Get to Know your Noodles
Noodles have appeared in various cultures and cuisines across the globe. Although Asia has probably produced more types and styles of noodles than anyone. Because of that you may get lost in all the options that are out there. So whether you're trying to choose between a salty, savory ramen dish, or a spicy Sichuan dish, or a super healthy Shirataki dish, we'll help you out. And to make things easier, you can click on any of the photographs below to get a recipe for that particular noodle.
Ramen noodles are probably the most widely recognized Asian noodles in America. They are available in both fresh and in package form, and come in an impossibly long list of flavors. The dish is normally a salty, savory meal, with noodles, broth, and possible toppings such as seaweed, corn, sliced pork, green onions, or fish. Ramen has skinny, Chinese styled wheat noodles, with a broth flavored either by a meat or fish base.
Ramen is a highly regionalized dish, with pretty much every corner of Japan offering its own take on the popular food. The ramen of today is not the same as it was in ancient Japan though. The name, ramen, wasn't even in popular use until the 1950's. But the dish's popularity really began to spread around the post war era when cheap flour became readily available in Japan, and when instant ramen was first invented.
By the 1980's Ramen was becoming a global phenomenon, and while fresh ramen may be difficult to find in the United States, especially if you live in a community without a Japanese population, instant ramen is almost impossible not to run into in most stores.
Shirataki noodles can be either dark and opaque, or light and translucent. Also they are sometimes prepared with seaweed for a higher iron content. They are versatile noodles made from the root of the konjac flower in Asia. The noodles come in various textures and styles, allowing them to be used in almost any fashion. They are famous for their diet benefits: a low fat, low calorie, low cholesterol, and high fiber content.
The noodles are pretty tasteless themselves, but they will absorb the flavors of whatever they are prepared with. Because of this they are often seen as a type of 'replacement noodle' where noodles with a higher fat content, such as egg noodles, can be replaced by the zero fat Shirataki noodle.
The noodles will also expand a little in your stomach, making a person feel more full than they really are. Because eating less is one of the best ways to get fit, the noodles have shown to be very effective in shaping diets and waist lines.
Udon noodles are thick, wheat flour noodles and are very popular in Japanese cuisine. They can be either square or round and they puff up when cooked much like Italian noodles, giving them a uniquely soft yet dense texture.
Udon was first introduced to the Japanese by the Buddhist priest Kukai around the 9th century A.D. when he traveled to China and returned with the noodle recipe.
The noodle is typically a low fat, high energy meal, with small amounts of protein, making it a popular on the go treat.
Soba Noodles are long and thin, and are made from buckwheat flour. Buckwheat is actually not wheat at all, and is classified as a pseudo cereal. The noodle dish is very popular in Tokyo, and can be served either in the informal setting of a fast food stand in a train station, or a high class expensive restaurant. Soba can be served either hot or cold. When eaten cold they are usually served alongside Tsuyu, a dashi based dipping sauce often filled with wasabi, sweet soy sauce, and scallions. Many people think eating the noodles cold allows for greater appreciation of the hand made noodle's texture, as eating it in hot soup changes the feel of it.
Soba, when eaten hot, is almost always eaten as a soup. The dashi used to make it is a lot thinner than the Tsuyu used for cold soba. Various meats and vegetables are served in soba, everything from duck, to fish cakes, to a single raw egg.
Soba noodles are noted for being high in energy, antioxidants, various essential nutrients like thiamine and riboflavin, and for containing all 8 types of amino acids necessary for human function. So while most noodles lack the nutrients to sustain a lot of health benefits, soba is able to offer a more complete dietary plan.
Vermicelli Noodles in Asia are very different from the vermicelli noodles consumed in Italian dishes. The Italians make their with wheat, and make thicker noodles, while the Asians usually use rice flour. The noodles in Asia are also known as Rice Sticks, Rice Vermicelli, or Rice Noodles.
These are popular diet noodles, not only due to their fat free, cholesterol free, and low sodium content, but also for their incredible diversity. They can go with almost any meal, whether it's meat, rice, stir-fry, stir fry, pad thai, soup, or salad. Additionally, they have little flavor on their own, and will take on the flavor of whatever they are cooked with.
Egg noodles are very common throughout Asia. They are generally made by blending wheat flour, cornstarch, salt, oil, and of course egg. The added egg offers a more rich and robust flavor, texture, and color. When made fresh, the noodles are made very long to symbolize good luck and longevity in Chinese tradition.
Countless Chinese dishes specifically call for Egg Noodles. The most popular Egg Noodle meal here in America is Chow Mein, which can be found at any Chinese restaurant. Egg noodles are made to cook fast. When done cooking, the noodles become slightly chewy and are dunked in cold water to stop the cooking process, much like what you would do when making caramel.
Ho Fan noodles are a wide and flat Chinese rice noodle similar in taste to the vermicelli noodles found in Pad Thai or Vietnamese Pho. Ho Fan noodles are white in color and are very slippery when cooked, making it difficult to eat them if you aren't skilled with chopsticks.
Using a fork helps A LOT when trying to catch these slick morsels. Their texture is stretchy and a bit chewy. They can normally be found in many Asian dishes such as Thai Pad, Pho noodle soup, and Chinese Chow Fun. Ho Fan Noodles don't have very much taste themselves but much like vermicelli they will absorb the flavor of whatever sauce they are cooked in.
Sichuan noodles, or Szechuan as they're spelled in the states, are named after the providence in China from which they originated, Sichuan. The noodles themselves are not very unique and are similar to udon in their texture, and in that they are a high energy noodle with a good deal of protein. However the taste of the Sichuan noodle is infamously spicy. They are often served with chilies or a spicy peanut sauce to really make the dish hot. The noodles are very versatile and can be worked into most meals, whether it's served alongside meat, vegetables, broth, or rice.
We hope this noodles blog helps to inform you about what noodles might be best for your needs. So whether you're looking for a healthy, low fat shirataki noodle dish, a savory, salty bowl of ramen, or just some good old fashioned Udon noodles.