Asian noodles are my perfect pick-me-up; a comfort food sure to lift my spirits in dark and gloomy days.
They come in all different shapes, sizes and tastes and can be served in soup, stir-fried with meat and veggies, or deep-fried as a base for many dishes. Here is a guide to help you choose the right one.
Chinese fresh egg noodles, a.k.a. lo mein or chow mein noodles, come in different sizes: some are broad (chow mein), while others are thin like angel hair (lo mein). Use in stir fries, soups and salads. Chow mein noodles are often deep-fried while lo mein is usually stir fried. Substitute dried egg noodles, linguine or angel hair pasta.
Rice noodles range in size from thin vermicelli to broad fettuccine. Thinner varieties are sometimes called rice sticks. They are made with rice flour and water, sometimes with added cornstarch and must be soaked before cooking, unless you deep-fry them. They absorb flavour well. Use in stir-fry dishes and soups. There is no substitute. When used for pad Thai, these noodles absorb even more flavour if they are rinsed, but not soaked, ahead of time. Extra broth is added when stir-frying to soften them in the wok.
Bean thread or glass noodles are part of all Asian cuisines. These healthy noodles are made from the starch of mung beans. They look a bit like steel wool and need to be cut into lengths with scissors. They deep-fry (unsoaked) into crispy, crunchy threads perfect for a base for a dish. Their crispy texture softens when mixed with liquid. They are briefly soaked before being used in stir-fry dishes.
Somen are thin white Japanese-style noodles made with wheat flour and water. Too thin for soup, they star in cold salads. Substitute with cooked angel hair noodles.
Ramen noodles are available fresh, frozen and dried. They contain an alkaline ingredient called kansui that makes them curly. They are cooked briefly in boiling water before being added to broth, where they will continue cooking.
Soba, or Japanese buckwheat noodles, are dark brown, with a distinct taste. They are usually made with a combination of buckwheat and regular flours. Use in soups and salads. They are also good cold. For a tasty salad, use a combination of vegetables and sprinkle with seasoned rice vinegar, sesame oil and soy.
Japanese udon noodles are fat, white, slippery and chewy. They are available dried, fresh or frozen. Made with wheat flour and water, they are used in soups and stir-fries. You can substitute soba or Chinese wheat flour noodles, although the texture is different.
Korean sweet potato or glass noodles are made with sweet potato starch, giving them a lower carb count than most other noodles. Use them in any dish, but their most famous use is as the basis of the famous japchae, a stir-fried dish with vegetables and meat.
On Chinese New Year, Jan. 25 this year, noodles are an integral part of the meal, because they represent longevity. The longer the noodle, the longer the life. You don’t cut through them, just slurp them up.
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