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Foods

Noodles, Asian

Why Eat It
Varieties
Storage
Preparation
Nutrition Chart


Why Eat It

Like Western pasta, the noodles that are an integral part of Asian cuisines are used in a multitude of ways: served either as an accompaniment to meat and vegetable dishes, or, on their own, hot or cold, with toppings or dipping sauces; added to soups or salads; made into dumplings and pancakes; and prepared as stuffings. Whereas the majority of Western noodles are made from wheat, the most popular Asian noodles are prepared from a variety of flours. Since many Asian noodles do not include semolina, farina, durum flour, or eggs, they don't conform to U.S. government standards for pasta or noodles and so may be called "alimentary paste" or "imitation noodles." The FDA has begun to allow Asian noodle manufacturers to label their product "Asian noodles." The basic noodle types are listed below, according to their major ingredients. Because of language differences and the many dialects in each language, there are numerous names for each type of noodle.

Varieties

Bean thread noodles: Made from mung bean flour, these semitranslucent noodles turn clear when cooked, and often are called cellophane noodles or glass noodles. They can be quickly stir-fried or braised with other ingredients. The noodles are nearly pure starch, containing almost no protein, vitamins, or minerals (other than iron).

Buckwheat noodles: These flat, gray noodles, known in Japan as soba, are made from buckwheat and wheat flour, or just buckwheat flour. They are rich in protein. They may be served hot (usually in a broth) or chilled, accompanied by a dipping sauce. In Japan, soba are eaten for lunch or as a snack, and are essential to a traditional dish prepared at New Year's.

Egg noodles: Like their American counterparts, Asian egg noodles are made with wheat and are available fresh and dried. These versatile noodles are added to soups, boiled and topped with meat or sesame sauce, or eaten cold with a dressing of oil, soy sauce, or sesame sauce. Fresh, and cut to a particular shape, they are also used to make wontons and egg rolls.

Rice noodles: Dried rice noodles, which are usually sold coiled in plastic bags, are either thread-thin or spaghettilike. Typically, they are boiled or stir-fried for use in salads or soups. Fresh rice noodles, a standard feature of the Chinese brunch called dim sum, are sold in wide sheets, for making dumplinglike dishes, or cut into 3/4"-wide ribbons. They are precooked and are ready to eat once boiling water is poured over them. Like bean threads, rice noodles are almost pure starch and low in protein.

Wheat noodles: Non-egg wheat noodles come in a variety of shapes, thicknesses, and colors, and are sold fresh or dried. Their nutritional value is close to that of Western-style wheat pasta, except that the sodium content may be higher. Two types are especially popular: Udon, usually served in broth, are thick and chewy; somen, most often eaten cold, are very thin and fine. Wheat noodles are used in lo mein and chow mein dishes.

Storage

Fresh Asian noodles will keep for a day or two under refrigeration, or for three months in the freezer, if tightly wrapped. Fresh rice noodles become stiff when cold, so they are often sold at room temperature and will keep for a day or two; refrigerated, they can last for up to a week.

Preparation

Rice noodles in all their forms have been cooked during the manufacturing process, so they need to be only briefly heated before serving. The flavor and texture of dried rice noodles benefit from soaking before use in recipes. Soak the noodles for 15 or 20 minutes in hot water, then quickly rinse them to wash away excess starch, which would otherwise turn clear soups cloudy. (Since they are not enriched, you do not have to worry about losing water-soluble nutrients.) Boil the noodles for two to 10 minutes, depending on thickness. Thin rice noodles can also be stir-fried directly after soaking.

Bean thread noodles are also precooked and require 10 to 30 minutes of presoaking. Thin noodles can be added immediately to soups or stir-fries; thicker noodles must be boiled for about five minutes. Bean threads are done when they turn perfectly clear.

Wheat- or buckwheat-based Asian noodles, both fresh and dried, are cooked in the same way as other wheat-based pastas. Special care must be taken to stir the noodles after they have been added to the water to prevent clumping. Thin fresh noodles will cook in about 30 seconds; dried noodles will take anywhere from two to 20 minutes, depending on thickness.

Nutrition Chart

Udon Noodles/4 ounces cooked

115
Total fat (g)
0.6
Saturated fat (g)
--
Monounsaturated fat (g)
--
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
--
Dietary fiber (g)
0.1
3
Carbohydrate (g)
23
Cholesterol (mg)
0
Sodium (mg)
51

Rice Noodles/1/2 cup fresh

142
Total fat (g)
0.1
Saturated fat (g)
--
Monounsaturated fat (g)
--
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
--
Dietary fiber (g)
0.4
2
Carbohydrate (g)
32
Cholesterol (mg)
0
Sodium (mg)
--

Somen Noodles/1 cup cooked

231
Total fat (g)
0.3
Saturated fat (g)
0
Monounsaturated fat (g)
0
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
0.2
Dietary fiber (g)
2.8
7
Carbohydrate (g)
48
Cholesterol (mg)
0
Sodium (mg)
283

Soba/2 ounces uncooked

191
Total fat (g)
0.4
Saturated fat (g)
0.1
Monounsaturated fat (g)
0.1
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
0.1
Dietary fiber (g)
--
8
Carbohydrate (g)
42
Cholesterol (mg)
0
Sodium (mg)
449
Thiamin (mg)
0.3
Mangnesium (mg)
54


Date Published: 04/20/2005
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