Asian Noodles

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The term ‘noodles’ was manufactured in the west, describing foods that are long and stringy. However, in China, a noodle is not called a ‘noodle’, it is called ‘miàn’ or ‘mein’. Miàn is not related to the shape of the food, but the fact it is made from flour in a liquid. Funnily enough in this sense, dumplings and tortellini are both are miàn! The Malaysian word ‘mee’ is derived from the Chinese name.

Asian Noodles

Finding Your Perfect Noodle

Most Asian grocers and supermarkets group noodles by nationality. To make your noodle search a bit easier, think about the origin of the recipe you plan to make, then look for the corresponding country/aisle. Though varieties can look similar, Asian noodles have several important differences. They can be soft, chewy, firm or even have a springy resistance to the teeth! Noodles can be made with rice, sweet potato, mung bean, millet and of course, many types of wheat flour.

Storage

Noodles that are sold dried are completely shelf stable and will last for a long time in your pantry. Store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. However, fresh noodles such as soft rice noodles, should be kept in their original packaging and refrigerated for no longer than a few days or a week. If in doubt, go by the 'use by' or ‘after opening’ instructions on the packet.

Cooking

Here at Otao Kitchen, we always recommend you cook your noodles according to the packet instructions. Each type of noodle requires a different method and amount of cooking time. Unlike pasta where you want the starchy water to create a sauce, Asian noodles often need rinsing after cooking to remove any excess starch. This helps prevent your dish turning out gluggy!

Some Of Our Favourite Noodles

Alkalised Noodles

These noodles are wheat based and contain what looks like egg colouring due to the addition of an agent that raises the pH levels, such as lye water/kansui. The higher alkaline level encourages greater water absorption into the flour and strengthens the flour’s proteins, resulting in a firmer bite when cooked. Higher pH also releases yellow pigments in the flour, so these noodles are often confused with egg noodles. Japanese ramen is one of the most delicious examples of an alkaline wheat noodle that started life in China.

Rice Noodles

Because they don’t have gluten to hold them together, fresh rice noodles are more delicate than wheat ones. They usually only need to be blanched or soaked in hot water before you add them to soups, salads or stir-fries. These noodles are typically a carrier for bolder flavours in a dish and used mostly for their texture. Always remember, fresh rice noodles cook up extremely fast! Rice sticks (dried rice noodles) are elastic and strong. This makes them a good option for stir-frying because they won't break apart.

Rice Vermicelli

These popular thin, dried rice noodles shouldn’t be confused with bean thread noodles which are also sold in little nests and bundles. You can use them in soups, salads and stir-fries, as a base for curries and other saucy dishes. They can also be deep-fried from raw, to use as a crunchy garnish or topping.

Starch-Based Noodles

This family of largely dried noodle is translucent, with a polished sheen that makes them resemble plastic in their raw state. These noodles are made using vegetable starches, not flour (making them gluten free). They’re easy to use but require soaking in hot water to soften them first.  

Bean Thread Noodles

Also called cellophane or glass noodles, bean thread noodles are made from mung beans (also the source of the iconic bean sprout). These extremely fine, tough noodles must be soaked in water until they soften before cooking. They’re used across Asia in an array of dishes, from spring rolls to stir-fries, soups and salads. You might want to cut them after soaking as they’re very long and can be awkward to cook and eat.

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