Noodles have a long history in Asia; they’re sold everywhere there and are the “fast food” equivalent of a hamburger or hot dog in the U.S. There are literally hundreds of ways to make and prepare Asian noodles and most of them are easy to do, filling, and very healthy. They’re made from various flours, including wheat, rice, buckwheat, mung bean, and sweet potato starch, among others. Most Asian noodles in the U.S. are sold dried, but fresh noodles can be acquired where there are large Asian populations. Due to their influence, many “Westerners” are also enjoying these exquisite creations!
A few of the varieties are:
Cellophane Noodles-They’re also called glass or transparent noodles, bean threads or bean thread vermicelli. They’re made from the starch of mung beans, are used a lot in Chinese and Southeast Asia cuisines. They’re very thin, brittle, and are white or transparent. When softened, they look translucent are are slippery, soft, and have a gelatin-like texture. These noodles themselves have very little taste, but they’ll soak up the flavors of what’s added to them. They don’t require cooking; just soak them in hot tap water to cover until softened, just 15 minutes. For hot dishes, drain and start with the recipe. For cold dishes and salads, drain, rinse with cold water, rinse again, drain, and go on to the recipe. Be aware that brands of cellophane noodles may vary on soaking times.
Egg Noodles are widely used in Asia and have many different names: tamago somen–Japan, mien–China, hokkien mie–Malaysia and Singapore, and mee–Thailand and Indonesia. These noodles are available both fresh and dried, thick or thin. To cook these, boil in plenty of salted water until tender, about 4-5 minutes for dried, and 3-4 minutes for fresh.
Sweet Potato Starch Glass Vermicelli-Very similar to cellophane noodles in appearance and texture. And like cellophane, they have little flavor on their own, but are also great at absorbing flavors. Unlike cellophane, they’re somewhat thicker and plump up better, have more substance, and absorb sauce better. To cook these, cover the noodles with boiling water and set aside to soften for 10 minutes. Drain, then rinse with cold water. Rinse again.
Ramen Noodles-These are the crinkly wheat flour noodles that are sold both fresh and dried in just about any U.S. supermarket or grocery store. You can also buy dried packs of these in practically any dollar store (often 5 or more for $1.00). They come with the little packet of seasoning. Many people discard the seasoning pack, which contains MSG, and use their own seasoning, which is probably healthier.
When cooking these, boil the noodles for 2-3 minutes. Actually, they may take a bit longer. Ramen noodles are quite hard, so after 2-3 minutes, try for another 2-3, and then test them. Take out a couple of strands and eat them, because that’s the best way to tell if they’re done to your satisfaction.