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Rice vermicelli (Recipe: faux pho)


NEW-DULL-HALL-IZZUM (noun): an addiction to the consumption of noodles, or the compulsive behavior resulting from noodle dependency (with apologies to dictionaries everywhere).

You won't find case studies about it in any medical journal, and you won't find the cure in the Physician's Desk Reference, but believe me when I tell you that noodleholism is a real problem.

I should know. I'm a noodle-holic.

Noodles are my Achilles' heel, my Lay's potato chips. I cannot pass them by. I cannot eat just one. Egg, wheat, buckwheat, rice, long, square, fresh, dried -- I love them all, and I keep every imaginable shape, size, and type of noodle in my pantry.

Rice vermicelli are among my favorite noodles (though, really, a noodle-holic doesn't play favorites). They're also called rice sticks and, in Sri Lanka, string hoppers. Despite its cross-cultural name, rice vermicelli is not Italian pasta; China and Thailand produce most of the rice noodles available at my Asian grocery store.

The best rice noodles have only two ingredients: rice or rice flour, and water. Rice vermicelli are thin, almost translucent noodles that are similar in look and consistency to cellophane noodles, with which they are often confused. Rice vermicelli are made from rice; cellophane noodles are made from bean starch. Essentially tasteless, rice "verm", as we call it at home, absorbs all of the flavors surrounding it.

Before cooking, soak rice vermicelli in warm (not hot) water for 15-20 minutes, until the noodles are completely pliable. Then cook in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water, and you're ready for chicken noodle soup, Singapore curry noodles, fried mee hoon, fresh salad rolls (nime chow), lemongrass chicken, and less traditional chipotle egg rolls. Store opened packages in the pantry in a ziploc plastic bag, almost indefinitely.

Faux pho

Do you have homemade turkey stock from your Thanksgiving turkey? Now's the time to use it. Serves 2 generously; can be multiplied.


1 quart homemade turkey or chicken stock, or store-bought no-sodium broth
Soy sauce, to taste
2 slices fresh ginger root, peeled
1 star anise
1 2-inch piece cinnamon stick
2 scallions, cut into two-inch lengths
Black pepper, to taste
6 oz rice vermicelli
6 oz flank steak
1/2 tsp fish sauce (I use this brand)
Several sprigs of fresh spearmint
Several springs of Thai basil
2 cups fresh mung bean sprouts
Lime wedges
Sambal oelek or chili paste with garlic


Combine first 7 ingredients in a sauce pan, and simmer for 30 minutes.

While the soup is cooking, soak the noodles in warm water for 15-20 minutes. Put the flank steak in the freezer for 15 minutes, then remove and slice as thin as possible. Strain the soup, to remove the ginger, spices and scallions, and return the broth to the pot. Bring to a boil, and add the noodles. Cook for two minutes. Add the fish sauce and flank steak, stir, and turn off the heat. Distribute into serving bowls, and serve with a large platter of herbs, bean sprouts, lime wedges and sambal oelek, to be added to the soup according to the taste and whim of each diner.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Bun gao (noodle salad with chicken)
Nime chow
Pad Thai
Salmon and Asian pesto potstickers

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Do I need to go into noodle-holism rehab.? I love love all forms of noodles. Noodles are so versatile.

In some countries, rice sticks are also known as bee hoon or bihon.

complete noodle holic too. I just wish we had noodle bars in Madrid. but no, so I make all my noodle soups at home, and very good they are, too. this sounds like a winner

I could easily join this support group. I've been in recovery for years, and recently fell off the noodle wagon once again. I've never tried rice vermicelli, so there's one more noodle to tempt me ...

Another noodleholic here,and no rehab for me. I'm unrepentant.

I like the way you've taken the turkey soup in an asian direction. Seems much livelier than the usual turkey soup.

I use these noodles for Vietnamese Spring Rolls. Guess I'll have to try them in some noodle soup now.

faux pho is one of my favorite things to make when I'm feeling sick and tired. I've never thought of flavoring it with cinnamon before... that's a good idea. Thanks Lydia!

Pho is one of my most favorite foods ever, it brings back so many memories of slurping up lots of rice noodles w/ all the condiments. Thanx thanks for faux pho!

oh faux pho is the way ti go. we make it all the time. your recipe sounds delicious. thanks for the inspiration!

Tigerfish, Lobstersquad, TW, Julie: I think we have the start of a beautiful support group!

Kathy, these are the same noodles I use for summer rolls. They are also delicious when cooked.

Ann, I know that the ginger helps restore health. I feel the same way about cinnamon, though I don't know if there's any science behind it. I just know that it adds a bit of depth to the soup.

Callipygia, my favorite pho experience was eating it for breakfast at a street stall in Ho Chi Minh City, on our first morning in Vietnam. It tasted so wonderful -- maybe it was the squatting on tiny stools, or maybe it was all the cyclos buzzing by...but eating pho in its proper "place" was magical.

Link, thanks for sharing your recipe!

Aria, I'll bet everyone's faux pho is slightly different, isn't it?

Thanks for the education, Lydia. I've never had Faux Pho. Is that pronounced Foh Foh?

Noodleholic! I need a 12 Step program for that! Great post, now I know what to call myself as I stand transfixed in front of the pasta section.

Mimi, I guess it should be fuh fuh, or foh fuh, or fi fie fo fum.....

Sher, I'll put you on the roster for the noodle support group!

Oh I love pasta to in any form - but something about the Asian variety that makes me crave for more

We crave alike, Lydia. I made some pho yesterday. I didn't have rice noodles on hand so used thin Japanese wheat noodles instead. Thanks for the noodle tips.

Meeta, for me it's the saltiness in Asian noodle dishes (soy, fish sauce, oyster sauce) that triggers my craving, along with the noodles themselves, of course. I'm an Asian condiment-o-holic, too!

Brys, you too will be most welcome to join my Noodleholics Anonymous group.

Hehe Lydia...I think I know someone with noodlism - my college roommate is addicted to noodles. And I think I catch it from time to time :)

Too funny! Yes, I must confess to noodlism. Once I start, there's no turning back.
And it is incredible how good, noodles of any kind and a good broth can be!

I always have a bag of these in my pantry. They're so versatile.

totally agree with you, noodlaholic (oh I love this name) doesn't play favorite! Although everytime when I come cooking rice noodle, I tend to load it up with spicy seasoning. Your Faux Pho recipe makes me cry for some now :)

I too am a noodle-aholic. Did you see last month's issue of Saveur? They had a feature article about noodles in Asia with recpies for making all those noodles from scratch. Oooh! If only I can carve out the time to try them out. :)

You were mentioned in Womans Day? Wow. How much do you rock?

Hillary, at last, evidence that noodleholism is contagious!

MyKitchen, shall I add your name to the list for the support group? Yes, noodles in broth are so comforting. When I was little, my mother used to make chicken noodle soup from a can. It was salty, but I loved it.

Susan, I agree. I love them hot or cold.

Gattina, you too can join our support group! I love making these noodles with lots of chili paste. They really absorb the spicy sauce.

Ari, thanks. I did see Saveur -- but I doubt I'll ever make noodles from scratch, especially when I have access to wonderful Asian markets. I remember seeing a noodle maker on a travel documentary once, and watching him pull and stretch and twist and repeat, until he had a thousand strands of noodles. It was the most amazing thing.

This was so much vital info to someone like me who does not eat too many noodles,not a great variety in my grocery here. Will look for these. I love this new word"noodle-holic", just too funny!

faux pho! I love your play with words, Lydia.

Jann, I'm always happy to send noodles to a fellow noodleholic! Send an email if you'd like some.

N, thanks!

Hey Lydia, it's me...Lori...from the roasted tomato blog (all of the roasted tomato 'addicts'!).
I couldn't find anything, for what I needed. I have subscribed to your blog, and wanted to send my sister an invitation to your site (or, to join). Can you help me?
Thanks so much!

Lori, welcome back. I'm so glad you're having fun here in the Pantry. Unfortunately there's no way anyone other than the subscriber can sign up; the confirmation process ensures that only people who want to get email updates will get them. Please email to me to continue this conversation: lydia AT ninecooks DOT com. Thanks.

If loving Noodles is wrong, I don't wanna be right!!

Question: Is there some reason I can't cook Rice Verm in chicken broth, add a little sesame chili oil & slurp away? Why do people always say to cook the noodles in water, then add to broth? Am I missing something?

Julia, the reason is that a lot of starch will leach out into the water, and if you cook directly in your soup broth, you'll have all of that starch in the soup. Which isn't terrible, by the way, but the taste will be cleaner if you add the cooked noodles to the broth.

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