Asian noodles aren’t just for takeout. Quick to cook and incredibly versatile, they come in an array of shapes, sizes and textures and are great to have on hand in your home kitchen. Learn the basics of the most popular varieties below, then get started with our delicious recipes.
Glass-Noodle Salad with Shrimp, Chicken & Mint
Cellophane noodles are also known as bean thread or mung bean noodles, because they are made from plant starches (typically mung bean starch). Yet another name for them is glass noodles, because they have a thin and brittle texture when dried and turn translucent when rehydrated. These noodles readily absorb other flavors, making them popular additions to braises and stir-fries.
1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml.) chicken broth
6 oz. (185 g.) ground chicken
Salt and freshly ground pepper
6 oz. (185 g.) shrimp, peeled with tail segments left intact and deveined
1/4 lb. (125 g.) bean thread noodles, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes and drained
For the dressing:
Juice of 2 limes
3 Tbs. Asian fish sauce
2 tsp. sugar
1 Tbs. roasted chile paste
2 large red Fresno or serrano chiles, seeded and finely chopped
1 green onion, including tender green parts, chopped
3 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbs. finely shredded fresh mint
4 large red-leaf lettuce leaves, torn into pieces
2 Tbs. fried shallot garnish (see note)
In a saucepan, bring the broth to a gentle boil over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook, stirring to break up the meat, until the meat turns opaque and has a crumbled texture, about 3 minutes. Using a wire skimmer, transfer the chicken to a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and let cool.
Raise the heat under the boiling broth to medium-high, add the shrimp and boil until they turn bright orange-pink, about 30 seconds. Drain well and let cool, then add to the bowl with the chicken.
Bring a saucepan three-fourths full of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the noodles and cook until they are translucent, about 1 minute. Pour into a colander and rinse under cold running water. Drain well and transfer to a bowl. Serves 4.
Note: To make the fried shallot garnish, slice 4 shallots into very thin slices, then separate the slices. Pour canola oil to a depth of about 1 inch (2.5 cm.) in a small fry pan, place over medium heat, and heat to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) on a deep-frying thermometer. Add the slices and fry until they turn light golden brown, about 5 minutes. Drain and let cool on paper towels.
Thick, substantial Japanese udon noodles, made from wheat flour, are used as the foundation for soups and other dishes. In this recipe, they are served hot in a mildly flavored broth and are topped with chicken and spinach.
Udon with Chicken and Vegetables
Pale brown in color, square-cut Japanese soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour mixed with a smaller proportion of wheat flour. In this improvisational dish, earthy buckwheat noodles and salty peanuts meet the bright, sweet notes of mango, bell pepper, lemon zest, basil and mint.
Soba Noodles with Bell Pepper and Mango
Popular in Chinese and Southeast Asian cooking, noodles made from rice range in size from thin, wiry dried rice vermicelli to fresh or dried flat noodles. This rendition of the popular Vietnamese grilled steak salad features flank steak marinated in red curry paste, sesame oil and garlic.
Rice Noodle Salad with Grilled Steak
Made from wheat flour and eggs, Chinese noodles are exceptionally versatile. Here, they are cooked in a stir-fry sauce made with spicy ginger and chili, sweet tomato and tamarind, tart lime and salty fish sauce.
Sweet and Sour Noodles