There are so many different types of Asian noodles out there – which is great news if you’re as much of a noodle-lover as me! But with great variety can often come great confusion. Which noodles are the right type for salads? And which noodle is best for stir-frying? What about noodle soups? To get you cooking with confidence, here are some quick tips about my favourite kinds of popular Asian noodles, how to prepare them and what dishes they work best in. And, for all you die-hard fans out there, you can even try and make homemade Chinese noodles or make your own rice noodles from scratch!
Prefer your info in video form? Then watch my handy guide to noodles here!
There are an eye-watering amount of types of noodles out in the ether. Here, I’ll concentrate on the main types of noodles it helps to be familiar with, such as egg noodles (common in Chinese cuisine), rice noodles (often used in Vietnamese cuisine and Thai cuisine), and wheat and buckwheat noodles, like ramen, udon and soba noodles, which are popular in Japanese cuisine.
If you’re gluten intolerent, you can still enjoy noodle recipes. Rice noodles are typically gluten free since they’re made with rice flour and not wheat flour. Always check the packaging to make sure things are suitable for you.
When cooked, these turn beautifully translucent and take on heaps of flavour. Don’t be tempted to boil them: just pop in some warm water for five minutes and they’re ready. Try them in pad woonsen, glass noodle salad or my ‘Ants climbing a tree’ noodles.
Perfect in pad Thai, the secret to avoiding rice stick noodles going all gluggy and clumping together is to soak them in room-temperature water to soften them BEFORE you cook them. Prepped this way, they’re nice and strong when cooked, so great for stir-fries and soups.
A skinnier version of the rice stick noodles, rice vermicelli are great in salads. Soak them in some just-boiled water for a couple of minutes then, if you’re using them cold, rinse them until they’re cool to the touch to stop them cooking further. I also like to use them hot in Singapore noodles and in my One-pan Filipino ‘pancit bihon’ noodles.
Both these varieties are thick and chewy noodles that hail from Japan, and are usually bought pre-cooked in vacuum-sealed packs. You just need to refresh them before cooking by dropping them in boiling water for just under a minute. They don’t need long so keep a close eye on them – no getting lost in your Instagram feed and forgetting about them!
Hokkien noodles are a variety of egg noodle I like to use, and they’re really popular in Malaysian and Singaporean cuisines. They usually come vacuum-sealed (or you can pick them up fresh from an Asian grocer) too, so a quick refresh is all it takes. Delicious and bouncy, they’re ideal in stir-fries like Hokkien Mee or my Special Hokkien Noodles.
Head to your Asian grocer for these bouncy beauts – they’ll be in the fridges and are well worth seeking out. They don’t need a long cook at ALL. Simply add to some boiling water and cook for about 2 minutes – you still want them to have some bite to them as many dishes typically finish them off in a hot wok. It can help to cut them into more manageable lengths (don’t tell my Asian ancestors!), then using a pair of tongs to ‘shake’ them in the water as they cook. This will help separate the noodle strands.
Soft, flat and pliable, these wide white noodles are used in the famous Thai stir-fry, Pad See Ew. You can pick these up in your local Asian grocer, but if you’re feeling adventurous, why not make your own? My recipe for homemade rice noodles is actually way easier than you might think, so don’t be shy – give it a go! If you buy store-bought, just give them a super-quick refresh before you start stir-frying so that they separate.
And there you have it: a super-simple, quick guide to some of the most popular noodle types. Enjoy!
Noodle dishes are super popular all throughout Asia, but the way each cuisine uses noodles is unique to that area. For example, Japan is well known for ramen, Vietnam is known for its pho (which uses dried rice stick noodles) and China is particularly known for its spicy Dan Dan Noodles, which use Chinese thin wheat noodles. Thailand is another country known for its noodle dishes, in particular Pad Thai, which uses dried rice noodles. There is no one ‘most popular’ noodle dish – they’re all just too good!
Japanese cuisine has three main types of noodles that are super popular in a number of Japanese dishes. There are udon noodles, thick wheat noodles, ramen noodles, also wheat noodles and finally soba noodles, which are thin, straight noodles made of buckwheat.