let the stock simmer for two hours with the pot uncovered. Remove the pork bones and onions/shallots from the stock and discard. Alternatively, you can leave the bones in the stock if they have enough meat on them.
- Season your stock with sugar, pork seasoning powder, fish sauce, and one tablespoon of salt.
- Cook your homemade Banh Canh noodles or premade one as per the instructions on the packaging. If the noodles keep sticking together, add 1/2 of sesame or vegetable oil to them and toss them lightly together.
- To serve your dish, add some Banh Canh noodles in a bowl and ladle broth over them. Add some slices of fried fish cakes and Vietnamese ham. Garnish with cilantro/scallions and ground black pepper.
To add some zest to your dish, add these additional ingredients if you have access to them.
Fried breadsticks- you can find these at Asian groceries or you can make them at home. They serve as the best accompaniment for Banh Canh soup.
Vietnamese sausage– the sausages are popular in most Vietnamese dishes. They are made from spices and pork and steamed in banana leaves for extra flavor.
Fresh herbs, chili oil or bean sprouts, and fried garlic- all these are great Banh Canh accompaniments.
As you try out this delicious Vietnamese noodle soup, ăn ngon miêng nhé!
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