Vietnamese Flat Rice Noodles with Beef, or Hu Tieu Ap Chao, is one of my childhood favorites! It strongly resembles Beef Chow Fun with its wide chewy rice noodles, sweet and savory black sauce, and tender bites of beef. This dish is easy, comforting, and delicious!
🥢 What Does Hu Tieu Ap Chao Mean?
"Hủ tiếu"refers to rice noodles. You're probably thinking: like pho? Well, yes!
While both translates to rice noodles, hủ tiếu is more common in Southern Vietnam (Saigon) while phở originated in Northern Vietnam (Hanoi). Hu tieu is usually a pork and seafood noodle dish, while pho is most commonly made with beef. And the type of noodles used in each one differs slightly in thickness and texture, but both are made from rice. And in this particular dish, it can be referred to as Hu Tieu Ap Chao or Pho Ap Chao.
And what does "áp chảo" mean? It translates to sautéed or stir fried with a little oil. So hu tieu ap chao simply means sautéed rice noodles! "Hu tieu xào" has a similar meaning since "xào" translates to fried. Like I said, there are several different names for this dish. I know it can get confusing - even my mom will call it a different name each time. But all that matters is that it's delicious!
So What Is It?
Pho Ap Chao is very similar to the Cantonese dish Beef Chow Fun. Both have flat wide rice noodles, stir fried beef, scallions, and bean sprouts. I suspect this dish traveled down from China to Vietnam since I primarily find it at Chinese-Vietnamese restaurants. For more Vietnamese restaurant favorites, you can also try Chicken Curry (Ca Ri Ga), Chicken Congee (Chao Ga), or Turmeric Fish With Dill (Cha Ca La Vong).
Regardless, my family likes to order Hu Tieu Chao every time we eat out but now we can just make it at home! Luckily, it's incredibly easy with the same smoky, savory, and umami taste. The chewy rice noodles are addicting while bean sprouts, Chinese broccoli, and green onion add crunch and color. The sauce is sweet and salty and just coats your tongue. This recipe is super easy and great for parties and family events!
Why You'll Love It
- Quick: Stir-frying can be intimidating, but the best part is that everything is cooked in a flash due to the high heat. This recipe only takes 45 minutes from start to finish!
- Better than takeout: I love re-creating restaurant favorites at home. Not only is it healthier, but it's also more affordable but every bit as delicious!
- Great for crowds: This Vietnamese flat noodle dish is great as a main or side dish. Serve it family-style for holidays, parties, or potlucks.
- Oyster sauce: A thick, black sauce with oysters as the primary ingredient. It has a rich, sweet, and savory taste while providing a glazed consistency. Lee Kum Kee is my favorite brand - the panda version has more oyster extract while the fishing boat one has more traditional oyster flavor. You can find them in the international aisle of most large supermarkets or at pretty much any Asian grocery store. I get mine from Costco.
- Soy sauce: I recommend using low sodium since we have a lot of flavorings in the sauce.
- Dark soy sauce: Thicker, sweeter, and darker than the "regular" or light soy sauce. It adds more dimension and is the primary coloring for the sauce and noodles.
- White sugar: To balance the saltiness of the sauce.
- Sriracha: Just a little to add pepperiness. It doesn't make this dish spicy at all but you can leave it out or add more based on your spice preference.
- Beef: Since we're stir frying, make sure to use a tender cut of beef. I recommend flank, skirt, or flap steak. Make sure to prepare and cut it properly for maximum tenderness.
- Baking soda: The alkalinity helps tenderize the beef.
- Garlic powder: To flavor the beef marinade.
- Onion, bean sprouts, and green onion: Traditional veggies in Pho Ap Chao.
- Chinese broccoli (gai lan): It has hardy stems and leafy greens. You can find different levels of maturity but make sure to get ones that are bright green with slender stems. They're widely available at Asian grocery stores.
- Rice noodles: Look for the widest rice noodles available. I prefer refrigerated noodles, but dried or fresh ones will work too. I usually get rice paper sheets and cut them into 1½" strips since we prefer ultra-wide noodles. You'll have to visit an Asian grocery store for these and each store will have varying options. The noodles can be labeled as chow fun, hor fun, hu tieu, pad thai, or banh pho.
- Cooking oil: Avocado oil is my favorite oil to cook, fry, and sauté with because of its high smoke point (500°F) and neutral flavor.
Substitutions & Variations
- If you don't have dark soy sauce, you can replace it with more light soy sauce. But your dish won't be as dark or rich in flavor so adjust accordingly.
- If using dried fat rice noodles, make sure to boil them in salted water first. Then drain and quickly pass through an ice bath.
- Chinese broccoli, or gai lan, isn't always in the Vietnamese version of chow fun, but I like adding in veggies when I can. Feel free to leave it out or replace with broccolini.
🔪 How To Make Pho Ap Chao
⬇️ Please scroll down to the recipe card to see full ingredient amounts and instructions.
STEP ONE: First, make the sauce and marinade for Pho Ap Chao. In a small bowl, add the oyster sauce, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, pepper, and Sriracha, if using. Whisk to combine.
STEP TWO: Marinade the beef. Add the sliced steak, baking soda, garlic powder, and about 1½ tablespoon of the sauce to a bowl. Mix it all together and let sit while you prep the remaining ingredients. You can marinade it for up to 6 hours - cover and let sit in the fridge if you're going to marinade for more than 2 hours. Then let the beef come to room temperature before you start cooking.
STEP THREE: Heat some oil in a large skillet or wok. Add the beef and let sit for about 1 minute, then flip and cook another minute. It's ok if some areas are still pink as the residual heat will continue to cook it. Then transfer to a plate and set aside. Clean out the pan or wok (or else the sauce will burn).
STEP FOUR: In the clean pan, heat some more oil. Add the onion and gai lan, sautéing for a couple minutes until the edge of the onion starts to get translucent and the broccoli becomes bright green.
STEP FIVE: Add some more oil if the pan looks dry. Moving quickly, add the flat rice noodles and half of the sauce. Toss the pan until the noodles start to soften and get a little translucent.
STEP SIX: Then add the bean sprouts, dark green segments of the green onion, and the remainder of the sauce. Continue to gently mix and toss until all cooked together, about 1-2 minutes.
STEP SEVEN: Finally, add the beef (and any juices) back to the pan and mix. Turn off the heat, season to taste, and let sit 1-2 minutes so the residual heat will warm up the beef. Serve immediately.
💭 Top Tips
- Make sure to use the right cut of beef. My parents most often use filet mignon or ribeye in stir fries because it's the most tender, but that can get pricey. So I usually go for skirt, flap, hanger, or flank steak - whatever's cheapest.
- To slice the beef easier, par-freeze it for about 20-30 minutes first. It should be firm and barely frozen, but easy to slice since it's less squishy.
- If using refrigerated wide noodles, they can sometimes be stiff and difficult to separate. Place them on a plate and cover with a wet paper towel. Microwave in 20 second intervals until warm, soft, and loose.
- Be gentle with the pho noodles while it's cooking to prevent breakage. Use a flat spatula to flip the noodles and flick the wok to toss the components inside. Also make sure to use a decent amount of oil so they don't stick to the bottom of the pan. But don't worry too much if the noodles do break since it won't affect the taste.
🥡 Storing & Freezing
Storing: To store leftover Vietnamese stir fried noodles, let cool to room temperature. Then transfer to an air-tight container and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Freezing: You can freeze cooked hu tieu but the noodles won't be as chewy after it's been thawed. Separate into individual portions and place into zip-top bags with as much air squeeze out as possible. Freeze for 3 months.
Reheating: Microwave in 1 minute intervals until heated through, stirring halfway. You can also warm it up in a pan over medium heat for a few minutes. Add more time if reheating from frozen.
📖 Recipe FAQs
First, use a tender cut of beef that can be cooked quickly. Second, marinate it to infuse as much flavor as much as possible. And third, include baking soda in the marinade so it can start breaking down the proteins for a more tender bite.
For fresh noodles, no you do not need to. If using dried noodles, you must cook them in salted boiling water first. And if you have refrigerated noodles, you may not need to boil them but if they're stiff, I recommend microwaving them in short intervals to soften them first.
Add a good amount of oil to the wok or pan before adding the noodles. Don't handle or stir the noodles too much when they're cooking. Instead, toss the pan and use a wide spatula to gently flip the noodles. Also, make sure to not overcook dried noodles and pass them through an ice bath to remove excess starch.
You'll have to visit an Asian supermarket to find fresh or refrigerated noodles. I've visited several markets and the selections are always different. Look for big bags of thin rice noodles (pho) in the fridge and the flat wide ones should be nearby. The fresh noodles are usually not refrigerated and are on wire shelves near the front. You could also buy dried noodles online - A Taste of Thai or Three Ladies brands are available on Amazon.
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Vietnamese Flat Rice Noodles with Beef (Hu Tieu Ap Chao)
- 2½ tablespoon oyster sauce
- 2 tablespoon soy sauce I recommend low-sodium
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 2 teaspoon white granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon Sriracha (optional)
- ½ lb thinly sliced beef I recommend skirt, flap, flank, or ribeye steak
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ onion thinly sliced; about ⅔ cup
- 4-5 stems Chinese broccoli (gai lan) cut into 1" pieces with thick stems halved
- 1 lb rice noodles peeled apart (see notes)
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 3-4 green onion dark green parts cut into 1" pieces and white part thinly sliced for garnish
- Cooking oil I use avocado oil
- Salt to taste
- In a small bowl, whisk together oyster sauce, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, pepper, and Sriracha.
- In another bowl, combine beef, baking soda, garlic powder, and 1½ tablespoon of the sauce. Mix well and let marinade for 15-20 minutes.
- Pour 1 tablespoon oil to a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add beef and cook for 1-2 minutes until seared but still a little pink. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Clean the wok or skillet.
- Heat another 1 tablespoon oil in the wok or skillet over high heat. Add onion and Chinese broccoli with a pinch of salt. Sauté for 1-2 minutes or until onion starts get to get charred at the ends and broccoli turns bright green.
- Add another 1 tablespoon oil, followed by the rice noodles with half of the sauce. Gently toss the noodles until soft, 1-2 minutes.
- Add the bean sprouts, dark green onion segments, and the remainder of the sauce. Mix well until everything is tender and cooked, about another 1-2 minutes.
- Stir in beef and turn off heat. Let residual heat warm up the beef and season to taste. Garnish with green onion. Serve hot.
- Serving size ranges from 4-8.
- Rice noodles: You can use dried, refrigerated, or fresh rice noodles. Look for extra wide noodles - they can be labeled as chow fun, hor fun, hu tieu, pad thai, or banh pho.
- If using dried, boil them first in salted water until al dente and then rinse with cold water.
- If the refrigerated noodles are too cold and stiff to peel apart, cover them with a wet paper towel and microwave in 20 second intervals until soft and loosened.