All you need to know about Asian noodles … our guide
If you’ve visited an Asian grocer you’ll know that there is a whole world of noodles available, with different shapes and textures. And just as there is a huge variety of noodles available there is also an endless range of ways to use them – in stir-fries, salads, soups, spring rolls and more. With this vast array of varieties, it can be confusing knowing which noodle to use. Here’s our guide to some of the most common types of noodles to help you when shopping or dining out.
Asian noodles are broadly divided into three types: wheat noodles, rice noodles, and glass or cellophane noodles. Of these three types, wheat noodles are the broadest category with many fresh and dried varieties of wheat noodles available. Wheat noodles are made with wheat flour and usually egg and are made by pulling and stretching the dough into noodles. Egg noodles are wheat-based and contain egg and an agent that raises the pH levels resulting in a chewier noodle. Below are some of the most popular noodle varieties:
Udon – originating in Japan, these are dense, pale and chewy noodles that are often served hot in soup and stir-fries. They have a neutral flavour and come in a range of sizes and thicknesses. Udon are available fresh in pre-cooked vacuum packs and can also be found dried and frozen.
Ramen – another noodle from Japan, these are made with wheat flour, salt, water and an alkaline agent that makes the noodles wavy and springy. Most commonly found as a dried version that is compressed into a brick shape, instant ramen is immensely popular.
La mian – also known as pulled noodles, these are fresh Chinese noodles make by slapping, stretching and twisting the dough into strands and using the weight of the dough to form noodles. They are chewy and dense with a slightly porous surface that is good for absorbing sauces.
Lo mein – a soft noodle that has a cylindrical shape. Usually found in dried form, they are also available as a fresh noodle. Often serve with stir-fried meat and vegetables and a sauce.
Hokkien – with their deep yellow colour, Hokkien noodles look like thick spaghetti. Very popular in Malaysia and Singapore, they are available fresh and are used in stir-fries and soup.
Soba – made from buckwheat flour, these noodles are thin with a brown-grey colour and a nutty flavour. Their chewy texture makes them a great addition to salads, and they are also popular in soups.
Glass Noodles – ideal for those wanting a gluten-free noodle, these are made with either mung bean, yam or potato starch. They are very thin, almost thread-like and after they are cooked they take on a glassy, near translucent appearance. Glass noodles are popular in rice paper rolls, spring rolls, stir-fries, soups and salads.
Vermicelli – these look and taste very similar to glass noodles, however vermicelli are made from rice flour rather than starch. They are popular in seafood dishes and can also be deep fried.
Rice noodles – mad from rice flour, these are the noodles found in the classic Pad Thai dish. The medium to thick white noodles are soft and chewy when cooked and great in a soup or stir-fry.