Types Of Asian Noodles

Asian noodles come in many different varieties. However, they can be broken into a few different categories. Here are descriptions and tips about each.

Noodles are a very important part of Asian cooking. They are a staple ingredient in many recipes and a lot of signature Asian dishes involve noodles. However, it can often be confusing trying to find the right kind of noodles. There is more variety between the types of Asian pasta than Italian pasta so it is not the same to simply substitute another kind of noodle. To make things even more confusing there are many different names for the same types of noodles. Often if you are shopping for these ingredients in an Asian grocery you will not be able to tell from the package what kind of noodles are inside so it is important to know what the noodles look like.

Although people often recommend substituting Italian pastas for Asian noodles in recipes it really isn't the same. Asian noodles vary from their counterparts quite a bit. For instance, many recipes say to substitute linguine for rice noodles but they really aren't comparable. Rice noodles are also known as rice sticks or vermicelli. They are white in color and the texture is a lot like rice. The classic Asian dish, Pad Thai, usually uses rice noodles. There are also many Vietnamese dishes that consist of rice noodles topped with meat and served with a light sauce. Rice noodles are sold dry and come in different thicknesses. The very thin variety are usually used in soups and salads. Since rice noodles are precooked they don't need to be boiled. It is best to simply soak rice noodles for 15-20 minutes and then rinse off the starch before adding them to any dish or soup.

Perhaps the best known noodles are Ramen noodles. They have made a big hit with instant soups but Ramen noodles are not just for soup. You can recognize Ramen noodles easily because they are very curly, long noodles that are dried into a rectangular brick. These noodles boil for 3 minutes and then are ready to serve. They are excellent in soup but can also be added to a wok with sauce, chopped vegetables and meat to make any variety of stir fry dishes.

The most distinctive Asian noodles are cellophane noodles also referred to as bean threads. They are made from mung-bean (bean sprout) starch. Cellophane noodles are very thin, string-like noodles that become almost transparent when cooked. For this reason they are also known as glass noodles or vermicelli noodles. Cellophane noodles are usually stir fried with other ingredients because they do not have much flavor. They are great for picking up the taste of other ingredients and their unique slippery texture adds an exotic element to any Asian dish. This type of noodle also needs to be soaked for about 20 minutes before cooking. You can tell the noodles are done when they become completely clear.

Chinese egg noodles (or E-fu noodles) are probably the most similar to American noodles. They are made from a mix of eggs and wheat. These noodles come in all kinds of shapes and sizes but they are usually a light yellow color. They are sold fresh or dried. Often they are fried and sold in bundles. Then they have to be boiled for a few seconds before adding them to any dish. These are also the same noodles used to make egg rolls and wontons.

Japanese noodles come in three primary types but they can all be served cold with a dipping sauce or in broth. The first kind, Soba noodles, are made of buckwheat and have a distinctive brown color. These noodles are much more hearty and substantial than other Asian noodles. Soba noodles need to be boiled but the cooking time varies depending on the thickness of the noodles. When the noodles are first added to water they must be stirred to prevent clumping. Another Japanese noodle is somen. These are made of wheat flour and oil. They tend to be very thin and delicate. Somen noodles are usually sold dried and bundled together with a band. The third kind are Udon noodles. They are also made of wheat but tend to be thick and chewy in texture. This wide noodle looks a lot like fettuccine and is often used in Lo Mein and Chow Mein recipes.

There are many more sub-divisions of Asian noodles and lots of different names for them but this listing is a good general guide. Although you may not be able to find all these types of noodles in your grocery store Asian noodles are becoming more popular. Of course any Asian market is a good place to find out about noodles. However, probably the best way to learn about Asian noodles is to go out and eat them!

© High Speed Ventures 2011