Noodles are one of the most flavor-packed carbohydrate-rich dishes. It is a wholesome meal that hits all the right spots. You can experiment with this versatile product and cook up a delicious masterpiece easily.
Different recipes of noodles call for creating different concoctions of sauces and stir-frys. The smooth texture of this delicious meal gives you immense gratification. Noodle dishes are an essential part of Asian cuisine.
From the Chinese Chow Mein to the Vietnamese Pho to the Korean Ramen, noodles perfectly encapsulate the diverse Asian cultures and their distinct culinary trademarks. Here is a delineation of the different versions of this iconic meal.
Three Main Types of Noodles
Before we go into the different noodle dishes, let’s look at their core ingredients and types. There are mainly three types of Asian noodles: wheat, rice, and glass.
Each type of noodle is served in different ways. They can be either doused in broth or stir-fried with various sauces. There are also deep-fried adaptations. Some are also made to eat cold.
Wheat is one of the most used grains in the world for making noodles. Asian wheat noodles are typically made with a mixture of wheat, flour, and egg. The egg noodles you find in the Asian aisle in the stores are generally wheat noodles.
These noodles are usually made by pulling and stretching the dough. The pressure exerted by the stretching and pulling makes the dough more glutinous. The gluten gives the noodle its chewiness and texture.
Among different wheat noodle dishes, some prefer one over the other. There are also debates about Chow Mein vs. Lo Mein. Whichever you prefer, everyone can agree both of them are very satisfying and filling.
Rice noodles are made from rice starch. They have a distinctive springy texture and are very absorbent. Hence, they go great with various broths and sauces. The starches of this noodle soak up all the different flavors from the proteins and aromatic spices.
Rice noodles are available in stores in mainly two forms, dried and freshly made. However, the dried kind is more accessible. The dried noodles need to be partially boiled or soaked before cooking. Rice noodles come in a variety of widths.
There are thin varieties like the ones used in Vietnamese Pho. The wider ones are used in dishes like Pad Thai.
Glass noodles are also known as cellophane noodles. The name glass and cellophane comes from their transparent appearance. Mung bean noodles are great examples of glass noodles. The mung bean versions are made of tapioca and sweet potato starches.
Their texture is firm and elastic. They are generally served as stir-fries. Deep frying them makes them crispy, and the results resemble crunchy stringy chips. Glass noodles also need to be soaked before cooking. Their cooking time is relatively short after being soaked.
They usually take three to six minutes to cook, depending on the quantity. It is recommended to wash the noodles with cold water after draining. After rinsing, coat the noodles with oil. The rinsing and tossing with oil prevent them from sticking.
Keep in mind that glass noodles absorb the flavors of the liquid they are being cooked in. Hence, if you are not cooking them in a soup, ensure that the noodles are boiled in salted water.
Wheat Noodle Favorites: Lo Mein and Chow Mein
Lo Mein and Chow Mein are the most popular Chinese wheat noodle dishes. Both of them resemble spaghetti but are thicker. They have a firm and bouncy texture. The core ingredients used to make both of these noodles are egg and wheat flour.
Whether it is Lo Mein or Chow Mein, freshly made noodles are better than dried ones. However, they are not as available as their dried counterparts. Fresh noodles are mostly found in large Asian markets. If there are no large Asian grocery stores in your vicinity, your only option is the dried version.
Both dried and fresh forms of these noodles need to be partially boiled for a short time before cooking. It should be noted that fresh noodles take less time to cook. The dried kind needs more time to expand and soften.
After being parboiled, the noodles are then cooked with stir-fried proteins like meat and egg. They can also be stir-fried with vegetables and a delectable sauce.
Alternatively, the noodles can be stir-fried on their own, and then the sauces and vegetables can be added. The noodles have more texture and crunch when they are stir-fried first. Lo Mein noodles are softer than Chow Mein noodles.
Hence, it is better to use fresh noodles when you intend to make Lo Mein. If you cannot find any Asian wheat noodles, you can use Italian spaghetti as alternatives.
Rice Noodle Variety: Pad Thai and Vietnamese Pho
Pad Thai is generally stir-fried rice noodles. They involve making a base of a rich concoction of tamarind, vegetables, fish sauce, and eggs. The scrumptious dish features meat-derived proteins like shrimp, fish, beef, and chicken.
There are many variations of Pad Thai. Moreover, there are vegetarian and vegan options, where animal-derived ingredients are substituted with plant-based ones. For vegan Pad Thai, you can use soy sauce and lentils as substitutes.
Vietnamese Pho is a delicate and humble soup. Besides being nourishing, they are incredibly delicious and very filling. They are generally made from beef bone broth with various fragrant spices incorporated in them.
The balanced harmony of the aromatic spices like ginger, star anise, fennel seeds, and cardamom is phenomenal. The remarkably wholesome and nutritious soup complements the toothsome rice noodles well. Vietnamese Pho is the ideal soupy meal for cozying up in the winters after a long day.
Glass Noodle Classics: Japchae and Pad Woon Sen
Korean japchae is a classic Korean glass noodle dish. The word japchae means mixed vegetables in Korean. It is mostly made during traditional holidays and special events. Traditional Japchae pairs the noodles with strips of beef and various vegetables.
The noodles are made from sweet potato starch. The recipe involves a slightly sweet and savory sauce. It is generally garnished with eggs and chives.
The springy and palatable noodles go pretty well with the proteins from the meat. You can replace the animal-based ingredients with plant-based ones like tofu and make the whole dish vegan.
Thai Pad Woon Sen is another classic Thai noodle dish. The name comes from the Thai iteration of vermicelli. The dish usually incorporates crunchy vegetables and eggs with a tangy sauce. It is generally made by tossing all the ingredients together. This is an easy-to-make meal, perfect for ending the day on a wholesome, comforting note.
The Ultimate Comfort Food
Noodles are the perfect comfort food. Besides the balanced mouth-watering flavors, noodle dishes are incredibly nourishing. Whether you are a struggling university student or a working individual, noodles are for everyone.
They are such comforting foods that they can be called heaven on a plate. Having delicious noodles always uplifts your mood, health, and soul.
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