Banh Hoi Chay Recipe (Vietnamese Thin Rice Vermicelli Noodles)
Bánh hỏi is a Vietnamese specialty dish. It's composed of very thin rice vermicelli noodles, often steamed and seasoned with fried green onions. They’re usually served with barbecued beef or pork but for my husband who's a vegetarian, I accompanied them with a combination of sautéed tofu, bamboo, jicama, carrots and straw mushrooms. That's why I call this dish bánh hỏi chay (hint: chay means "vegetarian" in Vietnamese).
As a child, I remember having this dish at celebrations, though I don't really know why. I make it pretty regularly in our home because in my opinion, it's very simple to prepare and always enjoyable.
Yields: 6 servings1 (12-ounce) package firm tofu
¾ cup green onions, chopped
1 (12-ounce) package bánh hỏi tươi (very fine rice vermicelli noodles), see tips
1 small jicama
1 (10-ounce) can straw mushrooms, drained
¾ cup canola oil (or any neutral oil), as needed
2 teaspoons mushroom seasoning salt (or regular salt)
1 carrot, peeled and shredded into about 5"-long thick strips
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup fresh young bamboo shoots, rinsed and cut into thin strips
1 large bottle gourd, peeled and cut into thin strips
1½ cups white cabbage, shredded
½ cup yellow onions (see tips), sliced and fried
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly cracked
1 tablespoon palm sugar, freshly grated
¼ cup Vietnamese mint, chopped
4 cups lettuce, shredded
¼ cup Thai basil, chopped
vegetarian dipping sauce
For the green onions: In a small saucepan, heat 3-4 tablespoons canola oil. Add the green onions and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes until softened. Season with salt.
For the bánh hỏi: Soak the rectangle of rice noodles in warm water for 3-4 minutes. Drain and place the noodles on a large, heat-proof plate. Place it in a steamer. Fill the steamer with water. Bring the water to a boil and reduce the heat to medium-high. Cover and steam for about 10 minutes. The noodles should be soft and tender but still firm (not falling apart). Remove from the steamer. Let them cool a little and drizzle with the green onion oil mixture.
For the tofu: Drain any liquid from the tofu. Pat dry with a paper towel. Slice the tofu into ½"-thick slices. In a large pan, heat about 2 tablespoons of oil; pan-fry the tofu slices on both sides until golden and puffy. The tofu should have a nice fried outer crust and still be moist inside. Transfer the tofu onto paper towels. Once the tofu pieces are cool enough to handle, cut the pieces into very thin strips.
For the jicama: Peel and slice horizontally into ½"-thick pieces. In the same large pan, add about 1 tablespoon oil and fry the jicama slices until golden brown. Once they’re cool enough to handle, cut the pieces into very thin strips.
For the carrot: In a large pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil (if necessary). Add ½ clove of garlic and cook until golden. Add the carrots and drizzle with 2-3 tablespoons water. Stir-fry over high heat until softened. Season with mushroom salt and pepper.
Repeat the same procedure with the cabbage, bottle gourd, bamboo and mushrooms. Note: Make sure the heat is at its highest, so the elements of the dish don't become watery.
Lastly, combine the carrots, jicama, tofu, bamboo, cabbage, mushrooms and gourd. Toss well.
Carefully transfer the bánh hỏi onto a serving plate. I've seen them sometimes folded and rolled for the presentation. Place a mound of the tofu and vegetables and serve with a plate of shredded lettuce and Vietnamese herbs and a small bowl of dipping sauce on the side.
I buy the Ba Co Gai (Three Ladies) brand of noodles for this dish. The rice noodles aren't too thick, yet they're strong enough not to fall apart when fully cooked. I use the same brand for my phở noodles. You can find all these ingredients in Asian stores.
You can find mushroom seasoning salt in most Asian specialty markets.Published By: on September 13, 2012.