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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hu Tieu/Banh Pho Don Xao Bo (Vietnamese Crispy Rice Noodle Beef Stir-Fry)

Hu Tieu Banh Pho Don Xao Bo (Vietnamese Crispy Rice Noodle Beef Stir-Fry) 1

During college, my favorite Vietnamese restaurant was Cafe Nhu-Hoa on Argyle Street in Chicago's Little Vietnam. (I refuse to call the neighborhood New Chinatown. Grrrr!)

The owner, a friendly Vietnamese-Laotian woman made some of the best Laotian curries I've ever had. Actually, those were the only Laotian curries I've ever had. :P She also pan-fried wide rice noodles until they were crispy and then stir-fried them with a gravy-laden sauce. It was the best of both worlds -- crispy noodles with lots of flavor. I almost always ordered the noodles whenever I dined there.

I once dated a guy whose family used to own a business in the neighborhood. Since he knew almost everyone, he asked me which restaurants I liked. Of course, I had to mention Nhu-Hoa and their crispy pan-fried noodles. Finished off with some Chanh Muoi (Vietnamese Salty Lemonade).

One morning, the boy and I were talking on the phone. My roommate hadn't come home the night before (Unbeknownst to me, her boyfriend had received a job offer and they had celebrated late into the night.), but we were supposed to go out for brunch that day. The boy and I continued to chat while I waited and waited. He asked me what my plans were for the day.

Well, I was supposed to go out with the roommate but it was past lunch time and now I was huuuungry! I guess I better get off the phone, shower, eat, and study, I said and then proceeded to do so.

Right after I got out of the shower, someone knocked on my door.

There he was with a take-out container of my favorite noodles and a cup of salty lemonade.

He remembered!

He was just going to drop off the food and then go home. He would've brought his books to study with me, but he didn't want to be presumptuous.

No. No. Stay!

Unfortunately, because I know you'd ask, the boy cheated; the restaurant closed down.

But the crispy, pan-fried noodles? Mmm. Those noodles were indelible.

Hu Tieu Banh Pho Don Xao Bo (Vietnamese Crispy Rice Noodle Beef Stir-Fry) 2

Hu Tieu/Banh Pho Don Xao Bo (Vietnamese Crispy Rice Noodle Beef Stir-Fry)

For 2 to 4 servings, you'll need:
1 lb package banh pho/ho fun (Vietnamese/Chinese rice noodle sheets)
1/2 lb beef, thinly sliced
1 tblsp corn starch
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce)
2 tsp Chinese black bean or hoisin sauce
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 bunch chives, cut into 2-inch sections

Optional: I kept this simple with just onions and chives, but feel free to add any other julienned vegetables of your choice. Carrots, bell peppers, the more color the better. Substitute chicken for the beef if you like.

Slice the beef and add 1 tblsp corn starch, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, 1 tsp Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce), and 2 tsp Chinese black bean or hoisin sauce. Set aside to marinate.

The banh pho or banh uot will come in big sheets.

Pho Cuon Ha Noi (Vietnamese Rice Noodle Rolls Hanoi-Style) 3

Cut the rice noodle about 2-inches wide. Separate them, but keep each "noodle" about two or three layers so that they're thick and wide.

Hu Tieu Banh Pho Don Xao Bo (Vietnamese Crispy Rice Noodle Beef Stir-Fry) 3

Pan-fry in a generously oiled pan on medium-high heat until crispy. While the noodles are frying, slice the onion and other vegetables.

Hu Tieu Banh Pho Don Xao Bo (Vietnamese Crispy Rice Noodle Beef Stir-Fry) 4

You want the outside of the noodles to brown, while the inside will be soft and pliable. Set aside.

Hu Tieu Banh Pho Don Xao Bo (Vietnamese Crispy Rice Noodle Beef Stir-Fry) 5

Saute the onions until golden and softened.

Hu Tieu Banh Pho Don Xao Bo (Vietnamese Crispy Rice Noodle Beef Stir-Fry) 6

Then add the beef, reserving the marinade for later. When the beef has developed a proper char, add the chives and other vegetables and saute again. When the vegetables have softened to your liking, add the rest of the marinade. Let simmer for a few minutes so a gravy is formed.

Hu Tieu Banh Pho Don Xao Bo (Vietnamese Crispy Rice Noodle Beef Stir-Fry) 7

When the sauce has thickened to your liking, add the noodles back in and stir until mixed. You want the gravy to just coat the noodles, without softening them.

Hu Tieu Banh Pho Don Xao Bo (Vietnamese Crispy Rice Noodle Beef Stir-Fry) 8

Serve as a meal for two, or an appetizer for four.

Hu Tieu Banh Pho Don Xao Bo (Vietnamese Crispy Rice Noodle Beef Stir-Fry) 9


Other Vietnamese stir-fried noodles you might like:
Banh Cuon Xao Bo (Vietnamese Rolled Rice Noodles Stir-Fry with Beef)
Banh Cuon Xao Thap Cam (Vietnamese Combination Rolled Rice Noodle Stir-Fry)
Banh Uot Xao Bo (Vietnamese Wet Rice Noodle Sheet Stir-fry with Beef), Bok Choy, Broccoli, Bean Sprouts, and Spinach
Mi Xao Don Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Crispy Chow Mein)
Mi Xao Don Thit Bo (Vietnamese Crispy Chow Mein with Beef)
Pho Ap Chao Bo (Vietnamese Pan-Fried Rice Noodles Sauteed with Beef)

1 year ago today, Crab Rangoons.
2 years ago today, Southern Baked Beans.
3 years ago today, Deep-Fried Squash Blossoms.


  1. sigh.
    it was such a lovely start to the story and then BAM. :(

    the dish, however, is scrumptious looking. i do enjoy those noodles. but does the gravy make the noodles un-crispy, thereby making the frying them beforehand moot?

  2. Those rice noodle sheets are irresistible! This looks like a great with a simple sauce and some tender beef. Great shots, too ;-)

  3. I love the story that goes with this dish :-)

  4. hi wc - i saw your post this morning, did some errand and went to thuan phat to get the ingredients.

    i tried making this today. except i got the wrong noodle sheets. husband threw the package away, so i don't remember what kind it was. it looked the same....

    the marinade didn't seem to be enough, then i realized, i used too much meat, so i made more marinade for the gravy.

    it came out semi-decent. i'll have to use the right noodles next time. and i'll have to separate them more too. in my haste, i didn't read the "2-3 layers thick" part! yikes!

    my husband still ate it!

  5. Lan,
    Haha. I don't know what that says about my dating life. All my stories end sadly.

    The trick is getting the right balance of just enough gravy without making it soggy. And to eat it right away of course. :P

    Thanks! I realized when I was blogging this that the photos are from May of last year, right when I had just gotten the XTi. Don't know why the recipe sat for so long. Also, that the photos weren't half bad for me just getting used to the camera.

    But, it ended badly!

    Which kind of noodle sheets did you get? The beef releases quite a lot of juices on its own, so the gravy will come naturally. Be patient with the frying. It'll take a while for them to crisp up, but if you rush it, then you'll just have soft sauteed noodles.

  6. hi wc - i'll have to email you next time i find out the name of those noodles. i know they weren't the right one, but they looked similar to the ones in your photos.

  7. that looks so yummy! i'm going to have to try this for sure. i cant wait till you come out with your cookbook!

  8. CC,
    You can also make them really thick, like four or five layers. I just made it again this weekend for my sister.

    Haha. Why don't you just start with cooking from the blog? Don't talk about cooking, just do it.

  9. your story touch my heart, I live close to Chicago before and went to many vietnamese restaurants on that street. It bring back sweet and sour memories about the guy who stole my heart and deepfried it

  10. Chemeden,
    Aww. It's OK. He didn't deserve you anyway! I had forgotten I even wrote this until I re-read it to respond to your comment. So see? Eventually we all move on.

  11. I have only dried thick vietnamese rice noodles on hand... would it be any good with that or do you really need fresh noodles? I assume I would skip the frying part and just boil the noodles. Thoughts?
    And btw, looks like a great, simple recipe! Thanks!

  12. Eva,
    You can use the dried kind. You'd have to boil them first and then pan-fry them before stir-frying them if you want the noodles the same crispiness as here. Otherwise, you can just stir-fry them after boiling and draining them if you want soft noodles.


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