Oodles of Noodles!
— This article appeared in the November, 2016 Bamboo Telegraph, Singapore
How many Asian noodle varieties can you name? The number of noodle variations can be overwhelming.
Asian noodles may look similar to Italian noodles, but they are quite different. Asian noodles are made from a variety of ingredients such as yam, potato, arrowroot, mung bean, rice and wheat. Italian noodles are made from durum wheat. Asian noodles vary in texture and taste. Some Asian noodles are best used in stir fry, while some are more suited for soups. Italian noodles can not be substituted for Asian noodles.
Singapore offers a variety of delicious noodles. You will find both fresh and dried; look for fresh noodles in the refrigerator section, usually near the tofu. Try some of these varieties:
Cellophane noodles (also called glass, mung bean, bean threads): these noodles are made from a starch such as mung bean, yam or yucca. This noodle will “pouf” in seconds when placed in hot oil. Cellophane noodles are also good to use in spring rolls, salads, hot pots. They cook very quickly; simply pour hot water over the dried noodles and let set for about 3 minutes.
Rice noodles: (also called rice vermicelli, bee hoon, mee hoon and rice sticks): These noodles are made from rice. They are different from cellophane noodles, even though they look similar. These noodles are used in pad Thai, Vietnamese pho, soups and stir frys. These are popular in Singapore as spicy sauces adhere well. Rice noodles cook quickly; pour hot water over dried noodles and let set about 5 minutes. If you are using them in a stir fry, make sure to remove them a little earlier. Try different varieties including fresh, dried, thin and thick widths, and brown and white rice.
Soba noodles: Used primarily in Japanese cuisine, these noodles are made from buckwheat. Their flavour is a combination of chewy, nutty and earthy. They are best served cold and dipped in soy sauce, or served in soups and hot pots. The key to eating these noodles is to “slurp”! They are found both fresh and dried.
Lamein noodles – This name refers to hand pulled noodles, also called longevity noodles. They are made from flour and water. Perfect pulled noodles consist of the proper kneading, pulling, twisting and slapping on a flat surface. For a special treat visit the noodle shop in the Orchard Hotel (422 Orchard Road, 238879). If you select a dish with hand pulled noodles, you will be able to watch the chef make fresh noodles for your order!
Hong Kong Yee fu (yi mein, Cantonese): these are flat noodles made from flour and egg.
They are chewy and spongy and are best served in stir frys, salads. They are a versatile and easy noodle to work with as they retain their shape and tend to not stick together. Boil first, then stir fry or use in salads or soups. If you plan to prepare noodles before you will use them, coat lightly with sesame oil.
Have fun experimenting with different types of noodles. Make sure you try fresh noodles; I promise you will be forever spoiled!