Comparing Asian Noodles

Noodles are a versatile staple that is an essential part of the culinary and cultural landscape in many countries. This will focus on Asian noodles but let’s discuss some of the continental differences:

Europe:

  • Shape: varies
  • Size: varies
  • Made from: durum wheat flour semolina.

Asia:

  • Shape: uniform
  • Size: varies
  • Made from: local ingredients such as wheat, buckwheat, millet, rice, yam, sweet potato, or mung bean

 

Now let’s look only at Asian noodles.

  • Textures: range from soft to chewy or springy, resistant or even crispy when stir-fried
  • Nutrition: 
    • Primarily composed of carbs
    • Slight differences in vitamin & mineral content depending on ingredients used
    • A dry 2 oz serving has about 200 calories or more
    • Sodium levels vary greatly from very low in noodles with no salt added to more than 1000 mg in dry somen noodles
  • Cooking: 
    • Asian noodles are very versatile and form the foundation on which flavors, textures, and condiments are built into meals
    • To make a healthy & satisfying meal, add meat, fish, chicken or tofu with a healthy dose of vegetables, a sprinkle of nuts & herbs, and finish with a drizzle of flavorful sauce
  • Don’t cut your noodles: In many Asian countries, long noodles symbolize a long, happy life

Soba:

  • Made from: blend of buckwheat & wheat
  • Flavor: slightly earthy, nutty
  • Served: cold in noodle salads or hot in soups
  • Color: depends on the quality of the noodle and varies

Cellophane or Bean-thread:

  • Made from: Mung bean starch or flour & water
  • Served: deep-fried, stir-fried, or softened in boiled water
  • Texture: Thin and slippery
  • Used in: desserts

Shirataki:

  • Made from: Japanese yam-like tuber konjac
  • Size: long & thin or flat
  • Color: translucent
  • Flavor: very little
  • Texture: gelatinous
  • Nutrition: almost no calories & high in fiber
  • Cooking: absorb flavors of foods with which they are cooked

Egg:

  • Made from: wheat flour, eggs, water, and salt
  • Location: found throughout China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan
  • Size: long & thin or thick & flat
  • Uses: chow mein, lo mein, dan dan noodles, dan dan mian

Somen:

  • Made from: wheat flour & water
  • Size: thin
  • Texture: delicate
  • Color: yellow version when made with egg yolk
  • Uses: cold noodle dishes
  • Sold: dried and bundled like sticks

Ramen:

  • Made with: wheat flour, egg, salt, and alkaline agent (makes the thin noodles wavy & springy)
  • Size: thin
  • Uses: favorite of college students on a budget and a mainstay in soups all over the world
  • Sold: most familiar as dried blocks but also available fresh

Dang Myun or Dangmyeon:

  • Background: Korean noodle sometimes referred to as Korean cellophane or glass noodles
  • Made from: white sweet potato starch
  • Size: long and thin, similar to vermicelli
  • Texture: slippery
  • Color: translucent
  • Uses: Korean vegetable noodle dish japchae

Rice Noodles: 

  • Made from: rice flour & water
  • Size: varies from thin & delicate vermicelli to fat, thick ribbons
  • Texture: delicate
  • Color: snow white or light brown
  • Uses: variety of Asian dishes, most are well known for pad thai & Vietnamese pho

Wonton Noodles: 

  • Made from: same dough as wonton
  • Size: thin or thick
  • Color: yellow
  • Uses: soups
  • Sold: often fresh in the refrigerated section of stores

Udon: 

  • Made from: wheat flour, water, salt
  • Size: long & thick, similar to spaghetti
  • Texture: chewy
  • Color: white
  • Uses: Japanese soups, stir-fries, or cold with dipping sauces

Reference: 

Welland, Diane. “Oodles of noodles.” Food & Nutrition. May/June 2016. 30-31.

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