Food and Produce Guides/ Healthy Kitchen

Beginner’s Guide to Asian Noodles

Udon noodle soup with crisp vegetables

Here’s a beginner’s guide to Asian noodles, which are easy to find these days. Ten years ago, soba, udon, bean-thread and rice stick noodles, among others, were rare finds. Now, many well-stocked supermarkets carry these authentic noodles. Here’s a brief lexicon of the most commonly used varieties. Shown above, Udon Noodle Soup with Crisp Vegetables.

Buckwheat noodles (soba): A spaghetti-shaped noodle combining hearty- tasting buckwheat flour with wheat or whole wheat flour.

Buckwheat variations (jinenjo soba, lotus root soba, mugwort soba): These soba noodles contain a mixture of wheat and buckwheat flour plus the ingredient for which they are named. All are delicately flavored.

Bean thread noodle soup with tofu and spinach

Tofu Vegetable Soup with Bean Thread Noodles

Bean-thread noodles (also called cellophane noodles, harusame, saifun, mung bean noodles): Fine, transparent noodles made of mung bean starch. Cooked by soaking in hot water, these delicately flavored, wheat-free noodles come in 2-ounce bundles.

Rice-sticks (also called mei fun, bifun, rice vermicelli) and rice noodles: Long, fine noodles made of white rice flour, with the same mild flavor and tender texture of white rice. These are cooked by soaking in hot water. Rice noodles, wider and flatter than rice-sticks, are popular in Thai cookery.

Asian noodle varieties

Clockwise: Flat rice noodles, bean thread (cellophane) noodles, and soba (buckwheat) noodles

Somen: These spaghetti-shaped noodles are imported from Japan, where they are traditionally eaten cold during the summer months. A smooth-textured whole wheat version is available in natural food stores.

Udon: Long, somewhat thick noodles akin to linguine. The whole wheat variety of this Japanese import is available in natural food stores and has a smoother texture and milder flavor than domestic whole wheat pastas.

VegKitchen has tons of Asian noodle dishes! Here’s a sampling:

Udon noodles with asparagus

Udon Noodles with Asparagus and Cashews

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  • Reply
    November 26, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    wow just by looking it make me hungry so much

    check also my receipt

  • Reply
    September 27, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    would you say that all of the above varieties are definitely vegan?

    I am cooking for a friend who is and would hate to feed her something that doesn’t follow the vegan lifestyle.

    I am having a hard time because most Asian foods have 99% of the packaging in another language.

    • Reply
      September 27, 2014 at 2:39 pm

      Hi Leah, I would say that most Asian noodles are naturally vegan, unless of course, they’re egg noodles. Same for domestic pasta. If you’re not sure, you can get several varieties in natural foods stores, and these have packaging that’s in English. How nice of you to want to make something special for your friend!

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