Vietnamese Thick Noodle Soup – Banh Canh
About Banh Canh
Banh canh, also known as Vietnamese thick noodle soup, is a type of noodle soup enjoyed in Vietnam and many other parts of Southeast Asia.
Bánh canh is a dish that is sure to explode your taste buds with its unique combination of chewy bánh canh noodles, rich and savory broth, and delicious toppings such as shrimp, pork bones, crab meat, and fresh vegetables.
Made from either fragrant rice flour or chewy tapioca flour, bánh canh is often compared to udon noodles due to its thickness. However, each type of noodle boasts its distinct flavor and texture. Trust me; you won’t be disappointed with the flavor explosion that bánh canh has to offer.
Bánh canh comes in many varieties, such as bánh canh with shrimp, pork bones, shrimp + pork bones, and bánh canh with crab,… and of course, each type of bánh canh will surely satisfy you with its unique taste.
Perhaps the most beloved version is Bánh Canh Xương Heo or pork bone thick noodle soup. This iteration features succulent pork bones that infuse the broth with a deep, flavorful richness. For those eager to try making Bánh canh at home, here’s a simple recipe to start your culinary journey. Don’t worry; this straightforward guide aims to ensure your success, even if it’s your first attempt at this delightful dish.
Ingredients You Need For 3-4 Servings:
For Noodles And Vegetables:
- 3 packs of Bánh canh noodles (rice flour or tapioca flour)
- 8 ounces cabbage or bok choy, chopped into bite-size pieces
- 1/2 cup of cilantro leaves and stems for garnish
- 1/2 cup of bean sprouts
- 2 lb pork bones
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 shallots
- 2 onions
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 8 cups water
- 1.5 teaspoon salt
- 1 carrot cut into chunks
- 1 white radish cut into chunks
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 2 teaspoons of vegetable seasoning powder
- ½ pound of sliced pork belly (optional)
- 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (optional)
- couple slices of Vietnamese Ham (Cha Lua) (optional)
- 2 teaspoons minced fried garlic/onion (optional)
Tips For Choosing The Right Meat For A Flavorful Broth
There are various types of meat you can choose for this Bánh canh dish, such as pork hocks, thigh bones, tail bones,… you can select any type you want. Since meat is the primary ingredient in creating a flavorful and sweet broth, it’s recommended to choose fresh meat for the best results.
Choose bones of moderate size and with less fat. This will ensure a good balance between flavor and healthiness in your broth. The bones will give your broth its depth of flavor while keeping the fat content down will make the dish more health-conscious.
Good pork bones typically have a fresh color, are not faded, and don’t have an odd smell.
Step-by-Step Guide: How To Make Banh Canh
Preparing The Broth
- Rinse the meat thoroughly and parboil it for 10 minutes to remove impurities. You can crush 2 lemongrass stalks or add white wine, vinegar, and onions to the pot to help eliminate any unpleasant odors.
- If you want to add some extra flavor and depth to your soup, try roasting some onions first by cooking them at a low temperature, around 150C, for about 10 minutes or till you see some browning or smell that delicious aroma, take the onions out and scrape off any burnt bits before adding them to your soup broth.
- Remove bones from boiling water and rinse again with cold water. Allow the bones to cool before adding them to a pot of cold water.
- Place the meat into a clean pot, and add the roasted onions. Make sure to pour in enough water to cover the meat by about 1cm, then turn on low heat and cook for approximately 1-2 hours, depending on your available time and the size of your meat. But ensure that your meat is fully cooked.
- While simmering the broth, make sure not to cover the pot with a lid. If you notice any foam or scum floating on the surface, skim it off to ensure a clear broth.
- Add the carrot and white radish pieces after the broth has been simmering for about half the total time. These additional ingredients will impart further flavor to your broth, making it even more delicious. Continue cooking until the vegetables are tender and the broth is rich with their essence.
- Season the broth to taste with salt, sugar, vegetable seasoning powder, and fish sauce. This step is crucial as it tailors the soup’s flavor to your personal or family’s liking.
- If you’re using pork belly as a topping (or similar cuts of meat), remove it from the broth, slice it into thin pieces, and set it aside for later. This step will ensure that your meat topping is cooked to perfection and ready to add a delightful texture to your Bánh canh dish.
Making Noodles, Veggies and Toppings:
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add noodles and cook for 5 minutes or until al dente.
- Remove noodles from boiling water and rinse with cold water to prevent them from sticking together. Set aside for later use.
- If you would like to include shrimp as a topping, you can cook them separately, or if you prefer the broth to have a hint of shrimp flavor, you can simmer them with the broth. However, adding shrimp directly to the broth may affect its clarity.
- If you want a crunchy texture, blanch your vegetables like cabbage or bok choy in the same pot of boiling water for 2-3 minutes or until lightly cooked, then rinse with cold water.
- Next, prepare the garnishes: finely chop cilantro leaves and stems, slice up some herbs like Vietnamese coriander or Thai basil, and heat some minced fried garlic/onion if desired. Set aside for later use.
Putting Your Banh Canh Together
- Place cooked noodles into individual serving bowls.
- Ladle in some hot broth, followed by vegetables, cooked pork belly (or any other topping you’re using) and shrimp if desired.
- Top off with freshly chopped cilantro leaves, herbs, and fried garlic/onion for an extra kick of flavor.
- Serve while it’s still hot, and enjoy the perfect bowl of Bánh canh!
Tips and tricks:
- The broth is the key to this dish. Therefore, ensure to clean the meat properly so the broth does not have a bad smell but a clear and sweet taste.
- If you prefer a slightly thicker broth, stir a bit of cornstarch or tapioca into the broth and cook for an additional 5 minutes to achieve the desired consistency (but it is recommended for thick crab noodles). Remember to add gradually if you don’t want to overdo it.
- To enhance the flavor absorption of the Bánh canh noodles, you may cook them directly in the broth. However, remember only to cook the amount of noodles you plan to eat immediately. They will swell up and lose their texture if you cook too many noodles.
- If you don’t have enough time to prepare a full pot of hot soup, another good alternative is to use store-bought chicken stock.
- To create a healthier version of your Bánh canh dish, try substituting pork with lean cuts of chicken or beef. You can also add some mushrooms to give it an extra boost of nutrition and umami flavor.
- If you’re not a fan of pork belly, try substituting it with other cuts of pork like shoulder or loin or even tofu and mushrooms. The possibilities are endless!
- Feel free to experiment with noodles, such as udon, soba, or rice. Each noodle type brings its unique flavor and texture to the dish.
The vegan version of Bánh canh is also very delicious and nutritious. You must replace the meat with vegetables such as carrots, white radishes, mushrooms, and tofu. The preparation is the same as the original recipe.
And, of course, the vegetarian Banh Canh saves more cooking time than the meat version, as you don’t have to spend much time simmering the broth.
You can store the broth for about 1-2 days in the refrigerator, but the longer it is kept, the less tasty it becomes, and remember to taste it again, as storing it for a long period may make the broth salty.
If you find yourself with leftover broth, don’t let it go to waste. You can repurpose it as a soup base for future meals. Adding fresh vegetables, proteins, and noodles can transform it into a quick, nutritious dish. Remember, the flavors may intensify over time, so adjust the seasoning as necessary.
Don’t boil too many Bánh canh noodles because the leftovers can’t be stored and must be discarded.
Bánh canh is a delicious and nutritious dish that can provide a full-fledged meal as it contains protein from the meat, plenty of fiber from the vegetables, and has an excellent taste.
Banh Canh is a versatile Vietnamese soup dish that can be enjoyed in either its traditional form with pork or seafood or as a vegetarian/vegan version. You can customize the ingredients according to your preference to make it even more satisfying.
So what are you waiting for? Gather some of the necessary ingredients, try this recipe, and enjoy your bowl of hot, flavorful Banh Canh!
Is Banh Canh A Healthy Dish?
Banh Canh is a healthy dish as it contains protein from the meat, plenty of fiber from the vegetables, and has an excellent taste. It is also a versatile dish so you can customize the ingredients according to your preference. Thus, making it even more nutritious and satisfying!
Can I Use Store-Bought Chicken Stock For Bánh Canh?
If you don’t have enough time to prepare a full pot of hot soup, another good alternative is to use store-bought chicken stock. It can help to achieve a rich and flavorful broth in less time. Just remember to adjust the seasoning as necessary, depending on the salt content of the store-bought broth.
What Other Ingredients Can I Use In My Bánh Canh?
Aside from using different cuts of pork, you can also add different types of vegetables to your Bánh Canh, such as mushrooms, carrots, white radishes, etc. You can also experiment with different noodles, such as udon, soba, or even rice noodles, for a unique texture and flavor.
I’m Godfrey Jensen, CEO and head chef at Lapps Meats. We’re a top-quality butcher with over 70 years of experience. Our goal is to provide our customers with the best, freshest products possible. We take our food seriously, and we love serving the community by providing them with quality meat products.