Asian Noodles: Dish Up Some Exotic Flavor
Just about every eastern Asian culture uses some type of noodle in its cooking and there are almost as many types of Asian noodles as there are Italian pastas. Noodles in eastern Asia are used for soups, salads, stir-fries, and even as a filling for spring rolls. As mentioned earlier, many different flours are used to produce pasta, or noodles, and nowhere is this truer than in Asia. Each different starch base produces its own unique flavor and texture. The Asian noodles that are the most similar to Italian pasta are egg noodles, which are made by mixing wheat flour, eggs and water. Most commonly, Asian noodles are extruded into different shapes and sizes. Egg noodles are available dried and fresh, but are more readily available dried.
About Rice Noodles
Rice noodles are the most used noodle in eastern Asia and can be found everywhere from China to Japan to Thailand. Made with rice flour and water, they are transparent in appearance and somewhat chewy and sticky in texture. Rice noodles are available dried, frozen, and fresh. Dried rice noodles need to be soaked in water for about an hour before using them. Once soaked, they can be tossed directly into stir-fries and soups as is, or they can be boiled until they are cooked to perfection and then used in a number of other preparations.
About Bean Thread Noodles
Bean thread noodles are made from mung bean flour and are used in much the same way as rice noodles. They are also known as cellophane or glass noodles because they are shiny and transparent when they are cooked. If dried cellophane noodles are dropped into very hot oil they puff up dramatically and offer a unique and delicious twist to Asian noodles. Soba, or buckwheat noodles, are extremely popular in Japan and are served chilled with a dipping sauce or chilled broth or in hot soup. Soba noodles have a mild, nutty flavor, are very high in vitamins, nutrients, and protein and offer health benefits that range from reducing fat to lowering cholesterol. It is a tradition in Japan to eat soba noodles on New Year's Eve because they symbolize long life and the year passing. Sweet potato noodles are common in Korea and are characteristically long, slippery and chewy. They are fairly neutral in flavor and porous in texture and tend to take on the flavors added to them.
Recipes for Success
For instructions and inspiration for working with many of these classic Asian noodles, check out the recipes to the right!