Types of Asian Noodles
There are seemingly an infinite number of noodle varieties in Asia; no surprise given our obsession with the delicious spindly things. Here we’re outlining a few of the common and popular ones available outside of Asia.
Egg Noodles (aka Chinese Yellow noodles): As its names suggests, this variety of noodles is made from eggs and wheat. Influenced by the Chinese population, egg noodles are commonly used in Asian cooking and have become so popular through the generations that large business empires of pre-seasoned noodles and restaurants have been founded upon this one larger than life ingredient. In the West, Asian grocery stores carry a large variety, though the Chinese brands tend to dominate. Any type is fine for Asian home cooking though my personal favorites (that closely resemble those used by my favorite noodle restaurant around Asia) are those that are rather curly and come packaged in small rounds. These dried egg noodles are not to be confused or substituted for the kind typically sold in Western markets as they are a completely different taste, texture and size. Egg noodles come in both dried and fresh form; both are fine but you’ll have to adjust time of cooking since fresh noodles always cook much quicker.
Misoa Noodles (aka Somen, Japanese noodles): Thanks to the Japanese influence in Asian cuisine, Misoa noodles or Somen, are a popular noodle used mostly in soups. Misoa are white, thin noodles boasting a very mild, gentle flavor and soft texture thanks to its stretching during production. When cooking with Misoa, it’s important to remember that these noodles absorb a lot of liquid so maintaining a proportion of the noodles and soup is crucial to the success of the dish. Commonly sold in Asian markets along with other dry noodles and usually near the Soba Buckwheat noodles, it is typically packaged in already portioned bunches.
Cellophane Noodles (aka Mung Bean noodles, Bean Thread noodles, thin glass noodles): Typically made from some type of starch such as mung beans, cassava or potato, mixed with water, these noodles derive their name from the glassy, transparent appearance they hold, particularly after cooking. Popular in Southeast Asia, cellophane noodles are commonly used in soups, spicy salads and as part of the filling for spring rolls. They’re sold dry typically in clear bags that show the pre-bundled noodles. Of all Asian noodles, cellophane noodles is in my top two favorites due to its firm, thin texture and ability to beautifully absorb every bit of flavor infused into it.
Rice Stick Noodles (aka Rice Vermicelli): Rice stick noodles are known in the West by several names such as as thin rice noodles or rice vermicelli. Made from rice, these noodles are a great contrast to the heavier and richer egg noodles. A wide variety of rice noodles are sold in Asian markets and it’s important to purchase the right type. Some brands from China produce rice noodles that appear slightly curly and in my experience, those yield flavorless and rubbery noodles. The ones to look for have a uniform off-white coloring and are typically packaged in large bunches with a smooth, even texture throughout. Do not confuse rice noodles with the clearer mung bean noodles or the larger sized varieties of Vietnamese rice noodles used for Pho.