Know Your Noodles
There aren’t many foods that are more versatile or are more valued in Asian cuisine than the noodle. Ranging from thin and earthy soba noodles to fat and tender udon noodles, there’s a type for every dish and palate. Here’s a breakdown of the most common noodles used in dishes across Asia.
Cellophane noodles: Also known as glass noodles, these translucent noodles are made of mung bean starch and come in various thicknesses, so they can be used in everything from soups, to salads, to spring rolls. They are one of the more fragile noodles, however, and are simply cooked through soaking in hot water—no boiling necessary.
Ramen: The godfather of Asian noodles, ramen reigns supreme. No longer just seen as a cheap, dorm-food staple in the United States, ramen has become a much-revered noodle soup dish with varying broths, flavor bases, and toppings. Though it originated in China, ramen became very prevalent in Japan thanks to postwar American wheat imports and the affordability of the soup, and it is becoming increasingly popular around the globe.
Rice noodles: Most common in Southeast Asia, these opaque noodles can be thin and threadlike or thick and flat. Since they are made from rice flour, they have a softer texture and a mild flavor, so they are most often seen in stir-fries with meat, herbs, and nuts (think pad thai).
Soba noodles: These thin, chewy, earthy Japanese noodles are made from buckwheat or a blend of buckwheat and wheat flour, giving them a distinctive brown color and a subtle nutty flavor. They are typically served cold or at room temperature in noodle salads or with a chilled dipping sauce.
Udon noodles: A pale noodle made from wheat, udon is thicker than most other Japanese noodles, making it more dense and chewy in texture. Since the fat noodles can stand up to more complex sauces, they are often served with rich soups as well as stews and stir-fries featuring meat or other hearty ingredients.