Everyone needs a discerningly curated noodle map of their city, and this one focuses on Vietnamese noodle spots in Vancouver.
The modest noodle can be found in almost every cuisine of the world, providing welcome contrast in texture (and flavour) to the sauces, soups, dressings, and gravies they’re in or adorned with. If someone asked me among which foods best rep our city, we’d place a steaming bowl of noodles right in front of them.
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This article will not only give you guys a bunch of lit places to go crush some noodles at but also provide a basic understanding of what you’re eating and what it all means once it hits your lips.
Here are some spots with the most legit Vietnamese noodle games in the city.
Located in the heart of the Vietnamese claim of the Kingsway strip, Mui Ngo Gai’s menu is diverse, serving quintessential regional dishes from Vietnam’s north to south (and back again). The “must tries” below are emblematic of northern Vietnamese phở – the broth is deep and beefy (as it should be), a gentle brown hue in colour, with hints of charred onion, star anise, and Vietnamese cinnamon. This is one of the few places you don’t need to use any condiments or herbage.
Must-tries: #17 Rare Beef and Beef Brisket, #20 Rare Beef and Tendon, #24 Rare beef, brisket, and tripe
Address: 2052 Kingsway, Vancouver
People line up out the door for this place. I’m talking like 10 to 15 people deep waiting stoically out the door during lunch hour. Look at every table once you enter, everyone has the Number 24. It’s a beautiful contrast to the ubiquitous phở we are used to based on beef bone stock. This one uses fish to create a clearer broth with a yellow pigment, slightly larger and rounder noodles that serve up a satisfying chew. Also includes dill studded fish cakes made in-house, citrusy perilla leaves, tomato wedges, water celery, spongy taro stem, and even more dill on top make this one of Vancouver’s best noodle spots ever.
Also, get the #60 Chef’s Special Deep Fried Fish with Peppery Salt. Beautiful pieces of white-fleshed fish (tilapia I believe) are battered in a corn and tapioca starch batter, deep fried and then tossed with green onions, salt and pepper. The batter is chewy and crunchy at the same time. Also FYI, unlike other Vietnamese restaurants this place closes earlier at 8 pm.
Must-tries: #24 Bun Cha Ca (Fishcake Rice Noodle Soup), #60 Chef’s Special Deep Fried Fish with Peppery Salt
Price: $ (cash only)
Address: 5083 Victoria Drive, Vancouver
An East Van staple and reliable spot to hit up for lunch or late night cravings. Tons of options, from the standard beef stock-based noodles, to Cambodian dry and wet noodles, to Bun Cha (grilled pork with rice noodles and herbs). The #54 Chef’s Special Steamed Rice Roll is similar in appearance to the stuffed Cantonese steamed rice rolls filled at dim sum, the Vietnamese rendition house a savoury ground pork create four plump, rice noodle sausages topped with lightly blanched bean sprouts, holy basil, crispy caramelized shallots and Vietnamese ham (chả lụa). Served with a crunchy spring roll and little sauce dish of nước chấm, this is a textural wonderland.
The #75 Beef & Pork with Vermicelli in Hot & Spicy Soup (Hue) or Bún bò Huế in Vietnamese, it’s a classic soup noodle of rice vermicelli (bún) and beef (bò) from the ancient imperial capital of Hue. The strong citrusy aroma of lemongrass highlights the broth, balanced with sour spiciness. The spicy beef broth is home to thicker than usual noodles that provide an unctuous tooth feel along with beef shank, oxtail and blood cake. This rules.
Must-tries: #54 Chef’s Special Steamed Rice Roll, #75 Beef & Pork with Vermicelli in Hot & Spicy Soup (Hue)
Address: 1625 Kingsway, Vancouver
A restaurant explicitly specializing in Northern Vietnamese cuisine, a Vancouver institution and rightly so, get the fundamentals (which are executed impeccably) or branch out and explore what this regional Vietnamese style has to offer.
The #14 Classic Beef Phở is a must-try. The beginnings of phở are found in the country’s north. This is a northern Vietnamese restaurant. Try this dish with their delicious pickled garlic vinegar and chilli in the condiments jar found on each table.
#17 Bún chả Ha Noi is a famous dish originating from the country’s northerly situated capital, Hanoi. This dish is three separate components laid out on a banana leaf – the bun (rice noodles), the veg (bean sprouts, cucumber, cilantro, holy basil), and grilled pork belly in a clear tangy, salty, and sour broth. Bounce back and forth between this elemental and fresh dish – take a bite of the pork belly, then a slice of cucumber, and spoon the sauce over the rice noodles and eat it up with cilantro to give you a kick of herbal freshness.
Must-tries: #14 Classic Beef Phở, #15 Classic Chicken Phở, #17 Bún chả Ha Noi
Address: 2131 E Hastings Street, Vancouver
Address: 2680 W Broadway, Vancouver
Grassroots, local, unpretentious, and respected. Located in the westside neighbourhood of Kits, Chef-owner Tai shows the full breadth of his passion and skillset by offering a comprehensive menu serving beautiful French bistro fare as well as the Vietnamese staples with precision. I want to shy away from using the term “fusion” in describing this restaurant’s menu as he offers both classic Vietnamese and French dishes executed honestly and deliciously. Noodle game is lit here as well (as well as their wine program).
The Pho Bo is made from a broth deep and full thanks to the richness from the beef bones. The cuts and flat rice noodles are elegant and satisfying. Served with their house-made chilli vinegar this dish is iconic. I added bone marrow because I was feeling extra that day and it made it that much better. If you can’t do the basics right, how can you do anything else?
Must-tries: Pho Bo
Address: 2836 W 4th Avenue, Vancouver