It’s been a while since I wrote about food. I know, I am as shocked and appalled as you are.
The dish I am going to tell you all about today is my number one noodle soup from Vietnam. The noodles are soft and chewy, and the broth, which can be cooked using pork, chicken, shrimp or crab, is thick and full of warm homely flavours. It can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner and I always have it after I have been to the gym. It makes me feel full for ages afterwards, unlike most other noodle soups that leave me peckish a couple of hours later. This soup is none other than Banh Canh and I am going to show you how you can make it yourself. It is actually a fairly simple dish, even making the noodles is easy, and only took me about 90 minutes to do from start to finish.
I want to utilise my time left in Vietnam by really learning how to cook Vietnamese food while I have such easy access to the ingredients. However, I do understand that many of you won’t and I will try my best to offer any alternatives that you may be able to use instead although all of these ingredients are completely authentic so I recommend that you go to a chinese/asian supermarket and stock up if you can.
Here we go!
Ingredients for the noodles
1 cup/150g of rice flour
1 cup/150g of Tapioca starch
half a tsp of salt
1 cup/200ml of boiling water
I have heard that you can substitute the rice flour for wheat flour but I haven’t tried that myself yet.
If you want to make the broth but not the noodles then you can use Japanese Udon noodles instead.
Ingredients for the broth
1kg of pork or chicken bones
1 peeled white onion
chopped spring onion
Any protein of choice – I used Cha Chien, a fried pork roll
1 tbsp of annatto seeds (Hot Dieu Mau in Vietnamese) for the colouring oil
First things first, the noodles.
Add the flour, starch and salt into a mixing bowl then add the boiling water and mix together. When the dough is a little cooler you can then begin to kneed until it is soft. Ideally the dough shouldn’t be sticky after a little while but I found mine remained sticky so next time I am going to reduce the tapioca starch a little and increase the rice flour.
Leave the dough covered for 30 minutes to rest.
Simply roll out the dough onto a floured surface so that it is approximately 3 inches wide and as thick as a chopstick, then, with a long knife, cut out strips of noodles that are as wide as they are thick. Don’t worry if they look like a bit out of shape, when they are boiled with the broth they become more rounded and, shall I say, noodle-like.
The noodles are now ready to be cooked. See, easy!
Next… the broth
Add the pork or chicken bones to a pan of boiling water for 5 minutes then remove from the pan and rinse the bones under cold water. Place into a clean pan of water, add the onion and the salt, and boil on a medium heat for about an hour. Don’t forget to remove the foam that collects around the edge of the pan, as this will keep the soup clear.
Banh Canh should have a yellow-orange hue to it so to get this, add a tbsp of annatto seeds to oil on a medium heat in a small pan and allow to simmer for about 30 seconds then strain the oil and bin the seeds.
When the broth is nearly ready season it with the stock cube, maybe some chopped spring onion and some chopped garlic. If you have some fish sauce in the cupboard then add a bit of that to taste. It’s really up to you. Add the coloured oil at this point.
Ladle enough soup into a small pan to fill three quarters of your soup bowl, the noodles will absorb some of the broth later. Add a handful of noodles for each portion, and whatever pre-cooked protein you want in your soup, (I used a Vietnamese fried pork roll called Cha Chien but you can use any kind that you like) then bring to a medium boil for about 90 seconds. Take off the heat and remove the foam that collects around the edge, and serve with chopsticks and a spoon. Add chopped chilli, a squeeze of fresh lime, a handful of bean sprouts, and some leaves of mint.
For a thicker soup, combine 1-2 tbsp of tapioca starch with water and stir it into the soup before serving.
Refrigerate or freeze any leftover broth. The noodles can also be kept frozen but it is best to use them fresh.
Banh Canh is ridiculously healthy and very simple so give it a whirl and let me know how it goes.