Making Rice Noodles in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam

I was feeling great after visiting Cai Rang Floating Market in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam, so I didn’t really care where we were going next as our boat chugged along the Mekong River. Before long, we pulled up at a seemingly random makeshift jetty and were off walking along an alley, through someone’s little restaurant, out onto the street, under a bridge and along a muddy track before I realised where we were actually going. We were visiting a rice noodle factory.

Following along behind the rest of the group, I found myself staring at a machine full of a milky white liquid, where a shirtless guy was lifting huge blocks of concrete around to stack on top of each other. I have no idea what part of the process the concrete blocks play, but the machine itself was making the mixture for the rice noodles.

Noodle mixture at a rice noodle factory in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam

Making the rice noodle mixture

Next to this, two people were finishing off the rice noodle process, but I’ll go back to this later so that it makes a little more sense.

In the next room, several people were working fully clothed from head to toe despite it being a furnace. This is where they make the rice “sheets” that end up getting turned into the noodles. The process involves two people. One spreads the mixture out on a circular “fry pan” like a crepe, while the other kind of peels it off by wrapping it around a bamboo tool which seems to be made specifically for this process. The process is continuous and runs so smoothly and efficiently that you can tell that these people are quite skilled and practiced at what they do. There seems to be a real knack to it.

Making rice noodles at a rice noodle factory in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam

The lady at the back is spreading the mixture to make the rice sheets

Making rice noodles at a rice noodle factory in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam

They collect the rice sheet by rolling it off with a special utensil. They are then laid out on the bamboo platforms on the right

From here, the sheets are taken outside and spread out on bamboo platforms to dry in the sun. Once they are ready, the sheets feel kind of rubbery, I guess like a giant uncooked noodle.

Rice noodle sheets drying in the sun at a rice noodle factory in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam

The rice sheets are put outside to dry in the sun

This takes me back to the finishing process, where the rubbery sheets are put through a cutting machine by one person and the resulting noodles collected by another. This is another perfectly smooth and continuous process. I would never be able to keep up with it.

Making rice noodles at a rice noodle factory in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam

They grab a sheet from the stack with one hand while the other is putting one through the machine

Cutting noodles at a rice noodle factory in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam

Putting a rice noodle sheet through the cutting machine while the lady below collects them.

Collecting noodles at a rice noodle factory in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam

Collecting the finished noodles

So there you have it. That’s how they make rice noodles in the Mekong Delta. Suddenly I feel like some noodle soup!

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9 comments… add one
  • Jennifer Aug 11, 2013

    Thanks for sharing this. Whilst I was in SE Asia I saw the rice noodles drying and wondered what they actually were as they looked like pancakes…now I know they were rice noodles. lol 🙂
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    • Dean Wickham Aug 19, 2013

      Yes, you wouldn’t know they are noodles because they look nothing like it. I guess it’s probably the same with spaghetti etc 😉

  • Kristy Aug 12, 2013

    We called that noodles “Sotanghon” commonly known as vermicelli noodles.

    • Dean Wickham Aug 19, 2013

      Hi Kristy. They often call them vermicelli noodles in Vietnam as well. Whatever they call them, they are certainly tasty!

  • Marian Aug 12, 2013

    So that’s how they do it. Very interesting. I love Noodle Dishes.. One of my favorite is La Paz Batchoy from the Philippines.

    • Dean Wickham Aug 19, 2013

      I haven’t been to the Philippines but when I do I’ll try to remember the dish! Cheers

  • Christopher May 24, 2014

    Excellent. I’ve always wondered how these are made. It doesn’t look very sanitary, but I’m sure these are the rice noodles made for export. Or maybe they are? Anyway, you cook them. Great post.

    • Dean Wickham Jun 12, 2014

      Hi Christopher. Most noodles are made in factories these days, but this is one of the few places that still makes them the old fashioned way. There is certainly nothing wrong with them. And that’s right, it all goes in boiling water anyway 😉

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