Oodles of Asian Noodles
From ramen to rice, we’ve covered the basics and collected our favorite noodle recipes
Trivia time! Where does the oldest noodle recipe come from? If you were thinking Italy, we hate to break it to you, but that‘s the wrong answer. It actually comes from China, more than 4000 years ago. However, both Italy and China share an immense love for the toothsome tangles. While Italians are known for spaghetti, linguine, orecchiette, and pappardelle, the different regions of Asia are serving up soba, rice noodles, udon, and ramen.
Both noodle traditions have a lot in common yet there are some big differences: Asian noodles are often made with wheat flour, salt, and water, but it’s also common to find varieties made with rice flour, mung bean starch, or algae. Instead of forming the dough into various shapes, it gets pulled and stretched—giving Asian noodles a more elastic texture than Italian pasta.
But that‘s only one reason why it’s not the best idea to substitute rice noodles for spaghetti in your next bolognese. There are so many traditional and modern Asian noodle recipes to try! From Chinese to Korean, Thai to Japanese, it’s time to dive into the world of ramen, rice noodles, and more! Today, we’ll introduce you to 7 of the most common Asian noodles and show you our favorite recipes so you can get cooking!
Originating from China, rice noodles have spread across the whole continent with traditional rice noodle recipes found in almost all Asian cuisines. They are mainly made from (as the name implies) rice flour, but some of them can also contain tapioca starch or corn starch. This makes rice noodles one of the best gluten-free noodle options.
You can buy them dried or fresh, and they come in different widths. When preparing them (and this actually applies for all of today’s introduced noodles), make sure to stick to the package instructions as they can differ from noodle to noodle depending on thickness, width, and ingredients. Usually, rice noodles are soaked in hot water or boiled. Unlike glass noodles (we’ll get to these later) they keep their pale white color after cooking. Due to their neutral taste, they’re able to absorb all of the flavors you combine them with.
In Indonesia, rice noodles are served as mihun goreng, a variation of bami goreng which uses rice instead or rice noodles. In China, they are most often fried. Try out our recipes for a stir-fry with minced meat.
If you like rice noodle soups, Thai recipes such as this coconut milk-based soup with lots of vegetables or this chicken noodle soup are just the right choice for you!
In Vietnam, rice noodles are divided into bun (thin rice noodles) and pho (wider rice noodles). You’ve probably already enjoyed the latter in the famous rice noodle soup with beef. Check out our recipe, to cook it at home!
You might also know Pad Thai, a quick dish from Thailand with rice noodles, beef, tofu, scallions, eggs, and more. Being prepared in only 20 minutes, it makes a wonderful weeknight dinner!
Although the wheat noodles used for ramen originate in China, they are now mostly associated with Japan where they used to be known as a working class food. Today, this has changed completely and there are more than 20,000 ramen bars just in Japan–not to mention the fact that the whole world loves them!
Ramen is derived from the Chinese lāmiàn which means hand-pulled noodles. They are made from wheat flour, eggs, salt, and kansui, a saline water which gives ramen their characteristic taste and yellowish color. This type of noodle is also quickly prepared and only needs to cook in simmering water for a few minutes.
Served in a flavorful broth with pork or chicken, scallions, egg, soybean sprouts, and the Japanese spice blend shichimi togarashi, ramen are one of Japan‘s most delicious comfort foods. Instead of buying the instant product, why not try cooking our recipe from simple chicken ramen?
Thick udon noodles are made from wheat flour, salt, and water. They also originate in China, but are mainly eaten in Korea and Japan, served in soups or stir-fries.
Udon noodles have a characteristic sticky and chewy texture. You can buy them precooked, dried, or even frozen, and, depending on this, the preapration methods vary. Precooked noodles only need to be soaked in hot water for a few minutes. If you plan to serve them in a soup, you can just add the udon noodles directly to the broth to heat up. Because of their neutral taste, they should be combined with strong flavors that they can absorb very well!
Try udon noodles in this Japanese sukiyaki. Swimming in an intense broth flavored with soy sauce, sake, and mirin, this makes a wonderful dinner with vegetables, tofu, and beef.
Somen are thin, long, and white wheat noodles originating from Japanese cuisine. In contrast to the noodles introduced so far, they are often served cold with some ginger, scallions, and a dipping sauce called tsuyu–making a refreshing noodle dish for summer. Due to their slightly sweet taste, they can also be served as a dessert prepared with coconut milk and fresh fruits.
Cook them in hot, but not boiling, water for a few minutes and make sure to keep stirring so that the noodles don’t stick together.
Soba noodles are also part of Japanese cuisine and are made with buckwheat flour which gives them their typical brownish color and nutty taste. However, some them are also made with additional wheat flour, so make sure to read the package carefully if you’re looking for gluten-free noodles. The very long noodles symbolize a long life which is why soba noodles are often eaten in times of change. A well-known dish called toshikoshi soba is supposed to be eaten as the the last dish of the year, to bring prosperity and good fortune into the next one.
Soba noodles can be served hot in soups, but you’re more likely to find them cold in salads or served with a dipping sauce. Zaru soba is a dish with cold soba noodles and a dipping sauce called mensuyu which is made from soy sauce, kombu, bonito flakes, and mirin.
If you‘d rather eat them warm, enjoy one of our soba recipes with fried vegetables or tossed in a spicy peanut sauce.
Besides soba noodles, there are even more Asian noodles made from buckwheat flour, such as Korean naengmyeon.
The well-known Chinese mie noodles are made from wheat flour, water, and salt. They sometimes also contain eggs and are then called Chinese egg noodles. You can buy them dried in the form of blocks or precooked as instant products.
To prepare them, cook the noodles in simmering water for a few minutes, but be careful to read the package instructions for the exact time. As soon as they are done, you can fry them or add them to soups.
When buying mie noodles, you probably need to chose between lo mein and chow mein. The difference? Lo mein means „tossed noodles“ as they can absorb sauces very well and generally take less time to cook. Chow meins means „fried noodles“ and while they need to cook a bit longer they keep their bite even after frying. Simply buy the one that suits the recipe you want to cook!
Whether you want to eat them with meat or vegetables–here are two of our favorite stir-fry recipes that make a perfect quick lunch or weeknight dinner. You can adjust the ingredients according to your taste and any leftovers you might have in your fridge.
Delicate glass noodles are mostly made from mung bean starch but they can also be made with tapioca or sweet potato starch. The long, thin noddles are often dried and wrapped into smaller bundles–this is how you’ll be likely to find them in supermarkets. Since they‘re so delicate, you only need to soak them in hot water for a few minutes to let them become almost transparent, like glass (hence the name). If you don’t use them directly afterwards, drizzle and toss the glass noodles with some oil so they don’t stick together.
Due to their neutral taste, they absorb other flavors very well. The best-known dish with glass noodles is probably a glass noodle salad, but they also make an excellent choice as a filling for summer rolls and can even be deep-fried .
You’re spoiled for choice: Which glass noodle salad do you want to make first?
Published on February 15, 2019