Vietnamese Pork Thick Noodle Soup (Banh Canh)

This Vietnamese pork thick noodle soup or Banh Canh is a very popular dish in Vietnam. It is made with thick round noodles, tender pieces of pork that is all cooked in a flavoursome broth. You can load it up with extras, or keep it simple – either way this lesser known noodle soup is one of the most comforting belly warmers you’ll ever taste.

Steph and I have been making banh canh for years. Our original recipe was my mother’s more traditional version using pork hock, pigs trotters and dried squid. At this point you’ll either be salivating and nodding in agreement, or confused and a little put off. While these ingredients give the soup great flavour and a slightly gelatinous texture, they weren’t always available in the few shops in our area that did stock them. We now use pork shoulder and dried shrimp instead, which is much more accessible where we live, and still produces a great tasting soup.

What Cut of Pork to Use

The best cut of meat for this dish is pork hock but as mentioned before it is hard to get. So I like to use pork shoulder because it has sinew running through it which helps soften the meat. The one cut I would stay away from is the leg roast since it can be very dry and tough.

A few tips when prepping the pork:

  • Wash the pork under cold water after cooking to stop the meat from darkening.
  • Once the pork is cooked, cover the meat with a wet paper towel to keep the meat moist.
  • Cut the meat against the grain for to give it a softer texture.
Keeping the Meat Moist

Banh Canh Thick Noodles

When my mum first arrived in Australia back in the 1980’s these types of noodles were simply not available, so she used to make them by hand. This was a very long and strenuous process since she didn’t have any gadgets to help her. Fast forward to today, you can readily find banh canh noodles in many Asian groceries.

The Cong Thanh brand below is the one I prefer to use (this is not a sponsored post), but you can substitute for other brands or use tapioca or udon noodles.

It is really important to properly prep the noodles in a way so that they do not break up and turn to mush. Here are a few pointers to give you the best results.

  1. Always warm the noodles in the microwave first. If you put cold noodles into a soup, they will just break up.
  2. The noodles need to be dunked in boiling water to soften and remove the oils, impurities and smell. This is very important to preserve the taste and aroma of your noodle soup.
  3. There are two ways to serve the noodles:
    • The first option is to place the noodles into the pot and allow them to take on the flavour of the soup for a few minutes. With this option, you will need to remove any noodles in the pot that will not be served. This is to prevent the noodles absorbing all the soup and becoming soft and bloated. I usually put them in a plastic container to have the next day.
    • The second option is to divide the noodles into bowls after dunking it in boiling water, then pour the boiling noodle soup over the top. The benefit from this is that you will only use as much as you need, but you don’t get as much flavour in the noodles.

The Optional Extras

  • Fish Cakes / Balls (available at Asian groceries)

These fish cakes / balls is a very popular additive to this dish. It is very easy to prepare and gives the dish colour and variety.

  • Cha Lua / Vietnamese Ham (available at Asian groceries)

Cha lua is a very traditional Vietnamese ingredient and much like the fish cakes it requires little effort to prepare (store bought). It adds another protein to the dish and enhances the soup with its flavour.

  • Fried Bread Sticks / Dau Chao Quay / You Tiao (available at Asian groceries)

If you have time to make these or can get a hold of them from your Asian groceries then do it. These are simply the best accompaniment to any version of Vietnamese pork rice noodle soup – banh canh. Our recipe for this can be found here.

Other Noodle Soups You Might Like

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Vietnamese Pork Thick Noodle Soup

Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine Vietnamese
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Author Scruff

Ingredients

  • 2.5 L water
  • 1 kg pork shoulder, washed and cut into 2 pieces
  • 10 gm dried shrimp, washed
  • cracked pepper, to taste
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp fried shallots
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 star anise, optional
  • 4 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 kg rice starch noodles, can be substituted for tapioca or udon noodles

Garnishes

  • 2 stalks spring onion, finely chopped
  • 5 sprigs coriander, chopped (optional)
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • 2 tbsp fried shallots

Optional Extras

  • 1 packet fish cake / balls (200 gm)
  • 1 packet cha lua / Vietnamese ham (500 gm), cut into thin strips
  • 4 fried bread sticks / dau chao quay / youtiao

Instructions

  1. Bring 2.5 L of water to the boil then add the pork shoulder.

  2. Allow the pot to return to the boil and cook for a 5 minutes. Skim off any impurities that form on the surface.

  3. Add the salt, pepper, sugar, star anise, onion, dried shrimp and fried shallots. Simmer the partially covered pot for 50 minutes on medium low heat.

  4. After 50 minutes take out the meat and check if it is cooked. If no, put the meat back into the pot until done. If yes, then wash the meat under cold water. Place a damp paper kitchen towel over the top and allow to cool before cutting into thin strips.

  5. With a pair of tongs, remove the onions and star anise from the soup.

  6. Add the fish sauce and adjust the seasoning of the soup to your taste.

  7. Prepare the garnishes.

Prepare the Noodles

  1. Put the noodles in a large bowl with a piece of damp paper kitchen towel over it. Heat the noodles in the microwave for roughly 5 minutes or until soft.

  2. Check the noodles are warmed through and then pour enough boiling water to cover them. Loosen the noodles up with chopsticks and then strain.

Prepare the Noodle Bowls

  1. Bring the soup back to a rolling boil on medium high.

  2. Once the water is boiling, add the slices of fish cake/balls (if using) and the noodles. Cook for 2 minutes.

  3. Fill the bowls up with noodles and soup.

  4. Add the pork slices, cha lua (if using) and garnishes on top, and serve with the bread sticks (if using).

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