Pho rice noodles, also known as Bánh Phở, Pad Thai Noodles, or Rice Sticks, are made from rice flour. Sometimes they are made from a blend of rice and tapioca flour. These flat noodles are sold as dry packaged varieties in many grocery stores. Most pho noodle packages provide instructions on how to soak them, but the method varies. Some instruct you to soak noodles in boiling or cold water. Others suggest you boil dry noodles directly in a pot of water (yikes!). To get a perfect chewy noodle bite, you have to take noodle size, soak time, and its purpose into consideration.
Pho Noodle Size
Pho noodles are flat and come in small, medium, or large sizes. I like using the medium variety to have a perfect amount of noodle bite combined with other ingredients. To prepare noodles for your recipe, always soak them in lukewarm water first (not cold or boiling water). Using cold water will take a long time to rehydrate your noodles, and boiling water will soften the noodles too fast. It will make for a way-too-soft to eat, gloopy noodle mess by the time you have finished cooking with them. To get a perfect, chewy noodle texture, soak noodles in lukewarm water. It rehydrates the noodles to an ideal texture that you can cook with your dish. How can you tell if the noodles have soaked long enough? Refer to the chart below.
|Small Noodles||Medium Noodles||Large Noodles|
|15 minutes||20 to 25 minutes||30 to 40 minutes|
Soaked noodles should look lightly expanded, are no longer transparent, and if you wrap a strand of noodle around your index finger, it should bounce back or uncoil itself. Drain noodles, and they are ready to be cooked.
What is the purpose of your Noodles?
It seems like an odd question, but hear me out. Noodle size affects soaking time but so does the purpose of what you are using the noodles for. Are you stir-frying them? Use less soak time so that when you stir fry, the liquid from other ingredients absorbs into your noodles and will help finish cooking them off. Using them in soup? Use less soak time if you want chewy noodles; soak longer if you wish to have softer noodles.
How to store soaked noodles
If you end up with leftover soaked noodles, you can place two sheets of paper towel inside a plastic zip-top bag (to help absorb moisture) or into an airtight container, place the noodles inside and store them in the refrigerator. Use leftover noodles the next day since wet noodles will continue to soak and get soggy if you leave them for longer than two days.
How to cook and serve noodles for Phở soup
After the noodles are soaked and drained, you are now ready to cook them before serving the Phở soup. Fill 3/4 of a large saucepan or medium pot with water and bring to a rolling boil. Portion out the amount of noodles you want to serve per bowl and place noodles into a large mesh strainer. For this next step, work quickly. Dunk the mesh strainer into the boiling water and use chopsticks or a fork to stir noodles. Cook noodles for 3 to 5 seconds and lift them away from the boiling water. Shake off excess water and transfer noodles to a bowl. Why do this extra step, you might wonder? Pho is served by pouring the hot broth into a bowl rather than cooking the noodles in the pho broth. The noodles need to finish cooking at a rolling boil. Pouring hot broth cannot achieve this. Another reason is that cooked rice noodles are sticky. By portioning them out for each bowl, you will not struggle to separate them for each bowl.
Continue with layering your Phở bowl with other ingredients such as meat, vegetables, and herbs. Repeat this step for the remaining bowls you are serving. Once all the bowls are layered, you can now pour hot broth into your bowl. So how does this make noodles chewy? While you are preparing each serving, the noodles cool down slightly as you are layering each bowl. By the time you pour the broth, the hot soup will warm up noodles again for a perfect noodle texture. The key is not to overcook them in the mesh strainer.
How to cook noodles for stir fry recipes
If you want to retain chewy noodles, you can cook soaked noodles combined with other ingredients in one pan. It will make the noodles more flavourful by absorbing seasoned liquids (in a pad Thai, for example). If you want softer noodles, bring a large pot to a boil, add all of the noodles, boil for 30 seconds, then drain noodles and rinse with cold water. Immediately cook noodles with your recipe to prevent them from sticking.
How to soak and use flat pho rice noodles
- 1 package pho noodles (medium size) soaked for 15 minutes* (see notes)
- Soak noodles with lukewarm water for 15 minutes & drain* (see notes)
- Fill 3/4 of a large saucepan with water and bring to a rolling boil
- Fill a large mesh strainer with noodles and dunk into boiling water for 3 to 5 seconds while stirring with chopsticks or a fork. Shake off excess water and transfer noodles to a bowl. Proceed with the rest of your recipe.
- Soak time varies depending on noodle size. Use the below chart for reference:
Small Noodles Medium Noodles Large Noodles 15 minutes 20 to 25 minutes 30 to 40 minutes
- If noodles are overcooked, you can rinse them under cold water to stop them from continuing to cook. Then proceed with the rest of your recipe.